This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together - We Are The Mighty
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This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together

In our post for Part 1 of the MRE season finale, we explored how the task of bringing the Israelis and Palestinians together might, in fact, be facilitated by mutual concern over food — specifically the production of olive oil.


This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
Middle Eastern oil, the happy kind. (Go90 Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Host August Dannehl toured a Palestinian-owned olive farm in the West Bank that was being guided by consultants from the Near East Foundation and USAID’s Olive Oil Without Borders project. Similar aid was being offered to neighboring Israeli olive farmers and, far from begrudging the competition, the Arab farmers seemed relieved just to be able to get on with their livelihoods and happy to wish their Jewish counterparts the same.

In Part 2, Dannehl dives deeper into Israeli military, farm, and food culture, meeting with an Arab gourmet chef who helms a cutting edge restaurant in Tel Aviv, talking to young Israeli Defence Force soldiers about how they view their nation’s foes and learning from diners of both nationalities the frank similarities between Israeli and Palestinian cuisine.

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
“We’re kind of the same people, you know? We love hummus, they love hummus…” (Go90 Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Finally, he returns to West Bank olive country, to the farm of Israeli olive oil maker Ayala Meir in order to attend a traditional kibbutz dinner, joined this time by Meir’s family and a number of their Palestinian friends from across the border wall.

Olive oil is culture. It brings people together. This is now the season that Jewish and Arabs and Muslims and Christians meet together. We all love this product. And it’s a way to know our neighbors. Actually an ancient olive tree is many individuals living in the same house. Every branch has a different root system. —Ayala Noy Meir

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
A toast to friends and neighbors. (Go90 Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

The recent success of efforts like Olive Oil Without Borders, not to mention the more live-and-let-live worldview that can be found among younger citizens of both nations, gives the world a glimmer of hope that this, one of the thorniest conflicts in human history, may one day be no more than a story neighbors reminisce about around a communal dinner table.

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
Magic hour in occupied territory. (Go90 Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)

Watch as Dannehl finds that hospitality knows no nationality, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Meals Ready To Eat:

Army food will make you feel the feels

This whiskey is a WWII victory, distilled

This is what happens when you run your kitchen like a platoon

This is what it means to be American in Guam

This is how olives could bring peace to the Middle East

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Congressman and former Marine officer raises concerns about SEAL fighting techniques

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
U.S. Navy SEALs train with Special Boat Team (SBT) 12 on the proper techniques of how to board gas and oil platforms during the SEALs gas and oil platform training cycle. SEALs conduct these evolutions to hone their various maritime operations skills. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam Henderson


A veteran in Congress is calling on the secretary of defense to examine the current Navy SEAL combat training program, saying it’s less effective than a previous method and not conducive to SEAL operations.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, former Marine officer and member of the House Armed Services Committee, sent an April 5 letter to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter requesting that Carter provide “clarity” on Naval Special Warfare’s 2011 move to replace its Close Quarters Defense institutionalized training system with Mixed Martial Arts.

“I have concerns with the process for considering and awarding the contracts that have led to the removal of CQD from SEAL training,” Hunter wrote. “NSW operators and leadership have consistently determined CQD to be the most operationally effective training to prepare SEALs for combat, evidenced by more than 11,000 positive critiques and numerous complimentary reports.”

Hunter is raising the issue as the Senate prepares to consider the nomination of Rear Adm. Timothy Szymanski to be commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, which oversees all Navy SEAL teams.

Szymanski, currently the assistant commander of Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, would replace current NSW commander Rear Adm. Brian Losey, who was denied a second star last month amid complaints that he had engaged in whistleblower retaliation.

An official with Hunter’s office indicated the congressman had concerns about Szymanski’s fitness for the new post.

“There have been reports that Szymanski is a central player in the selection of MMA over CQD,” Joe Kasper, Hunter’s chief of staff, told Military.com. “And it’s important before any promotion proceeds that there’s clarity on that role and assurances that it was all above board.”

The letter also notes that CQD costs just $345 per SEAL compared to $2,900 for MMA training. It also refers to a 2015 Defense Department Inspector General review of NSW contracts that found about 25 percent of contracts inspected were not awarded in accordance with Federal Acquisition Regulations. While the MMA contract in question was not considered, Hunter suggested it too could contain problems.

“It is my firm belief that contracting decisions involving the transition from CQD to MMA must be thoroughly reviewed to include any personal interests and relationships that could have created conflicts of interest in the selection process,” Hunter wrote. “A review should also include all instances of open competition between CQD and alternative systems, with specific focus on NSW solicitations in 2003 and 2009. I also ask that you provide me with the full results of these competitions and any reports and documentation that were generated as a result.”

