In the early morning hours of May 7, 1945, the remnants of Nazi Germany’s military leadership signed an unconditional surrender to Allied forces.
When the news broke the next day, soldiers and civilians around the world heralded Victory in Europe Day — the Soviet Union would mark Victory Day on May 9 — exuberant about the end of nearly six years of war that had destroyed much of Europe.
When German and Allied military officials gathered again in Berlin near midnight on May 8 to sign surrender documents, the atmosphere in the room was laden with emotional and political weight.
The Germans, characteristically severe, went through the proceedings in a mix of resignation and resentment, while the Soviets, Americans, and other Allies were relieved at the war’s conclusion.
All of them were uncertain what would come next.
Historian Antony Beevor’s sweeping history of the final months on the eastern front, “The Fall of Berlin 1945,” captured the mood in the room as victors and vanquished gathered to bring their conflict to an end:
“Just before midnight the representatives of the allies entered the hall ‘in a two-storey building of the former canteen of the German military engineering college in Karlshorst.’ General Bogdanov, the commander of the 2nd Guards Tank Army, and another Soviet general sat down by mistake on seats reserved for the German delegation.”
“A staff officer whispered in their ears and ‘they jumped up, literally as if stung by a snake’ and went to sit at another table. Western pressmen and newreel cameramen apparently ‘behaved like madmen’. In their desperation for good positions, they were shoving generals aside and tried to push in behind the top table under the flags of the four allies.”
The German delegation then entered the room — its members looking both “resigned” and “imperious.”
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, commander of the Nazi armed forces during the final days of the war, “sat very straight in his chair, with clenched fists,” Beevor wrote. “Just behind him, a tall German staff officer standing to attention ‘was crying without a single muscle of his face moving.'”
Gen. Georgy Zhukov, a senior Soviet commander during the war’s final days, stood to invite the Germans “to sign the act of capitulation.” Keitel, impatient, gestured for the documents to be brought to him. “Tell them to come here to sign,” Zhukov said.
Keitel walked over to sign, “ostentatiously” removing his gloves to do so, unaware that the representative for the chief of Stalin’s secret police, the NKVD, was lingering just over his shoulder.
“‘The German delegation may leave the hall,'” Zhukov said once the signing was complete, Beevor wrote, adding:
“The three men stood up. Keitel, ‘his jowls hanging heavily like a bulldog’s’, raised his marshal’s baton in salute, then turned on his heel. As the door closed behind them, it was almost as if everybody would in the room exhaled in unison. The tension relaxed instantaneously. Zhukov was smiling, so was [British Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur] Tedder. Everybody began to talk animatedly and shake hands. Soviet officers embraced each other with bear hugs.”
“The party which followed went on until almost dawn, with songs and dances. Marshal Zhukov himself danced the Russkaya to loud cheers from his generals. From inside, they could clearly hear gunfire all over the city as officers and soldiers blasted their remaining ammunition into the night sky in celebration. The war was over.”
The chaos of the war had ceased, but for Soviets and Germans other hardships were to come.
Zhukov, long a confidant of Stalin, earned glory for his command during the war, but he would soon find himself on the outs with the mercurial Soviet leader.
Keitel would face war-crimes charges, including crimes against humanity. He was convicted and hanged in October 1946. Like other Nazi leaders who were hanged, Keitel’s body didn’t drop with enough force to break his neck. He dangled at the end of the hangman’s rope for 24 minutes before dying.
Germans, many of them under the yoke of the Soviet Union, would struggle to rebuild both physically from the war and emotionally from their encounter with Allies forces — Soviet soldiers in particular. Berlin, buffered by two weeks of intense urban fighting, was shattered.
The Soviet Union’s drive for political vengeance and economic advantage lead it to hobble or strip much of East Germany’s infrastructure and resources.
The global death toll from the coronavirus has neared 27,000 with more than 591,000 infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.
Ukraine says it has confirmed 92 new coronavirus cases as the country begins to impose new restrictions at its borders in the battle to contain the effects of the global pandemic.
The Kremlin says a member of President Vladimir Putin’s administration has been infected with the coronavirus, but the person had not been in direct contact with Russia’s leader.
The announcement came as the government widened restrictions aimed at fighting the disease, ordering all restaurants and cafes to close, beginning March 28.
As of March 27, the country’s total number of confirmed cases was 1,036, up 196 from a day earlier. Another reported death on March 27 increased the total to four.
According to Moscow’s coronavirus-response headquarters, the 56-year-old woman who died on March 27 was also suffering from cancer and had one lung removed during an earlier operation.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that a man working in the presidential administration had been infected with the coronavirus.
“Indeed, a coronavirus case has been identified in the presidential administration,” Peskov was quoted as saying.
“All necessary sanitary and epidemiological measures are being taken to prevent the virus from spreading further. The sick man did not come into contact with the president,” he added, saying this was the only known case at the Kremlin.
He gave no further details.
As Russia’s confirmed cases have climbed, the government has steadily increased the restrictions and other measures seeking to curtail the disease’s spread.
Putin has called for a weeklong work holiday, ordering all nonessential businesses to close down for a week, beginning March 28.
In the order released by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin’s government on March 27, regional authorities across the country were instructed to “halt the activities of public food service organizations.” The restrictions will take effect on March 28.
The government has also ordered all vacation and health resorts closed until June. Other restrictions included the cancellation of all international flights.
In Russia’s capital and largest city, Moscow, city authorities have encouraged people to stay home and placed restrictions on public transit.
The majority of confirmed cases are in Moscow.
The Russian media regulator, meanwhile, said the social messaging network Twitter has deleted a post that it said contained false information about a pending curfew.
According to the regulator, the post made mention of a pending order by the Defense Ministry that a curfew was to be imposed in Moscow. That information is false, Roskomnadzor said in a statement on March 27.
Twitter had no immediate comment on the statement by Roskomnadzor.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office, meanwhile, said officials had made similar requests about allegedly false information circulating on other social media outlets, including Facebook and VK.
Facebook “removed the incorrect, socially significant information concerning the number of coronavirus cases,” Roskomnadzor said.
