This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell - We Are The Mighty
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This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

What was the worst thing about being a soldier assigned to the invasion of Normandy? Probably the beaches with Nazi machine guns raining hell down, right?


Well, some historians make a pretty good case that it was actually the French gardens and farms that spread throughout Normandy.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
The hedgerows of the Cotentin Peninsula. (Photo: Public Domain)

While American farms and yards are split by fences — split rail fences in the early days and mostly barbed wire by the World War II years — the farms in Normandy were split by ancient hedgerows.

Originally built by the Romans, the hedgerows were mounds of dirt raised in irregular patterns that served as fences between plots of land. Irrigation ditches with raised sides provided water to all the fields and animals.

Over the hundreds of years since the dirt mounds were raised, thick, tall growths of plants had turned the ditches into tunnels and raised virtual walls of up to 16 feet on top of the mounds.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Normandy, France, July 15, 1944. (Painting by Keith Rucco for The National Guard)

These wall of vegetation were thick and seemingly impossible to quickly cut through. And the hedgerows were everywhere, an aerial photo of a typical section of the battlefield showed over 3,900 hedged enclosures in less than eight square miles.

Each of these enclosures was a virtual fortress, and the Germans had spent months preparing their defenses. They practiced moving through the hedges, selected areas for machine guns and anti-tank weapons, and practiced firing from trees into nearby enclosures.

Perhaps most importantly, they had planted stakes near the most likely routes of American troops and had mapped the locations of the stakes by coordinates, allowing defenders to quickly and accurately call fire onto the advancing Allies.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Advancing through an opening in the hedgerows was risky at best. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Compounding the problem was the irregular shape of the enclosures. The rows weren’t laid out in a proper grid. Instead, they were roughly rectangular as a whole, but with a variety of sizes even among adjoining fields. And all of these fields were connected primarily by thin wagon trails that wound through the irregular enclosures.

All of this combined to form a defender’s paradise and an attacker’s hell. In the first days of the Battle for the Hedgerows, American troops would assault an enclosure at full speed, attempting to use velocity and violence of action to overwhelm the defenders. German machine guns pointed directly at these openings cut them down instead.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
(Photo: U.S. National Archives)

While the German defenses in the hedgerows greatly delayed the American advance, the Allies did eventually find a way to breakthrough. At first, armored and infantry units had worked largely independent of each other. The tanks had tried to stay on the move to avoid German anti-tank weapons and artillery while the infantry had slowed down to try and avoid ambushes.

But Sgt. Curtis Grubb Culin III, an armor soldier from New Jersey, figured out the fix. He welded a bar across the front of the tank and added four metal prongs across it. The prongs acted as plows and cutters, allowing the tanks to push through the hedgerows, destroying the obstacles without exposing any of the tanks’ weak points.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
(Photo: U.S. Army)

This allowed the tanks to cut new routes for the infantry while reducing their own vulnerabilities as well. The Allied soldiers began engaging in a true combined arms manner with tanks opening the way and infantrymen advancing just behind.

The infantry would help quickly knock out anti-tank weapons while the tanks could help destroy fortified machine gun nests and cut through hedgerow after hedgerow.

To see what the American GIs had to fight through, check out this video:

Articles

Air Force denies intimidating disgruntled drone driver’s mom

Hours after former U.S. drone operator Brandon Bryant testified in front of the German parliament, two USAF officer arrived at his mother’s house in Missoula, Montana to warn her she was on ISIS’ “hit list.”


Is this a coincidence? Does the terror group have a hit list targeting mothers of service members in Missoula, Montana? Why would the Air Force frighten a civilian like this for no reason?

Bryant was testifying on the how the U.S. Air Force’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany contributes to the unmanned aerial vehicle program. He served six years in the Air Force, racking up a staggering kill count of more than 1,600 people — a number that he said sickens him. He rejected a reenlistment bonus of more than $100,000.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Bryant with a UAV during his time in the Air Force

Ramstein Air Base is one of the main hubs of the U.S. drone program. A high-tech satellite relay station there allows drone operators to run their aircraft in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa, or the Middle East from Nevada (or elsewhere) via the Germany-based installation. A major problem with this revelation is Europeans in general abhor the American military’s use of drones and the program itself may be a violation German law, which makes the use of drones via Ramstein a violation of the agreement that allows the U.S. to use the base. As a result American personnel at Ramstein could be subject to prosecution under German law.