Kasper said Hunter planned to talk with members of the Senate about holding Szymanski’s nomination until the matter raised in his letter could be resolved.

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Russia trolled the US military with its largest military exercise since the Cold War

Just hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin met with U.S. President Joe Biden for the first time since Biden won the Oval Office in 2020, Russian ships conducted the country’s largest military exercises since it was called the Soviet Union – off the coast of Hawaii. 

The exercises were so large, it sent the U.S. Air Force scrambling to intercept fighters off the U.S. West Coast. 

The Russian Navy was operating in the Pacific Ocean some 300-500 miles west of the Hawaiian Islands, in an exercise that included Tupolev long-range bombers, surface vessels and anti-submarine forces. If there were submarines in the area, their presence wasn’t apparent. 

From Hawaii, the USAF scrambled F-22 Raptors from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, though the Air Force says the long-range bombers did not enter the Air Defense Identification Zone and weren’t intercepted by the stealth fighters. 

This all took place just before the two world leaders were scheduled to meet for the first time in Geneva, a dozen or so time zones away. Word of the exercises was released by the Russian Ministry of Defence. 

Tensions between the Russian Federation and the United States have been high in recent days, mostly over the buildup of Russian forces along its border with Ukraine, where Russia has been fueling an extended insurgency in the Western area of the country. 

In 2014, the Russia military suddenly seized and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, an action that caused its expulsion from the G-7 nations and force the United States to place economic sanctions on the country and some of its leadership 

Most recently, President Biden was asked if he considered Vladimir Putin, the de facto ruler of Russia and a former KGB agent a “killer,” to which the President replied, “I do.” 

“I believe he has, in the past, essentially acknowledged that he was — that there were certain things that he would do or did do,” Biden told a group of reporters on June 14, 2021. “But it’s not — I don’t think it matters a whole lot in terms of this next meeting we’re about to have.”

Putin recalled Russia’s ambassador to the United States in response. The U.S. recalled its ambassador the next month. 

Biden attempted to send two U.S. warships to the Black Sea in a gesture of support for Ukraine, but called it off in April 2021. Instead, he put more economic sanctions on Russian officials, more than 36 in all. He also expelled 10 Russian diplomats from the United States. 

Putin and Biden met for three hours on June 16, 2021, their first meeting as leaders of their respective countries. They agreed to restart nuclear arms reduction talks and exchange ambassadors once more, though no timeline was agreed to. Biden did warn Putin that there would be consequences for cyberattacks, human rights violations and election meddling, according to The Hill

That same report noted that although the two leaders disagreed on many points, the tensions between the two sides never boiled over to outright aggression. 

Putin is unlikely to concede anything to the United States. The Russian government is still expected to jail opponents and dissidents like Alexei Navalny. It will also likely continue its campaign of cyberattacks, political interference and the routine executions of former Soviet agents abroad.

Featured photo: An F-22 fighter intercepted a Russian “Bear” Tu-95 bomber off Alaska in 2019. Citing U.S. defense officials, CBS said the United States scrambled the F-22s from Hawaii on Sunday in response to Russian bomber flights, but the aircraft did not enter the Air Defense Identification Zone and were not intercepted. NORAD photo

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This is the new guy in charge of finding America’s missing in action and prisoners of war

The US Department of Defense announced today the selection of Kelly McKeague to be the Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. McKeague was sworn in this morning during a ceremony at the Pentagon.


McKeague, who retired from the US Air Force in 2016 at the rank of major general, served as the DPAA Deputy Director and as the Commander of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, one of the entities merged in 2015 to form the Department’s newest defense agency.

“I know the importance of the agency’s mission and I look forward to working with DPAA’s team of dedicated professionals,” said McKeague.

Fern Sumpter Winbush, who has been serving as Acting Director, will resume her role as Principal Deputy Director for the agency, responsible for formulating policy, overseeing business development, and increasing outreach initiatives.

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Maj. Gen. Kelly K. McKeague (left). USAF photo from Don Peek.

“My time serving as the Acting Director has been challenging and rewarding as I worked to move the agency forward in our mission of providing the fullest possible accounting of US personnel missing from past conflicts to the families and the nation,” said Winbush. “As an agency, we have accomplished much over the last two years, and I am confident the incoming Director will take over an agency postured for continued success.”

McKeague, who served as an independent business consultant since his military retirement, says he is looking forward to this opportunity.

