During World War II, Hitler personally ordered the construction of massive, steel-plated towers that bristled with anti-aircraft guns, tearing planes from the sky like King Kong on angel dust. For modern Germans, these nearly indestructible towers provide a unique problem: They don’t want to waste well-engineered buildings and materials, but they’re not super into maintaining relics of Nazi triumph.
So the Germans have found interesting ways to re-purpose the old fortresses.
A German flak tower under construction in 1942 as part of Germany’s defenses against Allied bombing raids. Some of the expensive towers have been re-purposed in the decades since the end of the war.
(German Military Archives)
The strategy of constructing the towers was questionable to begin with. It required massive amounts of concrete and steel for the walls that, in some cases, are over two feet thick. Construction in Berlin was completed in six months and additional towers were built in Vienna and Hamburg before Germany was defeated. Construction took so much material that rail shipments had to be rearranged around them, slowing the flow of needed materiel and troops to battlefields and factories.
Just the Zoo Tower in Berlin required 78,000 tons of gravel, 35,000 tons of cement, and 9,200 tons of steel. The towers were built in pairs. For each primary tower devoted to anti-aircraft operations there was a second tower that had some anti-aircraft weapons, but also sported communications and other support equipment.
But the towers, once completed, were nearly impregnable. They relied on no single support pillar, and nearly every structural support was so strong that they were almost impossible to destroy from outside. When Germany was conquered, Soviet forces who took Berlin had to lay siege out of range and negotiate a surrender of the towers.
But there was one major shortfall to the towers. They were designed to stop air raids on Berlin, and it was dangerous to attack the city within range of the towers. So, planes simply flew outside of their range or approached them en mass, fielding so many planes that the Germans simply couldn’t get all of them at once.
German soldiers man a flak gun on a tower in World War II. The massive towers were a significant obstruction to air raids on three German cities, but were part of a questionable military strategy.
(German Military Archives)
Plus, Germany lacked proximity fuses during the war, meaning their flak weapons were less effective than those used by the Allies — at least, when the Allies were willing to use the fuses and risk their capture.
After the towers finally surrendered, engineers worked to destroy them, but quickly found that massive amounts of explosives were needed and, even then, many would still stand. The Zoo Tower, mentioned above, survived two attempts at destruction. The first attempt used 25 tons of explosives and the building shrugged it off.
The third attempt, powered by 35 tons of dynamite, finally did the job.
Outside of Berlin, some of the towers survived destruction attempts while a few were simply left in place. Instead of destroying them, locals decided to re-purpose them over the years.
At first, Germans simply stripped the towers of valuable materials and left the steel-reinforced buildings in place. But, over the years, the brilliant German engineers found ways to make use of buildings with excellent thermal insulation and structural integrity.
A storehouse for art in Vienna, Germany.
(Photo by Bwag)
In Vienna, one of the six towers is now an aquarium maintained by the Aqua Terra Zoo. Visitors can see over 10,000 fish and other aquatic organisms in the tower. On the outside of the tower, visitors can use the climbing wall that has been added.
Another Vienna tower has been turned into an antenna for cellular phones, and one is used to store art in controlled conditions.
In Hamburg, two towers have been re-purposed. One holds nightclubs and businesses and the other provides energy storage for part of the city.
Solar collectors cover the tower and work with butane and wood burners to heat large water tanks inside the tower. The thick concrete walls provide insulation and the water is pumped to nearby buildings, heating them during the cold months. The tower is also used to generate electricity for 1,000 homes.
While most of the towers in Berlin were destroyed to one degree or another, in one case, the rubble was simply covered over with dirt, forming two hills in a public park for visitors to sit on.
Check out the YouTube video below from Real Engineering to learn more.
China is fielding a far-reaching reconnaissance system reliant on drones to strengthen its ability to conduct surveillance operations in hard-to-reach areas of the South China Sea, the Ministry of Natural Resources said in a report Sept. 10, 2019.
The system, which relies on drones connected to mobile and fixed command-and-control centers by way of a maritime information and communication network, stands to boost Chinese information, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities over what was previously provided by satellites and regional monitoring stations.
The highly maneuverable drones can purportedly provide high-definition images and videos in real time they fly below the clouds, which have, at times, hindered China’s satellite surveillance efforts.
“It is like giving the dynamic surveillance in the South China Sea an ‘all-seeing eye,'” the MNR’s South China Sea Bureau explained. “The surveillance ability has reached a new level.”
The bureau added that the application of the new surveillance system “has greatly enhanced the dynamic monitoring of the South China Sea and extended the surveillance capability of the South China Sea to the high seas.”
The system is currently being used for marine management services, the MNR said vaguely. While the MNR report does not mention a military application, the ministry has been known to work closely with the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and there are certain strategic advantages to increased maritime domain awareness.