“The U.S. government has confirmed that such armed and remote aircraft are not flown or controlled from U.S. bases in Germany,” said spokesperson Steffen Seibert, a delicate statement that employs semantics to present non-damning facts without contradicting Bryant’s testimony.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
(U.S. Air Force photo)

The Air Force officers who visited Bryant’s mother informed her that her personal information might have been acquired by ISIS in the days after the recent Office of Personnel Management hack. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations vehemently denied any accusation of whistleblower intimidation. They told Bryant’s lawyer, Jesselyn Radack (who also represents whistleblower Edward Snowden), it was their “duty to inform” Bryant’s mother.

Bryant has been slamming the Air Force since he separated, and the Air Force has been denying his claims just as long. Bryant sent Air Force Times a certificate from the Air Force confirming his kill count. Radack believes the Air Force is attempting to silence Bryant by “delivering death threats from ISIS.”

Bryant told The Intercept that without Ramstein the U.S. would either have to find another relay base in the area or operate the drones in country, which would require deploying more operators and create greater risk to personnel than is currently faced with U.S.-based operations.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is Russia’s airborne combat armored vehicle

Paratroopers are a force to be reckoned with. They can slip far behind enemy lines and wreak havoc against an enemy’s support units, making life easier for those in the main assault and striking fear into those who assumed they were safely behind defenses. What’s worse (for the enemy), after the initial airborne assault, you’re left with the famous “little groups of paratroopers” — small pockets of young men brave enough to jump out of an airplane, all armed to the teeth, ready to defend themselves, and devoid of supervision.

But for as daring and lethal as paratroopers are, they’re still, essentially, light infantry once they hit the ground. Light infantry can do a lot of things, but when they’re tasked with hitting prepared positions or facing off against enemy tanks, they tend to take heavy casualties.

So, how do you reinforce troops that drop from the sky? You drop armor out of the sky, too.


This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

The BMD-1 was the Soviets’ answer to the question of bringing armored support to their paratroopers.

(DOD)

In 1965, the Russians began designing an infantry fighting vehicle that could be air-dropped. Eventually, this came to be known as the BMD-1. BMD stands for Boyevaya Mashina Desanta or, in English, “airborne combat vehicle.”

The BMD-1 packs some impressive firepower: it uses the same turret as the BMP-1, packing a 73mm gun, a launcher for the AT-3 Sagger missile, a coaxial 7.62mm machine gun, and a bow-mounted 7.62mm machine gun. This vehicle has a crew of two and carries five infantry. It has a top speed of 40 miles per hour and can go a little over 370 miles on a tank of gas.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

The BMD-1 was widely exported. Saddam Hussein’s regime was one of the purchasers.

(USMC photo by LCPL Andrew P. Roufs)

Unlike its American contemporary, the M551 Sheridan, a vehicle designed to support American paratroopers in similar ways, the BMD was exported to a number of Soviet clients. The BMD saw action in the Angolan Civil War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, Desert Storm, and fought in the Second Chechen War and the 2008 Russo-Georgian War.

Learn more about this 7.5-ton hunk of metal that’s designed to be dropped from the sky in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiWi5ChNAxg

www.youtube.com

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Airmen failed fitness tests due to wrong track distances

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Airmen, sprint during the running improvement program at the track Sept. 28, 2012, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. | U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Phelps


The Air Force says dozens of airmen have failed physical training tests in recent years due to inaccurate track distances.

All bases should measure their running tracks by Oct. 31 to prevent false test scores, the service announced on Thursday.

If bases determine the tracks are the wrong length, airmen’s scores will be adjusted accordingly, Air Force spokeswoman Brooke Brzozowske told Military.com.

Nearly 60 airmen at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, and Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, received inaccurate run scores because of the problem, the service said. The test requires airmen to complete a timed 1.5-mile run or a two-kilometer walk if they are exempt from the run.

Officials at Goodfellow determined the outdoor running course was 85 feet longer than required, which may have caused 18 airmen stationed at the base between 2010 and 2016 to fail the fitness assessment, the announcement said. The track was last measured in 2010.