“I am humbled and blessed to serve on behalf of the families whose loved ones served our country,” he said. “The fulfillment of this agency’s solemn obligation is my honor to endeavor.”

A native of Hawaii, McKeague began his military career in 1981 as a civil engineering officer, serving in a variety of assignments at base, major command and Headquarters US Air Force levels. In 1995, he entered the Maryland Air National Guard and served on active duty as a civil engineer.

His assignments include the Air National Guard Readiness Center, followed by legislative liaison tours at the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau. He also served as the Chief of Staff, National Guard Bureau and Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for National Guard Matters.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This long-forgotten unit was the direct predecessor to Delta Force

The US Army’s highly secretive counterterrorist unit, 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta, is without a doubt among the best counterterrorism units in the world. But it wasn’t the first.


While Delta is extremely well known, if only by its name, it wasn’t actually the first American counterterrorist force in existence. That honor goes to a different unit — now long lost to history — known as “Blue Light.”

Colonel Charlie Beckwith, a former Green Beret and the brains behind 1st SFOD-D, discussed the parallel history of Blue Light in his co-written book, “Delta Force.” Beckwith, after serving an exchange tour with the British Special Air Service, returned to the US with an idea for a dedicated counterterrorist unit, similar to the SAS.

With terrorism on the rise throughout the 1970s, it became imperative for the US military to create a force that would deal with terror threats with precision and extreme effectiveness.

 

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
U.S. Army photo

The firebrand colonel would go on to outline his concept to the Pentagon, particularly Army generals and fellow colonels with enough sway to allocate funding for such a unit. Beckwith encountered resistance — especially from “old guard” officers who disagreed with allowing Delta to exist on its own with its own funding.

Rather, they felt that Delta needed to remain within an already established pecking order in the asymmetric warfare community — the US Army’s Special Forces.

Despite its official title, Delta Force had absolutely nothing to do with Army Special Forces Operational Detachments, also known as “A-Teams.” The title was just another vaguely-misleading cover for the unit’s real purpose.

Delta, instead, would have a direct line through the Department of Defense to the president’s office, circumventing Special Forces altogether. Further incensing the brass was the fact that Delta would be given free rein to recruit whoever interested them, including experienced Green Berets from the groups.

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
Graduates of one of Delta Force’s Operator Training Courses in 1978. Blue Light would be disestablished that same year (Photo US Army)

 

Inner-Army politicking quickly led to Special Forces brass deciding it would create a counterterrorist unit of its own, ostensibly as an interim solution while Delta was getting up to speed, but with the inward hopes of it being a more permanent fixture.

The new unit — Blue Light — was staffed with commandos brought in directly from 5th Special Forces Group’s 2nd Battalion into a subordinate unit. There, they would be trained in an array of skills necessary for counterterrorist mission and be readied for real-world operations. Colonel Bob “Black Gloves” Mountel would be responsible for helming the new unit in its infancy.

Blue Light would only be equivalent to a company-sized element of troops, but would still draw its funding from Special Forces, and would push its members through further airborne and dive training, weapons courses and more.

It was assumed that because Green Berets were already highly-trained for asymmetric warfare, they would be ready to fight far quicker than Delta.

 

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
Members of 5th SFG with ARVN troops in Vietnam (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

 

In the meanwhile, Beckwith and his cadre got to work designing and training the founding members of Delta Force, still very aware of the potential for Blue Light to completely take over their mission and tank 1st SFOD-D before it could even get off the ground.

Blue Light was beefed up with the presence of veteran operatives with significant combat experience under their belts, including Joseph Cincotti, a Vietnam-era Green Beret who would later go on to head up the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and who was responsible for creating the curriculum all Special Forces candidates undergo today.

In their book, “Special Forces: A Guided Tour of US Army Special Forces,” authors Tom Clancy and John Gresham claim that Blue Light was somewhat handicapped from the start. While Delta was designed to operate in every conceivable environment, using a multitude of mission-relevant skills, Blue Light was, in reality, only prepared for a few contingencies.

 

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
Members of 10th Special Forces Group training alongside Lithuanian counterparts (Photo US Army)

 

Little by little, Delta Force took shape at Fort Bragg, NC, and by the end of the 1970s, Delta was ready for action. Bragg was also the home of Blue Light, and the rivalry between the two counterterrorist units was palpable. Former operator Eric Haney discusses the animosity between Blue Light and the 1st SFOD-D in his book, “Inside Delta Force.”

When Delta was declared fully operational, Blue Light faded into the shadows, eventually being disbanded in 1978. Its former members were either transferred to other units within the Army’s various Special Forces groups, or decided to retire altogether.