Sailors of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.
China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, a contested waterway also claimed by a number of countries in the region that have, in some cases with the support of the US and others outside the region, pushed back on Chinese assertions of sovereignty.
China has built outposts across the area and fielded various weapons systems to strengthen its position. At the same time, it has bolstered its surveillance capabilities.
“The drones have obvious use to improve awareness both of what is on the sea and what is in the air,” Peter Dutton, a retired US Navy officer and a professor at the US Naval War College, wrote on Twitter.
Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained that Chinese surveillance upgrades could help China should it decide to declare an Air Defense Identification Zone in the region, something Dutton suggested as well.
China is also developing the Hainan satellite constellation, which will be able to provide real-time monitoring of the South China Sea with the help of two hyperspectral satellites, two radar satellites, and six optical satellites. The constellation should be completed in two years, according to the South China Morning Post.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The United States Air Force needs aggressor aircraft. There is no geopolitical adversary for the United States quite like Russia and its Soviet-built airplanes. American combat crews need to train against someone, and the best we can get comes in the form of MiG-29 fighters and Sukhoi-27 aircraft.
It doesn’t matter that the aircraft are from the 1970s, so is the U.S. Air Force’s F-16 fleet. American airmen need targets, and these are the most likely real-world ones.
In 2017, onlookers spotted an F-16 engaged in a life or death dogfight over Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. with a Russian-built Su-27 Flanker aircraft. It’s highly unlikely an errant Russian fighter penetrated NORAD and began an attack on a specific base. The only logical explanation was that Nellis has a supply of Russian-built fighters for U.S. airmen to train against. It turns out, that is exactly what happened in the skies over Nevada that day. Make another notch in the win column for Occam’s Razor.
The United States Air Force has acquired and maintains a number of Russian and Soviet-built aircraft for airmen to fly against. Where they get the aircraft is anyone’s guess, but The National Interest reported it likely gets the most advanced fighters from Ukraine. Other fighters are on loan from private companies who acquired the Russian planes on their own. That’s another W for capitalism.
Anything is possible with enough money.
So even if the United States Air Force couldn’t afford to own and maintain its own supply of Russian aggressor aircraft, there are apparently a number of civilian contractors who have acquired them and are willing to loan those fighters out to the USAF. Among those come MiG-29s from a company called Air USA, MiG-21s and trainer aircraft from Draken International, and the two aforementioned Sukhoi-27 fighters from Pride International via Ukraine.
Let’s see the semi-Communist oligarchs in Moscow pull off acquiring an F-22 Raptor using their shady business dealings. But even if the United States couldn’t fight real Russian fighters, American pilots could still get excellent training.
The emperor has new clothes.
If you’re not sure what’s happening in the photo above, that’s an F-16 Fighting Falcon all dressed up as a Sukhoi-57 fifth-generation stealth fighter. While the F-16 may not have stealth and definitely isn’t a fifth-gen fighter, it still gives U.S. airmen training on what to look for while engaging a Russian in the skies. The paint job is used by the Russians to make the Su-57 look like a different, smaller aircraft from a distance. Acquiring real enemy aircraft and training under the conditions closest to combat will give American pilots the edge they need.
That is, if they ever need that edge against the Russians.
The U.S. Air Force is hopeful it could have its first female battlefield airman spring 2019.
In written testimony before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel, Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said one woman is making her way through the grueling challenges of Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) training.
“Currently, we have one female in Tactical Air Control Party training with a potential graduation date later this spring,” he said.
“To date, 10 female airmen have entered into special warfare training, but none have yet to qualify and graduate,” Kelly added.
Attrition is high in this elite training pipeline, ranging between 40 and 90 percent across the specialties.
“Consequently, we do not foresee large numbers of females in operational units in the near term,” Kelly said.
Since the Defense Department opened combat career fields to women in December 2015, few female airmen have qualified for Air Force special warfare training. Some have self-eliminated or sustained an injury; others have not met the standards of a particular program.
A Tactical Air Control Party Airman with the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 227th Air Support Operations Squadron scans the training area for targets on Warren Grove Range, N.J., Jan. 31, 2019.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Matt Hecht)
Recently, a female candidate entered the pararescue (PJ) training pipeline, but was injured during the first week of training and had to drop out, Air Education and Training Command (AETC) officials told Military.com in January 2019.
The woman is expected “to return at a later date to try again,” AETC spokeswoman Jennifer Gonzalez said January 2019.
“We are fully committed to the integration of women into combat positions, [and] have increased targeted marketing to further attract female recruits,” Kelly said.
The service has placed a female cadre within these training units, he added.
The Air Force has had a tough time attracting candidates for special operations, particularly in the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and survival, evasion, resistance and escape (SERE) pipelines. Kelly said the service missed its recruiting goals for these specialties in three of the last four months.