Iran reported 144 new coronavirus deaths as authorities continued to struggle to contain the outbreak, with the number of confirmed cases jumping by nearly 2,400.
The new tally, announced on March 27 by Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, pushed Iran’s total confirmed cases to at least 32,332.
Iran is one of the worst-hit countries in the world, along with China, Italy, Spain, and now the United States.
Earlier this week, authorities enacted a new travel ban after fears that many Iranians had ignored previous advice to stay at home and cancel travel plans for the Persian New Year holidays that began on March 20.
On March 25, government spokesman Ali Rabiei warned about the danger of ignoring the travel guidelines.
“This could cause a second wave of the coronavirus,” Rabiei said.
State TV, meanwhile, reported that the military has set up a 2,000-bed hospital in an exhibition center in the capital, Tehran, to shore up the local health-care system.
President Hassan Rohani has pledged that authorities will contain the spread of the coronavirus within two weeks. However, the continued rise in numbers, along with fears that the country’s health-care system is incapable of dealing with the surge of infections, have raised doubts about meeting that goal.
Earlier this week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refused U.S. aid and seized on a conspiracy theory that the United States had created the virus, something for which there is no scientific evidence.
Om March 27, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the United States to release Iranians held in U.S. jails on sanctions-related issues due to fears about the coronavirus epidemic.
The minister referred to a report by the Guardian newspaper about an Iranian science professor who it said remained jailed by U.S. immigration authorities after being acquitted in November 2019 on charges of stealing trade secrets related to his academic work.
The professor, Sirous Asgari, complained that conditions in detention were “filthy and overcrowded” and that officials were “doing little” to prevent the coronavirus outbreak, according to The Guardian.
Rights activists have accused Iranian authorities of arresting them to try to win concessions from other countries — a charge dismissed by Tehran.
Three people in Serbia have been sentenced to jail for violating a self-isolation order aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
The two- to three-year sentences were handed down during a video court session, a first in the Balkan country. The session was conducted remotely to protect employees and defendants from potential exposure to the coronavirus.
One of the defendants was sentenced to three years in prison — the maximum — in the eastern town Dimitrovgrad, a Serbian justice source confirmed to RFE/RL. The others were sentenced at a court in the city of Pozarevac to two and 2 1/2 years.
Dragana Jevremovic-Todorovic, a judge and spokeswoman for the court in Pozarevac, told RFE/RL that the two people convicted there had been charged with a criminal offense of noncompliance with health regulations.
“They violated the measure of self-isolation when they came from abroad. One arrived in Serbia on March 14, the other on March 17, both from the Hungarian border crossing,” she said.
“They were informed that they had been given a measure of self-isolation and a restraining order, which they did not respect. The measure was to last 14 days, and they violated it before the deadline,” Jevremovic-Todorovic said.
“By violating self-isolation, they have created a danger to human health, as this can spread the infectious disease,” Jevremovic-Todorovic said.
The Ministry of Justice on March 26 sent a memo to courts that conduct proceedings against people who violate self-isolation measures, allowing them to hold trials remotely using Internet-enabled computers, cameras, and microphones.
The judiciary noted that the first-time video judgments were not final, but the defendants remain in custody while they await trial.
According to the Justice Ministry’s Criminal Sanctions Directorate, 111 people are in custody at detention facilities in three Serbian cities – Pirot, Vrsac, and Pozarevac — on suspicion of violating the emergency public-health order.
Serbia has recorded 528 coronavirus cases and eight deaths. Restrictive measures introduced by Belgrade include a ban on people over age 65 leaving their homes and a 12-hour overnight curfew enforced by police.
Meanwhile, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic pledged on March 27 to donate 1 million euros (id=”listicle-2645588735″.1 million) to buy ventilators and other medical equipment for health workers in Serbia.
“Unfortunately, more and more people are getting infected every day,” Djokovic told Serbian media.
The world men’s No. 1 player, who was in top form before the pandemic interrupted the current season, thanked medical staff around the world for their efforts.
Georgia’s government has canceled a id=”listicle-2645588735″.2 million contract to buy thousands of rapid-result coronavirus tests from a Chinese company.
The cancellation is the latest controversy for Bioeasy, whose test kits have been deemed faulty in Spain and returned.
Georgia’s order for 215,000 rapid-result tests also will be returned to Bioeasy, based in the Shenzhen region, near Hong Kong.
Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze told reporters on March 27 that Bioeasy had agreed to take them back.
Rapid-result tests, which can be used for diseases like influenza as well as coronavirus, are known for providing quick results, though with less accuracy.
In Spain, which is one of the countries worst-hit by the coronavirus, health officials found the tests were far less accurate than needed, and ordered the tests returned.
Tikaradze said Georgians should not be afraid of being misdiagnosed.
She said new diagnostic tests were being examined at Tbilisi’s Lugar Center for Public Health Research, a medical research facility funded mostly by the U.S. government.
“I want to reassure our population,” she said. “Any new tests coming into the territory of Georgia are being tested at the Lugar Center and hence we are testing the reliability of the tests and then using them for widespread use.”
Georgia has 81 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and no deaths, as of March 27.
Azerbaijan has tightened its quarantine rules from March 29 in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The movement of vehicles between regions and cities across the country will be banned, with some exceptions, including ambulances, social services, and agricultural vehicles, the government said on March 27.
Baku’s subway system will operate only five hours a day.
Restaurants, cafes, tea houses, and shops — except supermarkets, grocery stores, and pharmacies — will remain closed.
Access to parks, boulevards, and other recreation areas will be restricted.
The South Caucasus country has reported 165 coronavirus cases, with three deaths. Officials say 15 patients have recovered.
In addition, more than 3,000 people remain in quarantine.
On March 26, Azerbaijani authorities extended holidays related to Persian New Year celebrations until April 4, from a previous end date of March 29.
Hungary’s prime minister has ordered new restrictions to try and curtail the spread of the coronavirus, calling for Hungarians to remain at home for two weeks.
In a March 27 announcement on state radio, Viktor Orban said people would only be allowed to travel to work and make essential trips to buy food or medicine or take children to daycare until April 11.