Beckwith, not willing to let an opportunity pass, extended invites to Blue Light commandos to try out for Delta Force, and at least four of the former counterterrorist unit’s operatives successfully passed selection and the arduous Operator Training Course to become Delta Force operators.

Former Blue Light officers would later play a part in planning Operation Eagle Claw, the failed mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This World War I veteran came home and built himself a castle in Ohio

A lot of American troops find something to love about cultures they discover during their service. One World War I veteran left Ohio and discovered the magical history of Medieval Europe amid the fighting and squalor of the trenches. When he returned to the rolling hills next to Ohio’s Little Miami River, he decided to build that magic in his own backyard. Literally.


This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together

Complete with sword room.

Just north of Loveland, Ohio sits a structure that has no business standing in the American midwest. Harry D. Andrews began constructing a full-scale replica of the castle where his medical unit was stationed in Southern France. It was built brick-by-brick by Andrews himself on land he acquired from buying yearlong subscriptions to the Cincinnati newspaper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, taking stones from the Little Miami River, and even using bricks formed from milk cartons.

It took him 50 years to complete the project.

Though it has come to be known as Loveland Castle, the building began its life as Chateau Laroche – French for “Rock Castle” – and Andrews was a huge fan of the Medieval Era of European History. As the Castle Museum’s website reads:

[It was built as] “an expression and reminder of the simple strength and rugged grandeur of the mighty men who lived when Knighthood was in flower. It was their knightly zeal for honor, valor and manly purity that lifted mankind out of the moral midnight of the dark ages and started it towards the gray dawn of human hope.”
This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together

Loveland Castle via Instagram

Harry D. Andrews was born in 1890 and served as a medic in France during World War I. While “over there,” he contracted spinal meningitis and was declared dead. Except that he was very much alive and in hospital at the actual Chateau La Roche in southwest France. It would take him six months to recover. By the time he was declared alive, the war was over, and his fiancée was married to someone else. So Andrews stayed in Europe and toured the castles. He never much cared for modern war and believed the weapons used by knights in the Medieval Era were much more fair to a fighting man.

That’s when Harry Andrews gave up on women and dedicated his life to recreating the Medieval Era right there in his native Ohio. As he built the castle, he also constructed a year-round hotbed garden, a secret room, and wrote a book about immigration. As a lifelong Boy Scout leader, he donated the castle to his scouts when he died in 1981. Called the “Knights of the Golden Trail,” they guard the castle to this day.

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HOAX: ISIS forced to ban burqas after women kill jihadis with hidden pistols

Islamic State leaders have been forced to abandon one of their religious beliefs by no longer forcing Muslim women to wear the burqa in public. The reason: Women under ISIS domination are fighting back – and using the face-and-body covering garment to do it.


Using clothing items to cover women’s bodies is common in the Islamic world. Many Muslim women are not forced to wear these garments, they are proud to do so. In some areas, however, the law does force women to wear certain coverings.

These items range from a simple headscarf, called a “hijab,” to the full-body burqa.

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
Afghan women wait outside a USAID-supported health care clinic.

The burqa became synonymous with the harsh treatment of women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

Now, under penalty of torture and death, ISIS forces women to wear such a garment in cities under its control.

They used to, anyway.

According to the International Business Times, sources inside the ISIS-held city of Mosul in Iraq say a Muslim woman in full veil shot and killed two ISIS fighters at a checkpoint south of the city’s center. She used a pistol hidden under her burqa to do it.

ISIS is now on the alert for similar attacks.

Burqas are used by women in some parts of the Muslim world, but Iraq and Syria are typically not among them. Syria, traditionally a secular state, discourages the use of Islamic head coverings. When the Syrian city of Manbij was liberated from the Islamic State by Kurdish fighters in August, VICE’s Tess Owen reported women burning their burqas. Some lit cigarettes from the burning garments.

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
Women burning their burqas and men cutting their beards after ISIS is pushed out of Manbij.

“Damn this stupid invention that they made us wear,” IndiaTimes quoted a recently freed woman as she lit her burqa on fire.

Update 9/9/16: As great as this story was to think about, it turned out to be part of a misinformation campaign by Iran.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The sweeping legacy of First Lady Barbara Bush

Former First Lady Barbara Bush, wife of 41st President George H. W. Bush, passed away in Houston, Texas, on April 17, 2018. The mother of 6 and grandmother of 17 was 92.