While the service missed those goals, Kelly said special warfare overall has seen early successes through its new recruiting squadron. The service established its first Special Operations Recruiting Squadron in 2018 to find next-generation combat airmen.
“This past year, we established a new training group and new recruiting squadrons focused on critical warfighting career fields, such as special warfare airmen,” Kelly said.
Recruiters and mentors train the candidates in a step-by-step, streamlined program to get a better sense of what type of airmen are needed for the next dynamic conflict.
“The Air Force is committed to improving how we recruit and prepare airmen to succeed,” Kelly said.
This story will be updated.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Baton Rouge was assigned to monitor the Russian Navy near the port city of Murmansk. The Soviet Union fell just a few months prior, but the U.S. Navy was still very interested in what the nascent – but still formidable – former Soviet Navy was up to.
All was going well off the coast of Murmansk as the Baton Rougeconducted its mission silently and unnoticed, until the crew was rocked by an impact from outside the boat. A Russian Sierra I-class sub, the Kostroma, collided with Baton Rougefrom below as the Russian sub was trying to surface.
The American’s hull was scratched and had tears in its port ballast tank. The Kostroma’sconning tower slammed into the American sub at 8 miles per-hour as the Russian moved to surface. Its sail was crushed from the impact.
Embarrassing? Yes. Deadly? Thankfully no. Both American and Russian subs get much bigger and much heavier the Sierra I-class Kostroma and the Los Angeles-class Baton Rouge. Both can carry nuclear-capable cruise missiles, but neither were equipped with those weapons at the time.
After ensuring neither submarine required assistance both returned to port for repairs. In 1995 the U.S. Congress determined that repairing the Baton Rougewould be too costly and the boat was decommissioned.
The Kostroma, however, returned to active service – with a kill marker, celebrating the defeat of the Baton Rouge.
President Donald Trump tweeted June 21, 2019, that he was “cocked and loaded” to retaliate against Iran after its forces shot down a US drone earlier this week but decided not to at the last minute.
The president said he was concerned that the planned retaliatory strikes would be an escalation of force. “I asked, how many people will die,” Trump said, adding that an unnamed military officer, a “general,” told him that 150 Iranian people would die.
He said such a strike was “not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone.” Trump added that he called everything off 10 minutes before the attack. The president also suggested he was “in no hurry” to go to war.
The retaliatory action the administration had planned was in response to an attack on a US Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS-D) aircraft, specifically a RQ-4A Global Hawk high-altitude long-endurance (HALE) drone operating in international airspace.
The incident marked a major escalation in tension between Tehran, Iran’s capital, and Washington in the wake of a string of attacks on commercial tankers and a near miss when the crew of an Iranian gunboat took a shot at a US MQ-9 Reaper drone but failed to take it down.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The P-3 Orion has served with the United States for a long time, but also saw wide export service. One of those export customers was Japan, which operated over 100 Orions built by Kawasaki.
Like the American Orions, these Japanese planes needed to be replaced – and for Japan, this was a very important program. In World War II, American submarines managed to choke off Japan’s maritime supply routes. This is a lesson that stuck with the island nation, and lead them to a focus on anti-submarine warfare.
So Japan didn’t decide to buy into the P-8 Poseidon Multi-Mission Aircraft program. Instead, it designed its own maritime patrol plane, dubbed the P-1.
Granted, that sounds like Japan is going backwards, but Tokyo has always numbered its post World War II indigenous aircraft designs in a separate sequence. This is why its Phantoms and Eagles are known as F-4EJs and F-15Js, respectively.
Now, the P-1 may look like a 707 with a big “stinger” on the tail (which is called a magnetic anomaly detector, or “MAD”), but the looks are deceiving. The P-1 was designed and built to be a sub-hunter.
According to company officials, the P-1 features a spacious fuselage and large wing. While the 737-based P-8 has two engines, the P-1 has four F7-10 engines designed for the maritime patrol mission.
It can carry lightweight anti-submarine torpedoes like the American-designed Mk46 or Japan’s Type 97 – as well as future designs. It also can carry mines, AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, ASM-1C anti-ship missiles, and AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles (which can hit either naval or land targets).
MilitaryFactory.com reported that the P-1 has a top speed of 540 knots, a maximum range of 4,971 miles, and can operate at altitudes of almost 45,000 feet. The plane is also equipped with a number of systems to counter enemy air defenses, including chaff, flares, a “missile warning system,” self-defense electronic warfare capabilities, and it is also highly maneuverable.
In short, Japan has built an aircraft that could be very deadly for submarines.
The British are coming, the British are coming!” This cry likely brings to mind the name of Paul Revere, immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetry. Students learn about the legendary ride as early as elementary school, but Revere’s younger, female counterpart is rarely mentioned: Sybil Ludington.