He also proposed special shopping hours at food stores for people 65 and over, and called on people to observe “social distancing” — staying about 2 meters away from other people to prevent the spread of infection.
Hungary currently has 300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, though Orban has said the actual number of cases is likely much higher.
Ten infected people have died.
Orban has increasingly tightened his grip on power during his decade in office. Opposition leaders and critics have accused him of moving the country towards an autocracy.
Kazakhstan’s government has widened restrictions in the country’s two largest cities, ordering most companies to suspend operations next week as part of efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
The restrictions, announced March 27, came as the number of confirmed cases announced by the government reached 120. Most of the cases are in the capital, Nur-Sultan, and Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.
A day earlier, as the country reported its first death from COVID-19, the government barred residents of Nur-Sultan and Almaty from leaving their homes except for work or to buy food or medicines, starting from March 28.
The closure of most businesses in the two cities also takes effect March 28.
Authorities have also closed all intercity transport terminals and public spaces in Shymkent, Kazakhstan’s third-largest city, in order to curb the spread of coronavirus, the government said.
In neighboring Uzbekistan, officials announced the country’s first death from coronavirus: a 72-year-old man in the city of Namangan who had suffered from other ailments.
As of early March 27, Uzbekistan — Central Asia’s most populous nation — has confirmed 75 cases of infection.
Earlier, municipal authorities announced restrictions in Samarkand and the Ferghana valley cities Namangan and Andijon on March 26.
All vehicle traffic in and out of the cities has been restricted, with the exception of cargo transport, or security and government officials.
Tashkent has been closed to the entry and exit of all passenger transport since March 24.
Another Central Asian country, Kyrgyzstan, announced 14 new cases on March 27, bringing the country’s total to 58.
Earlier this week, authorities declared a state of emergency in the capital, Bishkek, and several other cities and regions.
Two other Central Asian countries, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, have not reported any confirmed infections yet.
Saying that World War I was really bad for Russia is like saying Hitler was a somewhat unstable veteran of the Great War. While the Tsar fielded the largest army in the world at the time and should have been able to trounce the Germans, years (maybe decades) of neglecting modernization hampered the Russians. Roads were impossible and railways were inadequate. Casualties were heavy and the conditions were deplorable. Even drafting men for the war was difficult. Life in the Russian Empire was so bad, the Tsar would be toppled and replaced by the Soviet Union.
Before the Tsar was forced to abdicate, the Russian Empire tried a last-ditch effort to fill its ranks: hiring women.
Congrats, you’re hired.
When the Great War first began, Russians were only too happy to serve in their country’s military. It was (on paper, at least) one of the most vaunted fighting forces on Earth at the time. But Tsarist Russia’s poor infrastructure, the indecision of the Russian high command, and the lack of adequate food, supplies, and other war resources soon made life miserable. When word got out about the deteriorating conditions on the front, good men suddenly became hard to find. Women, on the other hand, had been trying to join the regular army since day one. These women soon demanded the government form all-women’s military units.
The Tsarist government, facing an increasing manpower shortage, finally gave in. It formed 15 all-women’s battalions in an effort to replace its missing manpower with womanpower. They included communications battalions, a naval unit, and the aptly-named Women’s Battalion of Death. Of the 5,000 women who served in these units, 300 of them would join the Battalion of Death and march to the front in 1914.
Maria Bochkareva was awarded multiple medals after stabbing Germans to death in the trenches.
Led by the peasant fighter-turned military leader Maria Bochkareva, the women were highly-trained and tightly-controlled by Bochkareva. While her harsh (sometimes brutal) leadership kept a majority of potential volunteers from joining, the 300 or so who did stay became some of the most hardcore Russian troops of the First World War. They first saw action in the Kerensky Offensive of 1917. It was a terrible loss for the Russians, who lost 60,000 troops in the fighting. But it was a stunning victory for the Women’s Battalion of Death.
When ordered to go over the top and storm the enemy trenches, the women never hesitated, even when the men at their side did. In one instance, the Russian women made it through three trench systems before the lack of reinforcements necessitated their retreat. Bochkareva, though wounded twice, earned three medals for bravery in combat. With the effectiveness of the women in combat proven on the front, other women were deployed back home.
Back in St. Petersburg, things weren’t going so well for the Tsar and his government. Another women’s battalion had to be deployed to the Winter Palace to defend government ministries and the people who were running them. This is where history could have been made or turned back. When the Bolshevik fighters attempted to take the city, the women weren’t at the Winter Palace, they abandoned the government ministers to their fate and went to guard the supplies. Eventually, they were overcome by the Bolsheviks and forced to surrender. When the Bolsheviks officially took power, these women’s units were disbanded, with varying success.
Women who wanted to fight the Bolsheviks stayed in their units, joining the White Russian forces in the Russian Civil War. Others went home and became Soviet citizens. Many would live long enough to see women conscripted once more when Russia was again threatened from the outside, taking up arms against the Nazis and forming an essential element to the resistance of the Soviet Union – many of whom would go on to earn the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
We knew this was coming. We’ve had our speculations. We’ve had our fun. And now it’s real. Eighty-eight Air Force Academy cadets commissioned directly into the Space Force with the class of 2020 and the Space Force is happening.
Recruiters! You know what to do!!
United States Space Force (@SpaceForceDoD) | Twitter
“Some people look to the stars and ask ‘what if?’ Our job is to have an answer.”
The recruiting video opens with a young man looking up at the infinity of space and continues into sweeping images of rocket launches and futuristic data lighting up screens.
“We have to imagine what would be imagined, plan for what’s possible while it’s still impossible.”
Showing off that new Space Force camouflage, the video continues to depict imagery that one might expect in a blockbuster film about air and space: hangar doors opening (see: Top Gun or Captain Marvel) or personnel in a Mission Control Center (see: Apollo 13 or Independence Day).
Sign me up.
“Maybe you weren’t put here just to ask the questions. Maybe you were put here to be the answer.”
The mission of the United States Space Force (USSF…a regrettable acronym?) will be to “organize, train, and equip space forces in order to protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities to the joint force. USSF responsibilities include developing military space professionals, acquiring military space systems, maturing the military doctrine for space power, and organizing space forces to present to our Combatant Commands.”