Only two women in American history have both served as First Lady and raised a son who would become president. The first was Abigail Adams, First Lady to President John Adams and the mother of John Quincy Adams. The second was Mrs. Bush, whose son George W. Bush would serve two terms as Commander in Chief beginning just 8 years after his father left office.


Yet Mrs. Bush’s legacy extends far beyond her role as the matriarch of one of America’s most consequential political families. She served as a close and trusted adviser to her husband during the first Bush Administration, and she tirelessly championed the cause of literacy throughout her life. The New York Times reports that Mrs. Bush attended more than 500 events related to literacy just counting her husband’s time as Vice President in the Reagan Administration alone.

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
President Bush, Mrs. Bush, and Millie leave Marine One.
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)

“Amongst [Mrs. Bush’s] greatest achievements was recognizing the importance of literacy as a fundamental family value that requires nurturing and protection,” President Donald J. Trump said in a statement. “She will be long remembered for her strong devotion to country and family, both of which she served unfailingly well.”

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
Easter at the White House.
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)

The outpouring of deeply personal remembrances in the hours following Mrs. Bush’s death is a testament to both her force as a public figure and her warmth as a friend. “When I first met Barbara Bush in 1988 as she entertained spouses of congressional candidates at the @VP Residence, her sage advice and words of encouragement touched my life in a profound way,” Second Lady Karen Pence wrote on Twitter. “Since becoming Second Lady, she has become a trusted friend. I will miss her.”

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
Mrs. Bush takes Millie’s puppies out for a walk in the Rose Garden of the White House.
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)

Those sentiments weren’t limited to public officials. “You were a beautiful light in this world and I am forever thankful for your friendship,” Houston Texans defensive end J. J. Watt wrote.

Remembering Barbara Bush

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Mrs. Bush reads to children in the White House Library.
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)

Mrs. Bush’s far-reaching work and plainspoken style made her a bipartisan symbol for women’s empowerment. She also embraced the value of accessibility in a First Lady. When she famously wore fake pearls to her husband’s Presidential Inauguration and throughout her time in the White House, her deputy press secretary quipped it was because “she just really likes them.”

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
(Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

Acutely aware of the public spotlight cast on First Ladies, Mrs. Bush served as America’s first hostess “with respect but without fuss or frippery,” Vanessa Friedman writes in The New York Times.


This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
(Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

The Bush family shared personal tributes of their own. “Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions,” former President George W. Bush wrote. “To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end. I’m a lucky man that Barbara Bush was my mother.”

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
President-elect andu00a0Mrs. Bush and Vice President-elect and Mrs. Quayle visit President and Mrs. Reagan at the White House the day after the election.
(George H.W. Bush Library photo)

First Lady Melania Trump will attend Mrs. Bush’s funeral in Texas on April 21, 2018. President Trump has ordered that all U.S. flags at Federal locations fly at half-staff until sunset of that day.

“Throughout her life, she put family and country above all else,” Mrs. Trump said in a statement. “She was a woman of strength and we will always remember her for her most important roles of wife, mother, and First Lady of the United States.”

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

These are the 13 funniest military memes that supply didn’t keep for themselves. Check them out below:


1. Seriously sir, just a peek (via Funker 530).

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together

2. Lightweight, plenty of space, climate control.

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
What’s the problem, Army? Marines would literally kill for this.

SEE ALSO: That time a Navy squadron bombed North Vietnam with a toilet

3. Operators gotta operate (via Sh-t my LPO says).

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
Not sure where that camouflage mix works. Maybe an underwater sandbar?

4. You could put them in your pockets (via The Salty Soldier).

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
Well, if it weren’t for first sergeant.

5. Invisible tanks cause more crashes than texting while driving (via Sh-t my LPO says).

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together

6. Better hope you’re not doing partner assisted exercises (via The Salty Soldier).

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Good news is: that guy usually falls out of runs pretty quickly.

7. Air Force basic training is serious.

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
Don’t make it before lights out, don’t get a stuffed bear.

8. The Marines like stuffed bears* as well.

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
*Bears stuffed with cougars stuffed with wolves stuffed with coyotes stuffed with badgers.

9. This is a Navy corpsman acting like there are tests:

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We all know the socks/Motrin dilemma is decided by how much Motrin you happen to have.

10. Stand real still and listen very closely …

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… or run as fast as you can. It doesn’t matter much.

11. The process is slow, but will get you every time (via Enlisted Problems).

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Got ’em!

12. Coast Guard: Part military branch, part law enforcement agency …

(via Coast Guard Memes)

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
… part leisure activity.