At Hanscom, the track was found to be 360 feet longer than it should be, likely causing 41 airmen stationed there between 2008 and 2016 to fail. The track was last measured in 2008.

“All airmen who should have passed were notified,” Brzozowske said in an email.

“If still on active duty, their fitness scores were adjusted to the correct passing score. If there were any personnel actions taken resulting from the inaccurate [fitness assessment] failures, airmen should work with their chain of command, Force Support Squadron and legal office, and potentially the Air Force Personnel Center to correct records,” she wrote.

The service’s inspector general also plans to include the PT program “as an Air Force inspection requirement on future wing unit effectiveness inspections,” the announcement said.

In addition, each time a base redesigns or modifies a running track, it must measure it as a precaution, it said.

Articles

How the feds used prison labor to build defective combat helmets

Spoiler Alert: This is not an Article 107 News article.  The federal government paid over $53 million to two companies to build combat helmets between 2006 and 2009.  The cost is not the problem.  The problem is almost 150,000 Army and Marine Corps combat helmets were defective.


And oh by the way, prisoners made the helmets.

First of all, the prisoners came from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, working under… wait for it… a federally owned company called Federal Prison Industries.  But wait, there’s more!  FPI, also known as UNICOR, received the sub-contract from a privat vendor, ArmourSource LLC.

So, a private company was awarded a government contract to make combat helmets after normal bidding procedures. No problem.

The private company then sub-contracted out a federally owned company for cheap prison labor and reaped a $30.3 million windfall as a result. That’s a problem, even if just from a perception viewpoint.

Furthermore, FPI received its own contract to make helmets for the US Marine Corps.  A federally owned company received a contract from its “owner,” and all without competitive bidding.  True to form, the government recalled the helmets after multiple deficiencies. This isn’t a case of “lowest bidder;” this is a case of negligence.  It is negligent to entrust the lives of American soldiers with equipment made by federal prisoners.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Army photo by Spc. Alexandra Campo

A recently released Justice Department summary details the negligence and lack of quality control. Deficiencies included:

  • Scrap kevlar used in between layers (therefore, won’t stop bullets)
  • Blisters and bubbles which caused decreased effectiveness (therefore, won’t stop bullets)
  • Prisoners pried off kevlar pieces to use as potential weapons against guards (less material means, yep, won’t stop bullets)

And my personal favorite:

  • Prisoners prepared and conducted quality certifications on order from the FPI staff, and FPI staff signed the certifications without checking the prisoners’ work.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Advanced Combat Helmet. Photo from US Army.

Consequently, ArmourSource settled for $3 million and still makes products for the military. The loss to the military was over $19 million. That seems like an unfair trade if you ask me.

If ever there was a time for people to call for accountability in the government contracting process, this is it. Discuss it, debate it, and actually support the troops you say you support.  War is a money-making machine and if you didn’t understand that after the $5 billion “Universal Combat Pattern” debacle then you do now.

I understand prison industry is a vital tool for teaching job skills and reducing recidivism rates.  What I do not understand is how anyone with a simple knowledge of course of action analysis felt it was a good idea to allow federal criminals to build US military equipment and put soldiers’ lives at risk.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Soldiers who survived the bloodiest American battle of World War II tell their stories

On Dec. 16, 1944, the German army launched a massive surprise offensive into the Ardennes forest in Belgium which became known as “The Battle of the Bulge.” The battle, launched 70 years ago, would become the largest American engagement of the war — and the bloodiest — resulting in nearly 20,000 U.S. troops killed over five weeks.


Also Read: The Most Famous Photograph Of World War II Was Taken 70 Years Ago

MLive has more:

[Clifford] VanAuken, then a 19-year-old combat medic, was sleeping on the kitchen floor of a farmhouse near Nancy, France, when he was woken up at 2 a.m. to travel to Belgium.

“We thought the war was about over and then the Germans launched this horrendous attack,” he said. “It was a battle that surprised all ally commanders.”

In a must-see documentary about the members of Easy Co., 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the survivors talk at length about the battle, the bitter cold, and the intense artillery fire that they had to endure.

“There was on top of this hill there was a ridge, a treeline,” said one veteran, who was there at Bastogne. “We were dug in on that ridge. The Germans knew right where we were, and they really gave us a shellacking.”