In the past, while under the mission of the Air Force Space Command, mission sets included everything from Cold War-era missile warning, launch operations, satellite control, space surveillance and command and control for national leadership. More recently, cyberspace operations as well as meteorology, communications, positioning and navigation and timing have been growing.
The recruiting video offers glimpses of Space Force personnel and their potential jobs, from intelligence to mission control to mechanics.
“Maybe your purpose on this planet…isn’t on this planet.”
And of course, the hope for any Space Force dreamer, there is the long-term exploration of space. The video returns to the young man looking up at the stars before launching viewers into Earth’s orbit.
For anyone out there feeling the call, the application period for transferring to the Space Force is now open. Live long and prosper, my friends.
On 1 May, the window opens for @usairforce officers enlisted personnel in existing #space career fields select other AFSCs, to apply for transfer into the @SpaceForceDOD. This is a huge milestone as we #BuildTheSpaceForce! See details below:https://go.usa.gov/xvnbd
A new book by a former SEAL dives into the gritty detail one of the most vicious fights of the 10-year Iraq War and helps fill in the blanks of the story about the legendary sniper who’s heroism propelled his memory into a blockbuster film.
Kevin “Dauber” Lacz is a former Navy SEAL whose career saw time in some of the most violent and contentious battles of Operation Iraqi Freedom, including the 2006 Battle of Ramadi. Lacz’ SEAL Team Three included names that are now familiar (and famous) in American popular culture, including “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, Mike Monsoor, Ryan Job and Mark Lee.
While Lacz was deployed to Ramadi with SEAL Team Three, he kept track of the accomplishments of his unit — not just the Chris Kyles of the war, but the Marines and Soldiers who fought alongside him and the officers who lead them. The book does a lot more than highlight the stories of SEAL door-kickers, but instead describes how the entire U.S. military team battled the enemy in the darkest days of the Iraq insurgency.
“We started doing some cool stuff I wanted to remember,” Lacz says. “There were a ton of heroes from the SEAL teams to the support manual to help us. I felt it was necessary to go into detail because a lot of people don’t hear about the supporting cast. That was the pulse of this narrative.”
Grossman proposes that 2 percent of the male population is able to participate in combat without psychological consequences – that this 2 percent can kill without the psychological trauma usually associated with taking a life. That theory made sense to Lacz, an admitted 2-percenter.
“People talk about Chris [Kyle] and Mike [Monsoor],” says Lacz, “but to talk about a gentleman who came back after being in the reserves, in his late forties, and acting like a 26-year-old lethal badass when the platoon needed him most? It’s stuff like that that makes storytelling unique.”
Chris Kyle asked Lacz to help with his book “American Sniper,” and Lacz was also involved in the film — helping write the screenplay and portraying himself on screen.
One of the things that struck Lacz most was the portrayal of post-traumatic stress in the Clint Eastwood film.
“When I saw the PTSD cues that it had, I felt it was necessary to write about the 2 percent of people that go to war, fight in combat and come back normal,” Lacz remarks. “I wanted to try and get away from the perception that everybody who goes to war and sees combat has PTSD.”
That’s one of the driving themes of “The Last Punisher.” Lacz gives detailed accounts of sniper overwatch missions all over Ramadi. He doesn’t skip the grimy, bloody details, either. He tells the story of how one SEAL teammate had to move a dead enemy, tactically, toward a hospital while wearing his full kit. Lacz describes in detail how pulling the trigger on his Mk 11 – how the shots crumple the enemy’s body after creating the telltale “pink mist” of a good kill.
None of the violence is gratuitous. The consequences of an illegal kill are grave. Lacz talks about the confirmation necessary for a sniper to take a shot, the rules of engagement to kill an insurgent.
“As a professional warrior – a steward of the American flag – you operate under a strict set of guidelines. My rules of engagement were clear. Hostile action or hostile intent were the behaviors for which I could kill an insurgent. The presentation of the artillery round left no doubt. I felt the switch as my breathing deepened and my heart slowed even more. I felt every muscle in my body relax as I tightened the slack in the match-grade trigger of my Mk 11. The muj [mujahideen, or enemy combatant] stood, looking up in my direction and, from behind a pair of binoculars, Chris [Kyle] said, ‘Dump him.'”
“I wanted to give a visceral feeling of war,” Lacz says. “I wanted them to get an intense feeling of what camaraderie is. It’s a simple story, but it’s a powerful story and it shows why the teams were important to me. I want to tell stories like that.”
His stories are powerful and Lacz does not paint himself to be a superhuman operator. He writes about his first run as a new guy SEAL, clearing an entire house in Iraq without a magazine in his weapon.
He gives the same treatment to his teammates. Ralphie misses a shot. The Legend can’t pick a lock. Dauber (Lacz) leaves for a mission without hydrating.
This is war. This is special operations. This is reality.
And while it would be difficult to put ourselves in the mindset of a recruit going through BUD/S (the SEALs’ basic underwater demolition course) we can all relate to being the FNG — no matter the unit.
“I think people are enthralled with Navy SEALs, from their training down to their operations,” says Lacz. “You don’t know what qualities guarantee you’ll make it through training. I wanted to pull all that together and say the best I can, ‘These are the type of people I worked with and these are the qualities, this is why they made it.’ ”
“People want to hear that,” he adds. “We always look towards SEALs in one way or another, and I think giving them a better background and writing it more like a non-fiction novel helped do that.”
Don’t be put off by the human side of Naval Special Warfare portrayed in Lacz’ book. He includes many of the anecdotes loved by veterans and military history buffs. He describes his own anger and desire for revenge against the enemy every time he loses anyone in uniform — whether SEALs or Marines. He (and other SEALs) feel a deep, intense rage seeing Americans in uniform make the ultimate sacrifice.
The muj opened up on the patrol with what sounded like an insane amount of fire. I heard AKs, PKCs, and RPGs going off like Armageddon a few blocks to the southeast.