On April 26, 1777, when she was just 16 years old, Sybil rode from Putnam County, New York to Danbury, Connecticut to warn of advancing British troops. Her ride took place in the dead of night, lasting from 9:00 P.M. to dawn the next morning. She rode her horse, Star, over 40 miles to warn 400 militiamen that the British troops were planning to attack Danbury, where the Continental Army held a supply of food and weapons.
The militiamen were able to move their supplies and warn the residents of Danbury. The afternoon following her warning, British troops burned down several buildings and homes, but few people were killed. It was considered a wild success by the militiamen. Sybil was heralded as a hero by her friends, neighbors, and reportedly even General George Washington.
Her ride is similar to those of William Dawes and Paul Revere in 1775 in Massachusetts, and Jack Jouett in 1781 in Virginia. However, Sybil rode more than twice the distance of these midnight riders and was far younger. You may ask why Sybil was the one to take on this ride: Her father, Henry Ludington, was a colonel and the head of the local militia.
Sybil had long moved from town to town with her father and previously saved his life from a royalist assassination attempt. It’s not known if Sybil volunteered for her ride or if her father requested her assistance in a moment of need. In any case, her brave contribution undoubtedly saved the lives of many men, women, and children.
After the war, at 23, Sybil married a man named Edmond Ogden. Together they had one child, and settled on a farm in Catskill, New York. Here, they lived and worked until her death in 1839. She was 77 years old. Sybil was buried near her father in the Patterson Presbyterian Cemetery in Patterson, New York.
Although remembered in Putnam county and the surrounding area, Sybil Ludington was largely lost to the annals of American history. It wasn’t until after her death that her story gained traction. The tale of her ride was first shared among her family and eventually documented by her grandson. In 1880, a New York historian named Martha Lamb published an account of Sybil Ludington’s famed ride in a book about the New York City area, documenting Sybil’s life after her ride as well.
In 1935, New York State commissioned a series of historical markers along Sybil’s route. A statue of the young woman was erected near Carmel, New York in 1961 and smaller statues can be found stretching from the Daughters of the American Revolution Headquarters in Washington, D.C. to Murrells Inlet, South Carolina.
Sybil made an appearance on a postage stamp as part of the “Contributors to the Cause” United States Bicentennial series in 1975. Since 1979, every year in April a 50K ultramarathon is put on in honor of Sybil’s legendary ride. The hilly course covers roughly the same grounds as Sybil’s route, and finishes near her statue on the shore of Lake Gleneida, Carmel, New York.
It’s worth noting that not every historian is convinced of the veracity of Sybil Ludington’s midnight ride. Paula D. Hunt published a paper in The New England Quarterly arguing that there’s no reliable historical evidence to prove Ludington indeed made the trip from New York to Connecticut. The New York Times also examined the issue in a 1995 article about the Sybil Ludington statue in Carmel.
Germany’s highest awards for valor, the Iron Cross, was the most awarded of the top tier medals of any nation in World War II. But Germany awarded more top-tier valor awards than any other country for two very good reasons. First, most German troops fought for the duration or the war unless they were crippled.
As German ace Gunther Rall put it, that meant Third Reich troops’ destiny “was either the Iron Cross or the wooden cross.” They would be heroes or they would die in the attempt.
Second, German troops could earn the Iron Cross with a series of events, like succeeding in enough aerial battles, rather than for just a single act of extreme valor like in most militaries. While the medal was awarded for singular military achievements and bravery, it was also automatically warranted after a service member completed a challenging act.
Here are four things that would get a World War II German soldier an automatic Iron Cross:
1. Destroying a set number of enemy tanks
For German tankers, the “easiest” way to earn an Iron Cross was to achieve enough tank victories to qualify. While the number required increased as the war ground on, 50 was the magic number for a few years. That’s 50 Allied tank kills before a single tank managed to kill them.
2. Killing a set number of Allied planes
German Luftwaffe pilots could net an Iron Cross by accruing an ever-increasing number of points. Single-engine aircraft were worth one point, dual-engines netted two points, and four engines were worth three points. Fighters could get the Iron Cross second class for becoming an ace (downing five enemy aircraft).
3. Sinking a set amount of Allied shipping
For submariners, the Iron Cross was usually awarded for sinking tons of Allied supplies. The Iron Cross second class usually required sinking 50,000 tons of shipping, while the Knight’s Cross, a higher level of the same award, would be granted to those who sank 100,000 or more tons.
These were older, frail planes piloted by Soviet women who would carry a few bombs at a time and drop them on Nazi massed forces, breaking up German attacks on Soviet positions. But the planes were so slow and quiet that they were hard to find and harder to fight, so the Luftwaffe promised an Iron Cross for a single kill.