The incredible bravery of American troops, with support to come later by Lt. Gen. George Patton’s Third Army, ultimately led to an allied victory. But it came at a heavy price, with the U.S. Army suffering over 100,000 casualties, according to The History Channel.

“When a man was wounded, we felt glad for them. We felt happy for them,” Capt. Richard Winters later recounted. “He had a ticket to get out of there, and maybe a ticket to go home. And when we had a man who was killed, we found that he was at peace and he looked so peaceful. And we’re glad that he found peace.”

Watch some of the men who survived the battle tell their stories:

Articles

The complete hater’s guide to the Warthog

So, we are back with another complete hater’s guide to one of the Air Force’s aircraft. Last time, we discussed the F-16 Fighting Falcon.


This time, we will go to the plane that everyone in the Air Force loves…and yet, it keeps ending up on the chopping block. That’s right, it’s time for us to discuss the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft assigned to the 25th Fighter Squadron out of Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, takes off from Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 10, 2016, during the first combat training mission of RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 17-1. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

Why it is easy to make fun of the A-10

Let’s see, it’s slow. It doesn’t fly high, if anything, the plane is best flying very low.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
As any of its pilots will tell you, it’s ugly — but well hung. (U.S. Air Force photo)

It’s not going to win any airplane beauty pageants any time soon due to being quite aesthetically-challenged. Also, when it was first designed, it was a daylight-only plane with none of the sensors to drop precision-guided weapons.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Corey Hook

Why you should hate the A-10

Because it has this cult following that seems to think it can do just about anything and take out any one. Because its pilots think the GAU-8 cannon in the nose is all that — never mind that a number of other planes took bigger guns into the fight — including 75mm guns.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

Because that low, slow, flight profile means it is a big target. Because you’d rather claim that a relative died in a motorcycle accident than admit they fly that ugly plane.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner had a major role in the air power strategy of the Gulf War of 1990-1991. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

Because that plane always seems to stick around when the Air Force wants to retire it. Because it is useless in a dogfight.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Representative Martha McSally, pictured in her office during her Air Force career, preparing to distribute BRRRRRT. Helps explain why the A-10 will be around indefinitely. (Photo credit unknown)

Why you should love the A-10

Because this plane can bring its pilot home when the bad guys hit it — just ask “Killer Chick.” Because it also has a proven combat record in Desert Storm, the Balkans, and the War on Terror.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Kim Campbell looks at her damaged hog, which she landed at her base after a mission over Baghdad in 2003. (Photo via National Air and Space Museum)

Because it not only has a powerful tank-killing gun, it can carry lots of bombs and missiles to put the hurt on the bad guys.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
An A-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft takes part in a mission during Operation Desert Storm. The aircraft is armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, and Mark 82 500-pound bombs. (Air Force Photo)

Because while it is designed for close-air support, it also proved to be very good at covering the combat search-and-rescue choppers.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
An A-10 Thunderbolt II, from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., approaches the boom of a KC-135 Stratotanker from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., for refueling Sept. 12, 2013, over southern Arizona. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Colby L. Hardin)

Because, when it comes right down to it, the A-10, for all its faults, has saved a lot of grunts over the years.

Articles

The Marine Corps is offering PhDs to officers in exchange for 6 more years of service

The US Marine Corps wants to add another title in front of some of its officers’ ranks: Doctor.


The service is establishing two pilot programs to offer qualified majors through lieutenant colonels with a doctorate-level education on the Corps’ dime, as long as they agree to stay in the service for an additional six years.

The program’s goal is to develop a “cohort of strategic thinkers and technical leaders capable of applying substantive knowledge, directing original research, and leveraging relationships with industry and elements of national security … to achieve the innovative thinking desired by the Marine Corps,” according to the announcement August 3.

“Uniformed doctorates provide the Marine Corps deployable, highly-skilled manpower in support of senior leader decision-making as well as helping generate national, defense, and service strategies in an increasingly complex world.”

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
An airman works on shaping a bridge as part of a doctorate program. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Kevin west.

The pilot will likely be competitive, since only four officers will ultimately be picked; two will be required to pursue a doctorate in strategic affairs, while two others will be required to attend a doctoral program with a technical focus.