13. Remember to dive at the end of the run (via Awesome Sh-t My Drill Sergeant Says).

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together
Otherwise, this still ends badly.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How German POWs staged their greatest World War I escape

Today, Sutton Bonington campus, part of the University of Nottingham, houses the schools of bioscience and veterinary medicine. But a century ago, during World War I, it was home to a prisoner of war (PoW) camp for German military personnel captured by the British on the Western front. And it was the site of a great escape, when Germans managed to flee the camp on Sept. 25, 1917.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 the government took over buildings and sites around the country to convert into PoW camps. Sutton Bonington was a group of buildings completed in 1915 for the Midland Dairy Institute, an agricultural college, but it was taken over by the War Office before the institute’s staff and students could move in. Barbed wire fencing and some additional huts were added to the site and around 600 German military officers moved in.


German officers who were made prisoners of war, by contrast with ordinary soldiers and sailors, were not allowed to work. Many became extremely bored, and sought to relieve the tedium by playing sports such as football and tennis, putting on concerts and plays, and planning how to escape. The preferred escape option was to tunnel under the barbed wire, and to disappear into the countryside beyond.

Two attempts to tunnel out at Sutton Bonington failed, but the third succeeded, and at 1.30am on Sept. 25, 1917, 22 men slipped, slithered and pulled their way along a tunnel, which was less than a metre high. They emerged into a field of turnips, and were hidden from the guards in the sentry posts by a ridge running through a nearby field. It helped their cause that the moon had set before they started, that the search lights were out because of concerns about Zeppelin raids, and that it was not raining.

This is what happens when Israelis and Palestinians eat dinner together

The main administration block at Sutton Bonington campus. It was used as a prisoner of war camp for German officers between 1916-19.

(CC BY-SA 3.0)

In terms of simple numbers, no other breakout was as successful. Usually only two or three men were involved with a tunnel project. The 22 from Sutton Bonington made it the largest breakout in Britain of World War I.

Best laid plans

The men planned to split into groups of four, preferably with an English speaker in each one, and to head for different ports along the east coast. They had maps and a compass with them, as well as food supplies which had arrived in the camp from Germany the previous day. The absconders hoped to stow away on board a vessel passing through the English channel, and return to Germany, re-join their regiment and re-engage with the war.

The breakout was discovered at 4.30am when a policeman patrolling the village of Plumtree came upon Herman Genest walking alone but wearing a German officer’s uniform. He arrested him, took him to the nearest police station, and from there saw him returned to the camp at Sutton Bonington. Genest had been free for approximately three hours.

His arrest led to a roll call at Sutton Bonington which confirmed that 22 men were missing. All police, special constables, and other groups concerned with law and order in the area were ordered from their beds to find the Germans.

Within hours they were reeled in. My own research into the episode has uncovered that three of the German men, claiming to be seeking work in one of Nottingham’s munitions factories, were arrested at Trent Bridge. Two more, including the leader Otto Thelan, were arrested at Tollerton at 11am, and two others later in the day. Also arrested that day was Karl von Müller, a German naval hero from the early days of the war, who was found by children when he was blackberrying at Tollerton.

The rest were picked up over the ensuing days with the last four German officers captured at Brimington Woods, near Chesterfield. A police sergeant found them on September, 30, “and immediately upon being challenged they admitted their identity”, according to a report a few days later in the Derby Daily Telegraph.

Getting out was unlikely

The experiences of these men were typical of other German prisoners who tried to escape during World War I. They were expected to wear their uniforms in camp, but this made them conspicuous if they managed to escape. They had to walk because catching trains was too problematic, and they normally travelled at night and hid in barns and hay stacks during the day. They carried food, but could struggle to find enough liquid, and if they reached the coast there was no guarantee of a passage across the Channel.

Escape was a romantic ideal rather than a rational expectation. Gunter Pluschow, who escaped from another PoW camp at Donington Hall, in Leicestershire, was the only German to make it home in World War I, largely because he managed to adopt a disguise and stow away on board a cargo ship at Harwich.

The Sutton Bonington camp was used for PoWs until February 1919 when those remaining were moved to Oswestry in Shropshire. The site was then cleared and cleaned, including the removal of the huts and barbed wire, and returned to the Midland Dairy Institute, which formally opened in October 1919. In 1946 the institute joined the University of Nottingham as the faculty of agriculture.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

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How a 500-mile cavalry charge helped end World War I

France takes a lot of jokes these days because of its performance in the early days of World War II. The greater military history of France, however, is nothing to laugh about. While the great armies of Germany, Britain, the United States and even France were languishing in the trenches of World War I’s Western Front, one French army in the East was sacking up and getting the job done. 