“Jesus Christ,” Tony said. “Anybody got a line of sight on that contact?” Nobody did. We couldn’t engage.
“Well, sh*t,” Chris said. “What do we do now?”
“I’ve got a flag in my body armor,” I said.
“Well, sh*t yes, let’s run it up. Draw some attention away from that patrol.” Chris got off his gun and crawled over to my position. I took the flag out of my body armor while Chris found a big aluminum pole. He grabbed the flag and tied it to the pole.
“Let’s f*cking hoist it,” he said.
Marc pulled out his little video camera and started filming the historic event while Jeremy joined Chris and me as we hoisted the flag up, flying it high on the rooftop in the middle of Muj country. We all crouched there, beaming at what had to be one of the most America-f*ck-yeah moves in the entire war.
Lacz wrote “The Last Punisher” with the help of his wife Lindsay and journalist and Marine Corps veteran Ethan Rocke. Lacz acknowledges the 10-year gap between the book and his deployments, saying he delayed writing the book to make sure it was as accurate as possible. If he couldn’t remember the details, he didn’t include it in the book.
“Each chapter has a specific theme,” Lacz says. “I think it’s more of a literary work than just a memoir of some guy putting a tape recorder down and just spewing everything he can remember about deployment. That’s what I want people to take away.”
Lacz believes doing this project with his wife was integral to the quality of the work. He believes all warriors should write about their experiences, from SEALs to Rangers to Marines.
“I wanted all veterans to write their stories, especially for their spouses,” he says. “It answers questions for them. The spouse will never know 100% of what they did or what they’ve gone through, but I think it’s important for more people to tell their stories. Lindsay didn’t pry, she just needed to find the details out. She has a better pulse about who I am.”
In the sun-blasted, 100-degree heat here, a military working dog is being held on a short leash. Rex, a German shepherd, is a muscular 85 pounds and covered in thick, brown fur.
His partner and handler, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Fuentes, a master-at-arms, barks out commands, but Rex’s wagging tail signals that his mind is elsewhere.
An observer suggests that the humans take off their hats for comfort.
(Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Rullo)
“I wouldn’t do that,” Fuentes said.
Why? Does Rex become aggressive with the removal of hats? Is it a signal to attack?
No. Rex loves to steal hats to play with, Fuentes said. Rex likes to play with a lot of things. He looks for fun wherever he is —and of course does not know he has been diagnosed with cancer.
Rex, officially known as military working dog T-401, was diagnosed while being treated for an ear infection.
“I noticed dry spots on his ears,” Fuentes said. “I waited a little bit to mention it to the vet since I thought it was a reaction to the medicine.”
Fuentes said that ear infections are common in military working dogs that are deployed to desert areas because of the large amount of sand that gets into their ears, which, in Rex’s case, are prominent.
Rex was first examined in March by the Camp Lemonnier veterinarian, Army Capt. Richard Blair. During a follow-up examination, Blair noticed other skin lesions that raised additional concerns.
“We had to dig deeper to determine what was really going on,” Blair said. Possible reason for the lesions included a reaction to the medication, a skin infection, or even allergies.
While the facilities at Camp Lemonnier are appropriate for the everyday care of working dogs, the base does have some limitations due to its remote location, Blair said. So, he worked with other vets in the area of operation to determine what caused the lesions.
“After some logistics challenges, we were able to get our samples submitted to a pathology lab in Germany,” Blair said. “After a few weeks, we got the results back.”
Fuentes said that he was working with Rex at the dog kennel on base when his kennel master got the call from Blair.
“Cancer was the last thing I would have thought of,” Fuentes said. “My heart sank when I heard the news.”
Military working dogs form strong bonds with their handlers.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Griffin)
Getting Care, Beach Time
Rex has been a military working dog his entire life. He’s been deployed several times, including two tours here.
His behavior has not changed since the diagnosis, Fuentes said. He’s still a sweet dog who just wants to play tug of war.
Fuentes reached down and scratched Rex between his ears.
The bonds between service members can be strong. Serving in a combat zone, working long hours, getting through stressful situations and living together in small spaces has a way of making the bonds stronger.
Rex and Fuentes live together in a 7-by-20 container. Fuentes joked that Rex likes to take up all of it.
“He’s obnoxious,” Fuentes said. “He’s all up in your business, taking all of your space.”
The data on dogs with cancer is not as complete as it is on humans with cancer, Blair said. As a result, Rex’s prognosis isn’t certain, but getting him sent back to the U.S. is vital to his treatment.
At home, “he can get to more definitive care,” Blair said.
Rex will be redeployed in early August. His retirement paperwork has also been started.
After retirement, Rex “won’t have to work and can enjoy the rest of his life — just chilling,” Fuentes said.
Fuentes is scheduled to redeploy with Rex and said he hopes to adopt him — but he isn’t the only person trying. A former handler is also interested.
“It’s a race to the end to see who gets him,” Fuentes said.
Fuentes will be returning to Naval Air Station Lemoore, California. Rex has never been to the beach, he said, and he’d like to take him there.
Navy Capt. Charles J. DeGilio, Camp Lemonnier’s commander, presented Rex with a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal at a ceremony here July 27.
DeGilio said that military working dogs, including Rex, fill an important role.
“Rex has served honorably to help keep the men and women of Camp Lemonnier safe,” DeGilio said. “I want to personally thank him for his service and wish him fair winds and following seas.”
Serving in the military requires us to be in top physical shape so we spend long hours carrying heavy equipment and kicking down the bad guy’s door. Being physically fit ensures that we can take the fight to the enemy and outlast them in any combat situation. It’s one of our strongest battlefield advantages.
Unfortunately, when we transition out the service, many of us trade out those brutal workouts in favor of spending more time relaxing on the couch. Those six-pack abs we used to sport at the beach have now gone AWOL. In fact,
“Veterans have a 70-percent higher chance of developing obesity than the general public,” Army veteran and fitness expert Jennifer Campbell says.