Applicants will be required to already have a masters degree, or currently be pursuing one if they are applying for the technical doctorate.

The Corps wants officers to get technical degrees in operations research, modeling virtual environments and simulation (MOVES), information sciences, or computer science, the announcement says. Strategy degrees should be geared toward  national security, military history, public policy, political science, government, or some other related field.

Applications are being accepted until the end of August 2017.

Articles

5 things you need to know about veteran and US Senator Gary Peters

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Senator Peters presented Vietnam Veteran lapel pins to Detroit Metro area veterans in October, 2016. Gary Peters


Politicians — we love to hate them. But occasionally we come across one that we want to know more about. Michigan Democrat Sen. Gary Peters is one of those politicians.

We Are the Mighty caught up with the senator last week to chat about his work for and with veterans, and we came away with five things we think everyone should know about him:

1. Peters is working on veteran issues

Peters served in the Navy from 1993 to 2005. He left the Navy Reserve in 2000, only to return to duty just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Not only has Peters had a heavy hand in incredibly pro-veteran legislation in the two years since he took office, he is actively looking for more ways he can contribute to the veteran community. Case in point: education.

The senator said that he was bothered that service members can spend entire careers in the military doing a specific job, and then find themselves in the civilian world and having to start completely over — either in college or in some sort of training for the very jobs they’ve just spent years doing.

“There should be some sort of translation,” Peters told WATM.

One of the career fields he specifically mentioned was that of EMTs and other first responders. After extensive military training in medical fields, service members find that, upon their return to the civilian world, they are required to do all of that training again in civilian schools.

His idea is to find a way to make sure that those veterans are getting legitimate credit for their experience, rather than as as electives credits.

Bottom line: Peters wants to look at the issues facing veterans and put into action actual solutions to solve them.

2. He knows his stuff

The Michigan Democrat holds four degrees, including two masters, and a law degree.

At 22 and fresh out of college, Peters was named the assistant vice-president of Merrill Lynch — a position he held for nine years. That was followed by a four year stint as the vice-president of Paine Webber (a stock broker firm acquired by Swiss Bank UBS in 2000) before he joined the Navy.

During his time in the Navy, Peters served as an assistant supply manager and achieved the rank of lieutenant commander. His deployments include the Persian Gulf and various locations immediately after 9/11.

Peters served as a Michigan representative to the U.S. Congress from 2009 to 2015.

Bottom line: Peters has spent time both as a veteran and a politician learning the ins and outs of veteran issues.

3. Peters is working on keeping jobs in America

We asked Peters about the Outsourcing Accountability Act, which serves to gather accurate information from American companies on whether they outsource work to other countries, where exactly that work is going, and how many American jobs are being lost to outsourcing.

The bill has wide bi-partisan support.

The question was, did the Peters believe that his bill as introduced to the House would help or hinder veterans who were trying to get jobs?

“The idea is to create more jobs stateside,” Peters told WATM. “This will, in turn, create more jobs for veterans stateside.”

Bottom line: Peters is working to make sure that veterans have better access to American jobs.

4. He’s working on PTSD and other mental and physical health issues veterans face

Peters authored an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act called Fairness for Veterans.

Veterans who receive less-than-honorable discharges lose all of their benefits, and Peters says he strongly believes that those who received those discharges as a result of subsequently diagnosed PTSD should get an opportunity to have them reviewed.

Additionally, Peters cosponsored legislation to improve the veteran’s crisis line, cowrote the No Heroes Left Untreated Act, and was a cosigner on a letter to President Trump about the VA hiring freeze and how it would negatively impact veteran access to care.

Bottom line: Peters shows a determination to get as much work done as possible while he serves his constituents.

5. Peters has a sense of humor

Peters was extremely limited in the amount of time he had to chat with We Are the Mighty, but when it was time for him to move into his next appointment, there was still one burning question that had been rolling around the office for days.

Given a choice, would the senator rather go into battle with one horse-sized duck or 1,000 duck-sized horses?

Peters’ answer?

“Absolutely, 1,000 duck sized horses. I like to overwhelm my enemies with sheer numbers.”

Bottom line: He’s familiar with the sense of humor here at We Are the Mighty, and he digs it.