After serving dutifully on the Western Front of the war for two years, French Gen. Louis Franchet d’Espèrey was transferred to the East, where he took command of an army of French, Greek, Serbian, British and Italian forces. He would use these troops to force an end to World War I. 

Before World War I, Gen. d’Espèrey was a longtime cavalry officer. The cavalry was in his blood. His father was a cavalry officer in Africa before him, and when the young man came of age, he too served in the cavalry. Even before the Great War began, d’Espèrey was a veteran of French Indochina, Algeria, the Boxer Rebellion in China, and in French Morocco. 

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(Wikimedia Commons)

When the “War to End All Wars” did break out, d’Espèrey was elevated to a corps commander fighting for his homeland. He did so well he was promoted to command the French Fifth Army later that same year, 1914. Upon his taking command, a cultural shift happened in the Fifth Army. At the Battle of the Marne, the man who “physically resembled a Howitzer shell” helped the French stop the Germans cold in their tracks before they could reach Paris.  

By 1918, the war in the West had turned into the bloody stalemate of trench warfare we remember World War I for today. But d’Espèrey wasn’t on the Western Front. He had been transferred to the East, where he was leading a combined army on the Macedonian Front. There, his force met a combined Central Powers force of Germans, Austrians and Bulgarians. 

In September 1918, d’Espèrey launched a massive attack on the Macedonian Front, an area of the war Germany was less inclined to support after Russia dropped out of the war. But it was here that the terms of the Armistice would be decided. When d’Espèrey attacked, there was a substantial force of 3,000 cavalry missing from the Entente lines. 

The cavalry was discovered nine days later, near what is today Skopje, North Macedonia, some 500 miles away. They were set to charge on the city which was heavily defended by 50,000 Bulgarians armed with rifles and machine guns. The cavalry had only their weapons and lances. Outnumbered, the French horsemen, led by another cavalry officer from North Africa, Gen. Jouinot-Gambetta, attacked the city and won, forcing the Bulgarians to flee. 

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This map shows the effect of the daring attack that ultimately broke the Axis (Wikimedia Commons)

Skopje was well behind the lines of the Central Powers’ combined eastern army and when the Bulgarians discovered Skopje had fallen to the French, it led them to believe that a large army had somehow made its way deep into their territory. Bulgarian units started surrendering their positions without a fight and the government of Bulgaria sued for an armistice the next day. 

German troops in the area were ordered to counterattack and retake the city, but without their Bulgarian allies, the chances of a successful, sustained counterattack were slim. They began to retreat back to Germany. 

The Germans and Ottomans were now cut off from each other. British forces moved east toward Constantinople, and with no significant force able to challenge their approach, the Ottoman Empire sued for peace on Oct. 26. Austria-Hungary submitted after the Italian victory at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto on Nov. 28, 1918 and Germany, unable to sustain the war by itself, submitted on November 11, 1918.

Feature image: Wikimedia Commons

MIGHTY HISTORY

What would happen if the Hanukkah story took place today

In 168 BCE, the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes IV set to quash Judaism among his subjects. Matthias the Kohein and his five sons fled to the hills and assembled a rag tag group of revolutionaries known as the Maccabees. The Maccabees fought the seemingly endless mercenary army until they reached Jerusalem and reclaimed the Temple Mount.


Three years to the day of Antiochus’ rampage against the Jews, the Maccabees held the dedication. The Festival of Lights as we know it came from this celebration and when the tiny jar of oil managed to keep the menorah lit for eight days.

As a fun thought experiment, and because I love AlternateHistoryHub, lets re-imagine and contextualize the Maccabean Revolt with today’s weaponry, training, and armies. To keep the completely fictional and arbitrary scenario fair, Matthias the Kohein and his sons are the Shayetet 13 – the Israeli equivalent to the Navy SEALs. They serve as both instructors and fighters for the rest of the revolt: made up of IDF personnel — because being a “normal” civilian isn’t exactly a thing in modern Israel.

The modern equivalent of the Seleucid Empire is a bit of a gray area. They hired many Syrian mercenaries, but they weren’t exactly modern Syria. Though it spanned across Turkey to India, its culture, customs, and religions were Hellenic. Since Greece and Israel are allies in real life, this seems to help avoid any pitfalls.

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Also pretend like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a while away because much of the revolution took place in the West Bank. (Image via MyJewishLearning.com)

As anyone who is aware of Israeli war history knows, Israel has a strong and constantly-tested military. While it has a 176,500 strong standing military, the number of fit military service troops is around 3,00,000. Their current defense budget if $18.6 billion annually and their Merkava main battle tanks are one of the most devastating in the world. All of that on top of a nuclear-triad option.