One reason for this statistic is the dramatic change in a veteran’s daily routine once they’re out of service. Where once a troop was expected to gear up and get out there for PT every morning, there’s no such demand on a veteran. This huge shift away from daily activity makes an equally huge impact on a veteran’s body. And, after reaching a certain point of inactivity, a lot of veterans just give up on their physique. Unfortunately, we’re not taught how to properly step back into the routine and achieve that lean look you had while serving.
Let’s fix that. Here are a few simple few steps that will ease you back into maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Ease back in it
We’ve seen it time-and-time again: Amateur gymgoers start hitting the weights hard right out of the gate and, by the next day, they’re so freaking sore they stop altogether. Mentally, we want to hit the ground running and make a big impact, but slow and steady wins this race.
Start out with something relatively low-impact and gradually work your way up. It’s just that simple.
We’re not superhuman, even if we tell ourselves otherwise. Setting achievable goals, like losing a few pounds over a couple of weeks, is a surefire way to boost your morale. Continually update your goals based on the ones you’ve already smashed.
Track your calories today and cut a few hundred of them tomorrow
We love to eat good food. Let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy chowing down on a delicious piece of cake or a juicy cheeseburger? Unfortunately, those foods are super high in calories. So, we challenge you to record all the calories you’ve eaten today, and, by this time tomorrow, cut the number down by a few hundred.
At the end of the day, losing weight and getting in shape is about achieving a calorie deficit. You must expend more calories than you take in.
Senior Master Sgt. Lawrence Greebon, Airey Non-Commissioned Officer Academy Director of Education, performs a crunch in the correct form according to the new Physical Training standards while participating in a new-standards PT test
(Photo by Airman 1st Class Veronica McMahon)
Conduct a PFT
While serving, your fitness was tested by measuring how fast you ran and how many sit-ups and push-ups you could perform in two-minutes (pull-ups if you were in the Marine Corps). Now that you’re out, consider re-testing yourself to better understand where your strength and endurance is at now.
You might not score as high as you once did, but it’ll give you a solid goal to work toward.
Once you’re back on track, things get easier.
The hardest part of any fitness program is getting started. As we stated earlier, many people start out strong and quit after a few workout sessions. No one said working out was easy — because it’s not — but there is a light at the end of the long dark tunnel.
After you get into the groove of hitting the weights and slimming down, you’ll start to notice results. Then, hopefully, what you see in the mirror will inspire you to move forward and continue achieving your fitness goals.
The actor Tom Cruise on May 31, 2018, tweeted a teaser for the long-awaited sequel to the movie “Top Gun” — and in doing so, he wandered into one of the most heated debates in modern combat aviation and delivered a savage burn to the F-35.
The original “Top Gun” film was nothing short of a revelation for the US Navy. People around the US and the world saw fighter jets in a whole new light, and naval aviation recruitment shot up by 500%.
A new “Top Gun” movie, now 32 years after the first, could again spike interest in combat aviation at a time when the US military struggles to retain and attract top talent. But for the most expensive weapons system in history, it already looks like a bust.
Here’s the poster for the new “Top Gun.”
Notice anything? The F-35C, the US Navy’s long overdue, massively expensive new carrier aircraft, is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the F-18 Super Hornet, the F-35’s main competitor, can be seen.
The F-35 community was not thrilled.
“Everybody that’s flown a fighter in the last 25 years, we all watched ‘Top Gun,'” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, who flew F-35s and actually attended the US Navy’s Top Gun school, previously told Business Insider.
“Damn shame,” Berke said in response to the new movie’s choice of fighter. “I guess it will be a movie about the past!”
While experts agree that the F-35’s carrier-based variant, the F-35C, and its vertical-takeoff sister, the F-35B, represent the future of naval aviation, they’re just not ready for the big time yet.
In short, it’s an embarrassment to the F-35 program that mounting setbacks have pushed it out of a potentially massive public-relations boost.
“It’s a capable aircraft,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the dean of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies, told Business Insider of the Super Hornet. “It’s just last century’s design.”
He added: “It is a missed opportunity.”
Berke pointed out that the producers of the new “Top Gun” may have gone with the Super Hornet over the F-35 because the Super Hornet has two seats, which could facilitate filming and possibly on-screen dynamics.
The popular aviation blog The Aviationist also pointed out that Cruise is holding an outdated helmet and that the photo does not appear to take place at the US Navy’s Top Gun school. But Hollywood sometimes makes mistakes.
“Hollywood doesn’t build movies around what makes sense — they build movies around what makes money,” Deptula said.
But despite what might have come as a slight sting to F-35 boosters hoping a new film could help usher in what they call a revolution in combat aviation, both Berke and Deptula said they were looking forward to the film.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Real grenades are puffs of smoke with a bit of high-moving metal. Why not give troops mobile fireballs that instill fear and awe in the hearts of all that see them? Why not arm our troops with something akin to Super Mario’s fire flower?
First, we should take a look at what, exactly is going on with a real grenade versus a movie grenade.
The grenades you’re probably thinking of when you hear the term “grenade” are likely fragmentation grenades, consisting of strong explosives wrapped up in a metal casing. When the explosives go off, either the case or a special wrapping is torn into lots of small bits of metal or ceramic. Those bits fly outwards at high speed, and the people they hit die.
The U.S. military uses the M67 Fragmentation Hand Grenade. 6.5 ounces of high explosive destroys a 2.5-inch diameter steel casing and sends the bits of steel out up to 230 meters. Deaths are commonly caused up to 5 meters away from the grenade.
U.S. Army soldiers throw live grenades during training in Alaska.
That’s because grenades are made to maximize the efficiency of their components. See, explosive power is determined by a number of factors. Time, pressure, and temperature all play a role. Maximum boom comes from maximizing the temperature and pressure increase in as little time as possible.
That’s actually a big part of why M67s have a steel casing. The user pulls the pin and throws the grenade, starting the chemical timer. When the explosion initiates, it’s contained for a fraction of a second inside that steel casing. The strength of the steel allows more of the explosive to burn — and for the temperature and pressure to rise further — before it bursts through the steel.
As the pressure breaks out, it picks up all the little bits of steel from the casing that was containing it, and it carries those pieces into the flesh and bones of its enemies.