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These Combat Tracker teams were America’s secret weapon in Vietnam

As American forces became embroiled in the conflict in Vietnam it was quickly apparent to commanders that they were fighting a war for which they were not prepared.


The guerrilla warfare and hit-and-run tactics of the Viet Cong were difficult to counter, especially for conventional forces. Luckily, our allies, the British, had already developed a tactic that they had used to great effect in Malaya.

Facing a communist insurgency of their own, but with limited resources, the British had developed specialized teams to track the enemy through the jungle and destroy them. This tactic was so effective the British would employ it against insurgencies all across the empire.

Knowing the French tactics had been insufficient, and not wanting to meet the same fate, Gen. Westmoreland sent observers to the British Jungle Warfare School in Malaya to see if the tactics could be adopted by American forces.

Impressed by what they saw the Americans made a deal for the British to train fourteen teams, to be known as Combat Tracker Teams, at the British Jungle Warfare School. Due to British neutrality, the soldiers to be trained traveled on official government passports and used only British gear while in training so as to maintain secrecy and low-visibility.

The basic organization of the Combat Tracker Teams consisted of two to four sections of five-men. The section was composed of a team leader, a visual tracker, a cover man, a radio operator, and a dog handler with a well-trained Labrador retriever. Not typical for combat operations the Labs were highly-effective in Vietnam. They were effective trackers, quiet in the field, and, most importantly, due to their even-temperament could more easily change handlers – a prized-quality for an army rotating men out of country, but often heart-breaking for their handlers.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Australian soldiers helped Americans train for combat tracking tactics in Vietnam. (Photo Bryan Campbell via Flickr)

The teams were in for intense training once they arrived in Malaya. For the dog handlers training was three months long, for everyone else it was two months. The cadre consisted of British and New Zealand SAS as well as Gurkhas, who usually played the enemy to add to the realism. Wash out rates were high.

The initial address to the trainees was often quite shocking to them. They were told the problem with the American army was that it was more focused on rank than knowledge. And that by the time they were done, they would feel more at home in the jungle than the North Vietnamese themselves.

After surviving the grueling training, the first teams returned to Vietnam in 1967 to be assigned to combat units. The team assigned to the 101st Airborne Division was told they must go through the division’s finishing school before they would be allowed in the field. Part-way through the first day it became obvious to the cadre that the trackers knew more than they could possibly teach them and they were passed through the course on the spot.

According to their group’s website, once in country, the Combat Tracker Teams were to “reestablish contact with the ‘elusive enemy’; reconnaissance of an area for possible enemy activities; and locate lost or missing friendly personnel.”

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Americans in Vietnam adopted a tactic used by the British for decades during their insurgent wars throughout the empire. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Once the troops hit the ground, they knew why their trainers had pushed them so hard – keeping up with a dog in the jungle while staying absolutely silent, as well as being alert and constantly ready for action is very hard work.

But that work paid off for the Americans. It was common to hear from the grunts about how the enemy could just “melt back into the jungle.” And that was where the trackers came in. Pushing out well ahead of the line infantry units no detail was too small for either the visual tracker or the working dog to pick up.

John Dupla, a combat tracker with the 1st Cavalry Division, said “we were taught to develop a sixth sense, utilizing methods Native American scouts used, such as looking for broken twigs and turned over leaves and rocks.”

Depending on the conditions and situation either the visual tracker or the dog handler and his lab would lead the team. Always right behind him was the cover man. Since the point person’s attention was focused on searching for trails and clues the cover man became his lookout, providing protection.

Although the unit’s mission was often not to directly engage the enemy, sometimes it was unavoidable. As one combat tracker related “if you got into something, you shot your way out.” Ideally, the trackers would locate the enemy and call the infantry behind them into the fight.

However, as the Viet Cong became aware of the effectiveness of the trackers they sought ways to counter them. Retreating groups would often send a contingent off in a different direction to draw the trackers away from the main force and into an ambush. One Combat Tracker Team lost their visual tracker and cover man to enemy snipers in this manner.

In a further effort to disrupt the trackers, and a sure sign of their effectiveness, the North Vietnamese put out bounties on their heads. The fear they struck in the enemy gave the trackers great pride.

Despite their effectiveness many American commanders simply did not understand how to properly employ the trackers. Their small size and the secrecy of their training meant few in the infantry understood how they operated. They were sometimes thought of as scouts and to simply walk point for a larger formation.