Marine Corps snipers struck fear in the hearts of their enemies in the jungles of Vietnam. The exploits of three sharpshooters, in particular, are legendary.
Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney, Eric England, and Carlos Hathcock had almost 300 confirmed kills combined and even more unconfirmed. They were masters of their craft, and their skills in battle, as well as their silent professionalism and humility, made these men examples for the Marine snipers that followed.
“The Marines who go forward and work to put 120% into it and let their accolades speak for themselves are the guys that we encourage [Marine snipers] to emulate,” Staff Sgt. Joshua Coulter, a Marine Corps Scout Sniper instructor, recently told Insider.
As skilled marksmen capable of putting precision fire down range at a distance, snipers excel at providing overwatch and gathering intelligence, eliminating enemy officers, and demoralizing opposing forces, among other things.
In many conflicts throughout US history, Marine Corps snipers have proven to be valuable assets on the battlefield. But when the fighting finished, the Corps time and time again failed to build the kind of lasting programs needed to preserve the skills. That finally changed with the Vietnam War.
“Vietnam was the foundation for our modern program,” Coulter said. He explained that the remarkable capabilities demonstrated by Marines like Mawhinney, England, and Hathcock during the conflict highlighted the value of snipers in a very visible way.
“The only reason there is still a sniper program today is the guys who came before us, the quiet professionals who worked their assess off, went down range, and came home,” Coulter said.
They didn’t try to tack their names into the legends of the Corps, but by giving it their all, these snipers left their mark on history.
Gunnery Sgt. Carlos N. Hathcock:
In Vietnam, Hathcock had 93 confirmed enemy kills and several hundred unconfirmed. He also set the record for the longest combat kill shot in 1967 at 2,500 yards — a distance of about 1.4 miles. The record held until the early 2000s.
The Arkansas native deployed to Vietnam in 1966 as a military policeman, but because he had previously distinguished himself as a marksman, Hathcock was recruited by Edward James Land, another talented Marine sharpshooter who had been tasked with building a sniper program from scratch to counter the enemy’s irregular warfare tactics.
As a sniper, Hathcock inflicted such tremendous pain on enemy forces that the North Vietnamese army placed a $30,000 bounty on his head, putting him in the crosshairs of elite enemy snipers.
One of his most memorable battles in Vietnam was with a notorious sniper nicknamed “Cobra” who was sent to kill him. The enemy sharpshooter had been purposefully killing Marines near Hathcock’s base of operations to draw him out. It worked, but not the way Cobra had intended.
As the two expert snipers stalked one another, Cobra made a mistake. He moved into a position facing the sun, causing his scope to reflect the light and give away his position. Hathcock fired, shooting clean through the enemy’s scope and killing him.
The nature of the shot suggested that had Hathcock not seen the glare or been faster than Cobra on the trigger, his enemy would have shot him instead.
Among Hathcock’s famous kills was also a woman nicknamed “Apache” who tortured captured Marines and a North Vietnamese general. He pulled off the latter on a secret one-man mission deep into enemy territory.
For many years, Hathcock was believed to have the most confirmed kills of any Marine Corps sniper. That never mattered to him though, according to Charles Henderson’s book, “Marine Sniper: 93 Confirmed Kills.”
“You can take those numbers and give ’em to someone who gives a damn about ’em,” Hathcock is said to have told a fellow Marine during a discussion about his kills.
“I like shooting, and I love hunting. But I never did enjoy killing anybody,” he said. “It’s my job. If I don’t get those bastards, then they’re gonna kill a lot of these kids dressed up like Marines. That’s the way I look at it.”
Hathcock left Vietnam in 1969 after suffering severe burns while rescuing Marines from a fiery vehicle that struck a mine.
Although his injuries prevented him from serving as he once had, he remained active in the sniper community, providing instruction even as his health failed later in life.
Hathcock died in 1999 after a long and painful battle with multiple sclerosis, but his memory lives on. Though he does not actually hold the record for the most confirmed kills as previously thought, Hathcock is widely regarded as one of the finest snipers in the history of the Corps.
Master Sgt. Eric R. England:
England is one of two Marine Corps snipers who had more confirmed kills than Hathcock during the Vietnam War, though not a lot is known about his service.
Before the war, he had proven himself to be an excellent marksman in shooting competitions. Once in Vietnam as a sniper with the 3rd Marine Division, he continued to excel. In a period of just seven months before he had to be medically evacuated, he had 98 confirmed kills, with possibly hundreds more unconfirmed.
“About Vietnam, well, like all wars, it ain’t no good feeling, especially some of the jobs you have,” England said, explaining that shooting at human beings in war is different from shooting at targets in competition, though snipers can’t focus on that.
“When you go to get that one shot off, you have to put yourself in another world,” he said. “You try to put yourself in a little bubble. You cut the world out, and you just concentrate on those things you got to do to get a good shot off because if you don’t, you could be dead.”