Movie grenades, meanwhile, are either created digitally from scratch, cobbled together digitally from a few different fires and explosions, or created in the physical world with pyrotechnics. If engineers wanted to create movie-like grenades, they would need to do it the third way, obviously, with real materials.
The explosion is easy enough. The 6.5 ounces in a typical M67 would work just fine. Enough for a little boom, not so much that it would kill the thrower.
But to get that movie-like fire, you need a new material. To get fire, you need unburnt explosives or fuel to be carried on the pressure wave, mixing with the air, picking up the heat from the initial explosion, and then burning in flight.
And that’s where the problems lie for weapon designers. If they wanted to give infantrymen the chance to spit fire like a dragon, they would need to wrap something like the M67 in a new fuel that would burn after the initial explosion.
Makers of movie magic use liquid fuels, like gasoline, diesel, or oil, to get their effects (depending on what colors and amount of smoke they want). Alcohols, flammable gels, etc. all work great as well, but it takes quite a bit of fuel to get a relatively small fireball. The M1 flamethrower used half a gallon of fuel per second.
But liquid fuels are unwieldy, and even a quart of gasoline per grenade would add some serious weight to a soldier’s load.
So, yeah, there’s little chance of getting that sweet movie fireball onto a MOLLE vest. But there is another way. Instead of using liquids, you could use solid fuels, especially reactive metals and similar elements, such as aluminum, magnesium, or sodium.
The military went with phosphorous for incendiary weapons. It burns extremely hot and can melt its way through most metals. Still, the AN-M14 TH3 Incendiary Hand Grenade doesn’t exactly create a fireball and doesn’t even have a blast. Along with thermite, thermate, and similar munitions, it burns relatively slowly.
But if you combine the two grenades, the blast power of something like the M67 and the burning metals of something like the AN-M14 TH3, and you can create actual fireballs. That’s how thermobaric weapons work.
U.S. Marines train with the SMAW, a weapon that can fire thermobaric warheads.
(U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Brian J. Slaght)
In thermobaric weapons, an initial blast distributes a cloud of small pieces of highly reactive metal or fuel. Then, a moment later, a secondary charge ignites the cloud. The fire races out from the center, consuming the oxygen from the air and the fuel mixed in with it, creating a huge fireball.
If the weapon was sent into a cave, a building, or some other enclosed space, this turns the secondary fire into a large explosion of its own. In other words, shoot these things into a room on the first floor of a building, and that room itself becomes a bomb, leveling the larger building.
But throwing one of these things would be risky. Remember, creating the big fireball can turn an entire enclosed space into a massive bomb. And if you throw one in the open, you run the risk of the still-burning fuel landing on your skin. If that’s something like phosphorous, magnesium, or aluminum, that metal has to be carved out of your flesh with a knife. It doesn’t stop burning.
So, troops should leave the flashy grenades to the movies. It’s better to get the quick, lethal pop of a fragmentation grenade than to carry the additional weight for a liquid-fueled fireball or a world-ending thermobaric weapon. Movie grenades aren’t impossible, but they aren’t worth the trouble.
When paratroopers assaulted Sicily during the night of Jul. 9-10, 1943, they suffered some of the worst weather that could affect that kind of a mission.
The men were supposed to conduct two airborne assaults and form a buffer zone ahead of the 7th Army’s amphibious assault on the island, but winds of up to 40 knots blew them far off course.
The 3,400 paratrooper assault took heavy losses before a single pair of boots even touched the ground. But what happened next would become airborne legend, the story of the “Little Groups Of Paratroopers” or “LGOPs.”
The LGOPs didn’t find cover or spend hours trying to regroup. They just rucked up wherever they were at and immediately began attacking everything nearby that happened to look like it belonged to the German or Italian militaries.
This mischief had a profound effect on the defenders. The Axis assumed that the paratroopers were attacking in strength at each spot where a paratrooper assault was reported. So, while many LGOPs had only a few men, German estimates reported much stronger formations. The worst reports stated that there were 10 times as many attackers as were actually present.
German commanders were hard-pressed to rally against what seemed to be an overwhelming attack. Some conducted limited counterattacks at what turned out to be ghosts while others remained in defensive positions or, thinking they were overrun, surrendered to American forces a that were a fraction of their size.
The Axis soldiers’ problems were made worse by a lack of supplies and experience. Fierce resistance came from only a handful of units, most notably the Hermann Goering Division which conducted counter-attacks with motorized infantry, armored artillery, and Tiger I heavy tanks.
World War II paratroopers jump into combat. Photo: US Army
The American campaign was not without tragedy though. On Jul. 11, paratroopers from the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment were sent in to reinforce the American center which had struggled to gain much ground. Some naval and shore anti-aircraft batteries, weary from constant German bombing missions, had not been told that American planes would be coming in that night.
Picture the brown-water Navy of the Vietnam War and you probably picture Martin Sheen as Capt. Willard floating upriver on a PBR to “terminate Col. Kurtz’s command…with extreme prejudice.” The Patrol Boat, River was a small rigid-hulled patrol boat used extensively in the Vietnam War to navigate the country’s many waterways. Employed operationally from 1966 until 1971, PBRs were used to conduct patrols, disrupt enemy movement, and most notably, insert and extract Special Forces units like Navy SEALs and the fictional Capt. Willard.
As the war in Vietnam escalated, the U.S. military quickly saw the need for a small and agile watercraft that could move quickly on Vietnam’s many rivers. The Navy approached civilian shipbuilder Hatteras Yachts to convert their 41′ fiberglass recreational family boat by shortening it and fitting it with water pump-jets instead of propellers. The pump-jets would allow the boat to operate in extremely shallow water. Willis Slane and Jack Hargrave of Hatteras took on the challenge and delivered the prototype to the Navy for testing in just 7 days.
A modern version of the Hatteras 41 on which the PBR is based (Hatteras Yachts)
In 1965, the Navy awarded a contract to Uniflite Boats to build the first 120 PBRs. They were powered by two Detroit 6V53N engines producing 180 hp each (later increased to 216 hp), and two 14YJ water pump-jet drives manufactured by Jacuzzi. With this power, the boats could cruise between 25 and 31 knots. The later Mark II PBR was slightly bigger, increasing from 31′ to 32′ in length and 10′ 7″ to 11′ 7″ beam. Mark II PBRs were also fitted with improved drives to reduce fouling and aluminum gunwales to resist wear.