The program was disbanded in 1971 as American drew down forces in Vietnam. The trackers were broken up and folded into their parent infantry units. Veiled in secrecy and lacking the notoriety of Special Forces the legacy of the Combat Tracker Teams quietly faded away.

There is no doubt though that the Combat Tracker Teams were effective, saved lives, and made life much harder for the enemy.

Articles

The US needs to react to N. Korea’s nuke program now

North Korea recently doubled the size of its uranium-enrichment plant and pushed through with the testing of rocket engines that could soon power intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of hitting the U.S. with a nuclear payload, analysts say.


The test came one day after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Independent Journal Review:

“The threat of North Korea is imminent. And it has reached a level that we are very concerned about the consequences of North Korea being allowed to continue on this progress it’s been making on the development of both weapons and delivery systems.”

Nuclear-proliferation experts have told Business Insider that North Korea’s eventual goal for its weapons program is to create an ICBM with a thermonuclear warhead that can reach the U.S. mainland.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. (KCNA/Handout)

North Korea does not yet have that capability, and likely won’t for years, but its latest high-profile tests show steady progress in that direction.

Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, told Business Insider that the world would change if North Korea achieved its goal of building a weapon that could threaten Americans on US soil.

“North Korea has been perceived in the past as engaging in a nuclear-weapons program as a way to trade for concessions from the U.S. and South Korea,” Lamrani said. “But that paradigm doesn’t hold anymore — North Korea decided to invest in a nuclear-missile program not to trade it away, but as the ultimate security guarantee and the ultimate deterrent against outside attacks.”

As it stands, the U.S. and its allies would face a tremendously difficult task in disabling the North Korean nuclear-weapons program, as hundreds of mobile missile launchers scattered across secret locations in a densely forested, mountainous peninsula would make it nightmarishly complicated to remove in one swift blow.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell

But Lamrani said the ability to threaten the U.S. with not just one but a salvo of nuclear missiles would represent a loss for the U.S. and further limit options for outsiders to influence Kim Jong Un’s regime. North Korea’s latest progress toward this feat has deeply troubled U.S. officials and observers.

“North Korea has made such progress now that the U.S. feels that it does not have time anymore,” Lamrani said. He added that an ICBM in the hands of Kim would mean the U.S. could no longer credibly threaten North Korea with nuclear force, representing a “point of no return” in multilateral relations.

But although a war with North Korea would be disastrous and potentially cost millions of lives, the window for U.S. intervention is closing fast.

If North Korea developed credible ICBMs, as it may in coming years, the U.S. would be left with three options, according to Lamrani:

1. Continue with diplomacy and sanctions while building up ballistic-missile defense.

2. Cave to North Korea’s demands to be seen as a viable state, accept its nuclear program, and recognize the regime internationally.

3. Go to war and risk a nuclear holocaust on U.S. soil, while killing people in North Korea with nuclear arms.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks to top delegates of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang. (KCNA via Agence France-Presse)

The U.S. currently employs the first option simply because it’s the least-worst choice, but Tillerson recently said the US’s “strategic patience” with North Korea had ended.

Additionally, recent reports from Arms Control Wonk and Reuters uncovered a complicated network of businesses and obfuscation that the Kim regime uses to rake in millions by selling military radios and other goods, despite sanctions.

Another Reuters report quoted North Korean officials as saying it did not fear or care about U.S. sanctions and that it was planning a preemptive first strike, while its recent tests suggest it’s closer than ever to being able to overwhelm U.S. missile defenses.

While the U.S. can build up all the defenses it wants, “missile defense is not a surefire way to negate the threat posed by another country’s nuclear-capable ballistic missiles,” Kelsey Davenport, the director of nonproliferation policy and a North Korea expert at the Arms Control Association, told Business Insider in January.

The second option would be to cave to perhaps the most brutal regime on Earth and cement the failure of decades of diplomacy.

The third option is patently unthinkable and unacceptable.

“Every single one of them is not a great option,” Lamrani said.

So as North Korea creeps closer to an ICBM, the U.S. must quickly decide whether to act now or to potentially admit diplomatic defeat down the road.