He told the Marine Corps that he did not not brag about his kills because he was not seeking glory. He did, however, say that he considered himself better than the average Marine because a good shot makes a better Marine and he could shoot better than most.
Despite his legendary status, England is not very well known outside the US military sniper community, but Hathcock once said that “Eric is a great man, a great shooter, and a great Marine.”
Sgt. Charles “Chuck” B. Mawhinney:
Mawhinney spent almost a year and a half in Vietnam, but when he returned home to Oregon in 1969, he kept the details of his service a secret. No one outside a small circle of Marines he served with knew the truth: he was the deadliest sniper in Marine Corps history.
Mawhinney’s story went untold for two decades, but in 1991, friend and former Marine sniper Joseph Ward published a book that credited Mawhinney with 101 confirmed kills, a new record.
Ward’s book triggered an investigation into Marine Corps records, and it was found that the number he reported was incorrect. It turns out that Mawhinney actually had 103 confirmed kills. He also had another 216 “probable” kills.
With the release of Ward’s “Dear Mom: A Sniper’s Vietnam” and the end of Mawhinney’s quiet life of anonymity, this outstanding sharpshooter came out of the shadows and shared parts of his story publicly.
In one particularly intense engagement, Mawhinney put 16 bullets in 16 enemy troops in just thirty seconds, and he did it in the dark.
“I got 16 rounds off that night as fast as I could fire the weapon,” Mawhinney said in an interview for a documentary on Marine scout snipers. “Every one of them were headshots, dead center. I could see the bodies floating down the river.”
Vietnam, as it was for many, was hell for Mawhinney, but he extended his tour of duty because he knew he had the abilities to keep his fellow Marines alive.
One of the things that haunted Mawhinney after Vietnam was an enemy soldier that got away after an armorer had made adjustments to his rifle. He fired off multiple shots. All of them missed.
“It’s one of the few things that bother me about Vietnam,” he previously told The Los Angeles Times. “I can’t help thinking about how many people that he may have killed later, how many of my friends, how many Marines.”
Mawhinney left Vietnam after being diagnosed with combat fatigue. He is still alive, and his M40 rifle is on display in the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
The only US military sniper with more confirmed kills than Mawhinney in Vietnam was Army sharpshooter Adelbert Waldron with 109 confirmed kills.
Examples for modern Marine snipers
There is a lot that modern-day Marine scout snipers can learn from legends like Mawhinney, England, and Hathcock. For Staff Sgt. Coulter, who instructs future Marine snipers, what stood out as most impressive was their attention to detail down to the smallest level.
“Their attention to detail was unparalleled,” he said.
“Those guys back in the day were handloading their own rounds,” Coulter continued. “They went to great depths to understand the equipment they used, the ammo they used, the effects of their environment.”
“They understood you are naturally at a disadvantage walking into someone’s backyard,” he said, explaining that they thought carefully about how they camouflaged themselves, the routes they took, the positions they held, and so on.
“They went into such nitty-gritty detail, and that was kind of the definition of success for them,” he told Insider.
As part of their training, Marine Corps scout snipers are required to take time to study their history and the outstanding snipers who came before them. It’s a reminder, Coulter explained, that “the only thing that kept our program alive was performance.”
During the Vietnam War, snipers proved their worth. It is said that for every enemy killed, the average infantryman expended 50,000 bullets. For snipers, with their “one shot, one kill” approach, it was an average of 1.3 rounds per kill.
Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series about how branches of the military hate on each other. We’ll feature all branches of the U.S. military, written by veterans of that branch being brutally honest with themselves and their services.
The branches of the U.S. military are like a very large family. They deal with one another because they have to, not because they always get along.
The differences don’t stop at uniforms. Each branch has its own goals, mission, and its own internal culture. At the upper levels of the services, they compete for funds and favor from civilians in DoD. In the lower ranks, they compete for fun and favor from civilians in bars and strip clubs (especially in North Carolina). The branches are like siblings, competing for the intangible title of who’s “the best” from no one in particular.
“The Soviets are our adversary. Our enemy is the Navy.” —Gen. Curtis LeMay, U.S. Air Force
Of course, when it comes to joint operations downrange, a lot of that goes out the window. But when the op-tempo isn’t as hectic and frustration has time to build, the awesome Army platoon who saved your ass last month become a bunch of damn stupid grunts who steal everything you don’t lock down and leave their Gatorade piss bottles everywhere. Parsing out the best and worst of our services isn’t hard if we’re honest with ourselves.
Here’s how the other branches hate on the Navy, how they should actually be hating on the Navy, how the Navy hates on the Navy, and why to really love the Navy.