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And since this is a large scale revolt under the guidance of a Spec Ops group that is on par with our SEALs, they would use everything at their disposal. (Image via IDF Blog)

As for the Hellenic Armed Forces, their peacetime strength is around 113,500 troops with a total 4,000,000 fit for service troops. Their current defense spending budget is around $9.3 billion and they are the largest importer of conventional weapons in Europe and they have the highest G.D.P percentage towards military spending in the EU.

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As far as military might, they each fall around the same skill and fire power. After all, Spartan blood runs deep in the Greeks. (Image via Reddit)

Just by pure numbers alone, Israel would take the fight. That’s not even including the home-field advantage of an insurgency. Even if the Greeks were to hire entire mercenary companies to fight for them, an average mercenary company only has roughly 10k personnel and would eat most of their already dwarfed budget. In $366 billion dollar industry, the modern equivalent Seleucid Empire would just not have the funds to match the Maccabean Forces.

Just as they did over two thousand years ago, the Maccabees would reach the Temple Mount and rededicate it by lighting the golden menorah.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the story behind the Red Army’s most iconic WWII photo

It was the Red Army’s “Iwo Jima” moment, Soviet troops fixing the flag of the Soviet Union on top of the most infamous symbol of Hitler’s rise to power. On May 2, 1945, Soviet photographer Yevgeny Khaldei snapped the now-famous photo of Alyosha Kovalyov and Abdulkhakim Ismailov raising the hammer and sickle over the Reichstag.


 

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Photo by Yevgeny Khaldei

But the truth behind the photo, who was in the photo, and who actually raised the Soviet victory banner, was clouded in the fog of war and muddled by the Russian propaganda machine for decades. The first to raise the flag were a Kazakh, Lt. Rakhimzhan Koshkarbaev and Pvt. Georgij Bulatov, a Russian from Sverdlovsk.

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Koshkarbaev received the Order of the Red Banner for storming the Reichstag with his troops.

 

At first, the Kremlin announced that Georgia-born Meliton Kantaria and Russian Mikhail Yegorov were the men in the photo. The men were hailed as heroes and lived the rest of their lives in the glory created by Soviet propaganda.

Only after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 did the truth come out. Kovalyov and Ismailov were really the ones who hoisted the flag on the building… in the photo. But they weren’t the first to raise one. One story has it that a Sergeant Mikhail Menin, part of a five-man fire team led by Vladimir Makov raised a flag on the building first.

In 2007, the Russian Institute of Military History announced that honor went to Koshkarbaev and Bulatov. The only problem was they hoisted the red banner at 10:30 at night. No one believed these two, however – it was too dark for photos.

A documentary film titled “The Motherland Calls” about Kazakhs in the Great Patriotic War (the Soviet term for WWII), relayed anecdotal evidence from other Red Army veterans that described Koshkarbaev and other men from the 674th regiment moving on the parliament building – including the Soviet filmmaker and combat cameraman Roman Karmen.

 

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Karmen in the Red Army.

 

Karmen recalled filming “the Kazakh officer” as a Red Army combat cameraman in Berlin.

“You see, we received an order from Moscow: the Victory Banner over the Reichstag should be hoisted by representatives of Georgia and Russia, but it was difficult to stop. I was told to cut the frames [of Koshkarbaev], but they are preserved, in the archives.”

Kovalyov and Ismailov were pressured by the the KGB to stay quiet about their role in the flag raising. Bulatov was found hanged in his apartment in 1955.

Soviet leadership began pressuring their troops to capture the building in preparation for the International Workers Day celebrations for May 1st. The Soviets tried to drape red banners on the building via aircraft, but came up short when the banners were caught on the girders of the roof.

But as of May 30th, Hitler still controlled the Reichstag.

The German parliament building, Hitler’s rubber stamp, was defended by 1,000 German troops, so Soviet leadership ordered nine divisions to attack the building. Red Army troops used mortars fired horizontally to punch through bricked-up doorway throughout the building. They fought room by room until Soviet fire teams could make their way to the stairs and the roof of the building.

 

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Photo by Yevgeny Khaldei

 

By May 2nd, the only Germans left in the building surrendered from the basement. That’s when the photographer Yevgeny Khaldei made his way up to the roof and enlisted Kovalyov and Ismailov to help raise the now-famous red banner. He burned through a whole roll of film taking the image.

The last surviving Red Army veteran who stormed the Reichstag died in 2015.

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