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These 4 old weapons might deliver an edge in a war with Russia

If America goes to war with Russia, it will not be like Iraq or Afghanistan. This one will likely be very hard-fought, and the odds may be against our guys sometimes.


Are there some old systems that were designed to fight the Soviet Union that might be worth considering to help the troops? You betcha, and here is a look at some of them.

1. F-111 Aardvark

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
ex: F-111 Combat Lancer

When this plane was retired two decades ago, nobody really gave it much thought. A Daily Caller article noted that the F-111 brings speed and a very heavy bomb load to the table. The United States once had four wings of this plane.

If it were combined with either the CBU-105 or modern stand-off weapons, it could take out a lot of Russian hardware.

2. MIM-72 Chapparal

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
MIM-72 Chapparal (US Army photo)

With a near-peer enemy, it might make sense to improve ground-based air defenses. The Su-25 Frogfoot, while not as good as the A-10, is still potent. It’s also tough enough that the FIM-92 Stinger might not be able to guarantee a kill.

This is where the MIM-72 Chaparral comes in. Initially, this missile was a straight-up copy of air-launched Sidewinders. Going back to its roots, using the AIM-9X, could help keep the Russian planes dodging fire instead of dropping bombs.

3. OH-58 Kiowa

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
An OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter from the 1st Infantry Division takes off on a mission from Forward Operation Base MacKenzie, Iraq. It is armed with an AGM-114 Hellfire and 7 Hydra 70 rockets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shane Cuomo)

This helicopter is slated for retirement after a final deployment to South Korea, according to a July Army Times report. While much of its scout functions have been taken over by unmanned aerial vehicles, the OH-58 can still carry up to four AGM-114 Hellfires, rockets, FIM-92 Stingers, and a .50-caliber machine gun.

When facing a formation like the First Guards Tank Army, extra missiles – and eyes – just might be a very good thing to have.

4. AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missile

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
General Dynamics AGM-129A at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Withdrawn in 2012 according to an Air Force release, the Advanced Cruise Missile was stealthy.

While the initial version was strictly nuclear, conventional versions could trash S-400 missile batteries. 460 missiles were built, according to an Air Force fact sheet. Bringing it back, though, means re-starting production.

The Obama Administration elected to have the entire inventory scrapped.

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That time the Air Force landed bombers on tank treads

During the Cold War, the U.S. Air Force experimented with a seemingly crazy idea for dispersing the weight of their heaviest bomber across the tarmac of airports and bases. They would fit the bombers with tank tread-inspired landing gear.


The B-36 Peacemaker was the largest plane ever built by America. Originally designed before the Pearl Harbor attacks, the B-36 was supposed to be a cross-ocean bomber that could drop 10,000 pounds of ordnance on Berlin or Japan while taking off and landing in the U.S.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Convair XB-36 takeoff during its first flight on March 29, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

When flying shorter routes, the plane could carry as much as 86,000 pounds.

The massive B-36 was slowly developed throughout World War II but was finished too late for the war. The first bomber rolled off the line six days after the Japanese surrender. But the plane’s capabilities, carrying 10,000 pounds of ordnance to targets thousands of miles away, made the plane perfect for a nuclear strike role in the Cold War.

There was one big problem, though. The B-36 was extremely heavy, about 419,000 pounds when fully armed. And all that weight initially sat on two smaller tires in the front and two larger ones under the wings.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Convair XB-36 in flight. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The weight on each tire was so great, the Peacemakers risked sinking into the concrete if they were parked for too long on most airstrips.

So the Air Force tried out a novel solution. They installed tank tread landing gear under the nose and both wings of the plane, allowing the weight to be spread over a much larger area.

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
Side view of Convair XB-36. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

This is how hedgerows made the invasion of Normandy a living hell
(Photo: U.S. Air Force)

Initial tests of the system were successful, but the Air Force scrapped it anyway. It focused on improving more airstrips rather than putting the bulky system on production B-36s. It did start buying the planes with four smaller wheels under each wing instead of the single large one, which also helped with the pressure per square inch on airfields.

The weight-to-surface-area problem would come up again with the B-47, the Peacemaker’s successor. B-47s dispersed during the Cuban Missile crisis sunk into the concrete of Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts and pilots had to hire a tow truck driver to pull them out of the holes they created.