The easiest ways to make fun of the Navy
Sailor harassment has its roots in the age-old reality that since man first decided to put military power to sea in ships, those aboard those ships were forced to spend weeks and months underway before being afforded a few days of downtime in a foreign port. As a result of this ratio, sailors may have had a tendency for exuberance while on liberty over the years. And that exuberance may have caused a scuffle or two that caught the attention of bar owners and other locals who may have developed impressions that were less than positive.
Over time these locals spread rumors that these sailors couldn’t hold their liquor and tended to burn through what little cash they had in a short time. Word of these phenomena returned stateside, which gave birth to the saying, “spending money like a sailor on liberty.”
Because sailors spend time on the water, service members from other military branches wanted to give them a nickname that was both sufficiently pejorative and germane. Naturally marine life came to mind. “Sharks” was too cool and tough and “guppies” was too cute, so they settled on “squids.” So if you want to make fun of a sailor call him or her a “squid.” They really hate that because squids are spineless and ugly and otherwise devoid of personality. (They can swim fast, but nobody really cares about that.)
Because SEALs. In the wake of the Bin Laden raid, SEALs have managed to morph from silent professionals to the warfare specialty that is quick to tell all to land book and movie deals.
Because Top Gun. No other military movie in history has done more to give the public the wrong idea about what it means to serve. And it’s got a lot of homoerotic imagery, which leads to . . .
. . . The quickest way to strike a squid’s nerve is to make “gay” jokes. Yes, you know the kind, “100 sailors go out, 50 couples come back,” or “it ain’t gay if it’s under way,” and many, many more. It also doesn’t help that sailors are a popular gay fantasy.
Henri Belolo created the Village People around macho male stereotypes that gays fantasize about. The cowboy, cop, construction worker, leather-clad biker, Indian, and the sailor. The band became popular, moved into the mainstream and took the sailor in the cute Crackerjack uniform along with it. Yes, we said “cute.” Admit it, the sailor dress uniform has more in common with the Japanese school girl uniform than with the other service branches.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, of course. This is, after all, the post-DADT world.
Because nuclear power. While the introduction of this science gave Navy ships the ability to sail a long, long time without refueling, the existence of it also created a zero-tolerance culture that has raised the bar of fun suppression to heights that can never be lowered. And this ability to sweat the load has crossed over into other warfare specialties and other branches of the military. Thanks, Nukes . . .
Why to actually hate the Navy
Every service tries to imitate the Marine Corps when it comes to celebrating its birthday, and the Navy’s history makes this in many ways the biggest joke (which is a polite way to say “the biggest lie”). While the Navy uses October 13, 1775 as the birth date, they leave out the fact that the first version of the U.S. Navy was dismantled completely after the Revolutionary War because the ragtag bunch of vessels they managed to assemble on the fly did little to protect ports or disrupt the British in any way.
And this anti-Navy sentiment in and around DC lasted a while after that. Thomas Jefferson hated the idea of a standing Navy and few in Congress thought any differently about it. It wasn’t until early Navy badass Stephen Decatur decided to take a couple of ships to Tripoli to raise some Yankee hell against the Barbary Pirates. His successes made lawmakers take notice and actually warm to the idea of a standing Navy, and one with an over-the-horizon outlook.
So the real birth date of the Navy would be somewhere around 1810 when Decatur took the USS United States up and down the east coast to show the American public what they had in terms of seagoing capability.
Hate SAPR training and the CYA leadership atmosphere you’re currently serving under? Blame the Navy.
All the mechanisms that surround using the military as a social experiment and other morale-sapping things that get labeled as “politically correct” started with the Tailhook Scandal in the early ’90s. Of course, sexual battery, never mind harassment, is a bad thing that should never be tolerated, but Navy leadership over the years has done little to stop agenda-based over-corrections that have marginalized the culture in undesirable ways (in the eyes of those who intimate they know about warfighting and such).
So, regardless of your branch, if you feel like you’re serving in a nanny state, blame the Navy.
Because Jimmy Carter. He’s a Naval Academy grad and a submariner, but he never really acted like it when he was Commander-in-chief. His “man is inherently good” naivete made for some very bad foreign policy, most notably in how he de-fanged the CIA and emboldened the Iranian government to take Americans hostage for 444 days. And the Desert One rescue attempt was a disaster. Basically his time in the White House made the country very happy to see Ronald Reagan.
And because the Navy is the absolute worst when it comes to changing uniforms. Remember aviation greens? How about service dress khaki? No? Well, here’s one for you: aquaflage. What are you hiding in, the water? And if a sailor is in the water don’t you want to be able to see him or her? We rest our case.
Because they wrecked most of what was cool about the band Godsmack and made them corporate sellouts.
Because sailors don’t have to eat MREs when they deploy. Ships are built with mess decks and Navy cooks (and supply officers) generally take pride in serving the crew good food.