The PBR was extremely maneuverable, being able to turn within its own length. But the PBRs party piece was its stopping ability. Fitted with thrust buckets, the PBR could reverse its Jacuzzi water pump-jets and go from full speed to a dead stop within a couple of its own length. Because of its fiberglass hull, the boat was also extremely light. This meant that it had a draft of just 2′ when fully loaded and could be slingloaded by a helicopter.
A CH-54 Tarhe prepares to hoist a PBR (U.S. Army)
PBRs were typically armed with a twin M2HB .50-caliber machine gun turret forward, a single rear-mounted M2HB, one or two M60 7.62mm light machine guns on the port and starboard side, and a Mk19 40mm automatic grenade launcher. However, PBR captains were known to augment their weapons suites with additional M2HBs and 81mm mortars. Some even swapped out their bow-mounted twin .50-cals for a Mk16 Mod 4 Colt 20mm automatic cannon. In addition to all this, the four-man crew was armed with a full complement of M16 rifles, shotguns, M1911 handguns, and hand grenades.
All this lethality came at the cost of protection. Though the .50-cal machine guns had some ceramic armor shielding and the Coxswain’s flat had quarter-inch thick steel armor plating, the fiberglass-hulled boats had little else in the way of armor. Rather, PBRs relied on their acceleration, maneuverability, and outright speed for their survivability. This made them extremely adept at hit and run attacks and special operations. In the latter, the PBR found great success. Not only did the boat serve as an excellent insertion and extraction platform, its heavy armament meant that it could provide direct fire support for special operations teams if necessary.
A PBR cruises down a river in Vietnam (U.S. Navy)
At the height of production during the Vietnam War, two PBRs were rolling off the assembly line every day. By the war’s end, over 750 had been built. Today, less than three dozen PBRs survive in conditions ranging from stripped hulls to fully operational, of which there are just seven. However, the PBRs legacy is greater than its surviving examples.
The most decorated enlisted sailor in U.S. Navy history, James “Willie” Williams, commanded PBR 105. During a patrol on October 21, 1966, Williams’ and another PBR engaged over 65 enemy boats and numerous well-concealed ground troops in a three-hour running battle. Williams’ actions during the battle earned him the Medal of Honor. His citation notes that he “exposed himself to the withering hail of enemy fire to direct counter-fire and inspire the actions of his patrol” and that he “demonstrated unusual professional skill and indomitable courage throughout the 3 hour battle.”
Williams wields an M60 aboard his PBR (U.S. Navy)
To the unknowing tourist looking at a static display, the PBR might just be a greenish grey military boat. A cinephile might recognize it as the boat from Apocalypse Now. But, to the special forces teams that were pulled out of a hot extraction by one, the PBR was a guardian angel. To the sailors that crewed them, a PBR was home.
In spite of criticisms and concerns that Russia’s fifth-generation is actually fifth-generation “in name only,” the Kremlin is pushing ahead with plans for its sixth-generation jet.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Wednesday that Sukhoi has delivered plans for its new sixth-generation fighter, TASS Newsreports.
“I’m referring also to new design concepts briefly presented by the Sukhoi design bureau and by the general designer appointed for all aircraft systems and armaments,” Rogozin told reporters, accordingto TASS.
“They have really come up with the designs for the creation of the sixth-generation fighter.”
And, as TASS reports, Commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces Viktor Bondarev told reporters on Wednesday that the potential sixth-generation jet will be produced in both manned and unmanned versions. Meaning, essentially, that the new jet will be planned to be able to function in some conditions as a drone aircraft.
However, beyond that hint, the Kremlin delivered few other details about its new potential jet. The plans for the new jet comes as Russia is continuing to test its fifth-generation PAK FA fighter. Although, as the National Interest notes, it is not uncommon for militaries to begin testing and designing the next generation of aircraft decades in advance.
Currently, Russia’s PAK FA is expected to enter into service sometime in the next six years. However, the aircraft has been called fifth-generation “in name only” due to a host of complaints affecting the aircraft’s radar cross signature, its avionics, and its engines.
There are a lot of badasses in military service. Many have proven themselves in combat, but there are some who manage real heroics without facing the enemy. Even in peacetime, some very bad accidents happen.
In January of 2013, the Avenger-class mine countermeasures vessel USS Guardian (MCM 5) hit a reef off the Philippines and was well and truly stuck. The ship was eventually dismantled in place and her commanding officer and other top personnel were relieved. There were no serious injuries among the 80 crewmen of the ship, but it wasn’t blind luck that kept everyone safe — sailors demonstrated some real heroism that day.
Heavy waves crash against the grounded mine countermeasure ship USS Guardian (MCM 5), which ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea on Jan. 17. The grounding and subsequent heavy waves constantly hitting Guardian have caused severe damage, leading the Navy to determine the 23-year old ship is beyond economical repair and is a complete loss. (U.S. Navy photo)
Damage Controlman 1st Class Jeffrey Macatangay was one of those sailors. He, joined by Damage Controlman 2nd Class (SW) Jean Isidore and Mineman 3rd Class (SW) Matthew Pekarcik, went into a bilge where five gallons of water flooded the ship each minute. He had all of 18 inches of clearance and was in a very confined space. Despite this, he managed to shore up an air-conditioning unit, keeping the ship from losing electrical power. That bought time for the crew to get off the vessel.
One other sailor, a search-and-rescue swimmer, Mineman 3rd Class Travis Kirckof, would perform an even more amazing feat. On the day the Guardian ran aground, some of the ship’s life rafts drifted away after the furious seas snapped the lines holding them to the ship. After one sailor helped keep the remaining rafts from drifting off, Kirckof would help 46 sailors reach safety, spending five hours in the water to do so.
His actions were credited with saving at least two lives.
All four sailors received the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for their actions. They may have never faced an enemy in combat, but they proved they were badass sailors when the chips were down.