Why to love the Navy
Because Navy SEALs. They popped OBL and the Somali pirates and many more high value bad actors since 9-11. Their warfighting skills are second to none.
Because Hollywood remains enamoured by Navy life, it keeps teeing up Navy-themed shows like “The Last Ship,” and as a result, the general public has a favorable opinion of the military.
Because strike warfare. As has been the case throughout history U.S. Navy carriers and surface combatants were the first on the scene after 9-11, and because of that we were able to take it to the enemy a mere three weeks after the homeland was attacked.
Because the U.S. Navy really is, as the commercials state, “a global force for good.” From Hurricane Katrina to the Haitian earthquake to the tsunami in Thailand, when a country needs humanitarian assistance, the Navy has always been first on the scene.
Because the Navy continues to fight “the war between the wars.” The Navy goes to potentially hostile places like the littorals of Yemen and Chinese-claimed islands to prove to those nations that we’re willing to protect the sea lanes to keep goods moving safely to and from our shores.
Today, plastic explosives are a given. But 50 years ago, they were the latest in demolition technology. One of the most notable, of course, is C4.
Officially, it is called the M118 demolition charge, and was called Flex-X back then. Prior to the introduction of Flex-X, explosives had to be secured to what the engineers wanted to blow up.
C4, though, was more like Play-Doh or used chewing gum in that it could be stuck to whatever needs to go away.
The explosive had some other advantages as well. It could be used underwater, which means that divers could plant it on a pier without having to surface and risk being seen.
The explosive was also very insensitive. The video below shows troops dropping a weight on the Flex-X to no effect. It wouldn’t even go off when shot by multiple rounds from a M14 service rifle or when tossed into a campfire.
It also took much less time to set up – almost 60 percent less – when compared to earlier explosives, thanks to that Play-Doh/chewing gum consistency. That would save the lives of the engineers, who would spend less time away from cover.
Cold weather had little effect on the explosive’s ability to stick to whatever needed to be blown up. Other explosives needed to be taped or otherwise secured to the target.
During the famous rescue of navigator “Bat 21 Bravo,” a U.S. and a Vietnamese Navy SEAL took the lead role in a dangerous operation behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War, rescuing two aviators with no friendly losses despite running into enemy patrols and positions during the 11-day ordeal.
Numerous attempts to destroy North Vietnamese resistance from the air and rescue the downed aviators by helicopter failed, causing 14 American deaths and additional casualties before air rescue was outlawed for the men.
(U.S. Air Force)
While the rescue was widely popularized in a movie and book, both named Bat 21, the stories told were written before the events were declassified, so they were highly fictionalized to ensure that no sensitive information was inadvertently released.
But the true story is more amazing. Air Force Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton was forced to eject over Vietnam on April 2, 1972, triggering a mad dash by the U.S. to recover him before he was captured. Then, multiple rescue attempts went sideways in the first week. Seven more aircraft were lost, 14 Americans were killed, two were captured, and a new aviator was missing behind enemy lines. The theater commander forbid more helicopter extractions and the SEALs were ordered up.
A U.S. Navy SEAL, Lt. j.g. Tom Norris, led the mission alongside a Vietnamese Sea Commando team with its own lieutenant team leader.
An Air Force composite photo shows the tough terrain that the downed aviators had to cross to reach the river in hopes of rescue in April 1972.
(U.S. Air Force)
The men started by swimming their way up the river as the two targets of their rescue were directed to move to the river and start floating down. The aviators were given coded directions that combined landmarks from their home states and their hobbies. Clark was rescued on April 10, but Hambleton had trouble reaching the river.
Hambleton finally reached the river on the night of April 11, but the SEAL command post, meanwhile, had come under artillery barrage and two of the Vietnamese commandos had to be evacuated. The rest of the team was increasingly hesitant to risk their necks for American service members.
An April 11 rescue attempt with four members failed, and two of the Vietnamese commandos were obviously too frightened to continue.
Viet Cong irregulars move through a river in shallow boats like the one used by U.S. and Vietnamese commandos during the rescue of Air Force Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton in April 1972.
They were forced to pass NVA position after position, taking fire at each point and trying to keep their wounded, sick, and delirious package alive. Norris was forced to call in multiple airstrikes, and the Air Force dropped smoke bombs after their explosives to create a screen for the SEALs to maneuver behind.
Air Force Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton after his rescue.
(U.S. Air Force)
Finally, the three men made it back to friendly lines and were able to get Hambleton to medical care. For their efforts, both the Vietnamese and the U.S. SEAL would be awarded medals for valor.
Nguyen was ineligible for the Medal of Honor because he was not an American service member. He was admitted to U.S. SEAL schools following the ordeal, though, and graduated the underwater demolition team course and the SEAL advanced course. He later became an American citizen.