How World War I ushered in the century of oil - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

On July 7, 1919, a group of U.S. military members dedicated Zero Milestone — the point from which all road distances in the country would be measured — just south of the White House lawn in Washington, D.C. The next morning, they helped to define the future of the nation.

Instead of an exploratory rocket or deep-sea submarine, these explorers set out in 42 trucks, five passenger cars and an assortment of motorcycles, ambulances, tank trucks, mobile field kitchens, mobile repair shops and Signal Corps searchlight trucks. During the first three days of driving, they managed just over five miles per hour. This was most troubling because their goal was to explore the condition of American roads by driving across the U.S.


Participating in this exploratory party was U.S. Army Captain Dwight D. Eisenhower. Although he played a critical role in many portions of 20th-century U.S. history, his passion for roads may have carried the most significant impact on the domestic front. This trek, literally and figuratively, caught the nation and the young soldier at a crossroads.

Returning from World War I, Ike was entertaining the idea of leaving the military and accepting a civilian job. His decision to remain proved pivotal for the nation. By the end of the first half of the century, the roadscape — transformed with an interstate highway system while he was president — helped remake the nation and the lives of its occupants.

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

Eisenhower served in the Tank Corps until 1922.

(Eisenhower Presidential Library, ARC 876971)

For Ike, though, roadways represented not only domestic development but also national security. By the early 1900s it become clear to many administrators that petroleum was a strategic resource to the nation’s present and future.

At the start of World War I, the world had an oil glut since there were few practical uses for it beyond kerosene for lighting. When the war was over, the developed world had little doubt that a nation’s future standing in the world was predicated on access to oil. “The Great War” introduced a 19th-century world to modern ideas and technologies, many of which required inexpensive crude.

Prime movers and national security

During and after World War I, there was a dramatic change in energy production, shifting heavily away from wood and hydropower and toward fossil fuels – coal and, ultimately, petroleum. And in comparison to coal, when utilized in vehicles and ships, petroleum brought flexibility as it could be transported with ease and used in different types of vehicles. That in itself represented a new type of weapon and a basic strategic advantage. Within a few decades of this energy transition, petroleum’s acquisition took on the spirit of an international arms race.

Even more significant, the international corporations that harvested oil throughout the world acquired a level of significance unknown to other industries, earning the encompassing name “Big Oil.” By the 1920s, Big Oil’s product – useless just decades prior – had become the lifeblood of national security to the U.S. and Great Britain. And from the start of this transition, the massive reserves held in the U.S. marked a strategic advantage with the potential to last generations.

As impressive as the U.S.’ domestic oil production was from 1900-1920, however, the real revolution occurred on the international scene, as British, Dutch and French European powers used corporations such as Shell, British Petroleum and others to begin developing oil wherever it occurred.

During this era of colonialism, each nation applied its age-old method of economic development by securing petroleum in less developed portions of the world, including Mexico, the Black Sea area and, ultimately, the Middle East. Redrawing global geography based on resource supply (such as gold, rubber and even human labor or slavery) of course, was not new; doing so specifically for sources of energy was a striking change.

Crude proves itself on the battlefield

“World War I was a war,” writes historian Daniel Yergin, “that was fought between men and machines. And these machines were powered by oil.”

When the war broke out, military strategy was organized around horses and other animals. With one horse on the field for every three men, such primitive modes dominated the fighting in this “transitional conflict.”

Throughout the war, the energy transition took place from horsepower to gas-powered trucks and tanks and, of course, to oil-burning ships and airplanes. Innovations put these new technologies into immediate action on the horrific battlefield of World War I.

It was the British, for instance, who set out to overcome the stalemate of trench warfare by devising an armored vehicle that was powered by the internal combustion engine. Under its code name “tank,” the vehicle was first used in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme. In addition, the British Expeditionary Force that went to France in 1914 was supported by a fleet of 827 motor cars and 15 motorcycles; by war’s end, the British army included 56,000 trucks, 23,000 motorcars and 34,000 motorcycles. These gas-powered vehicles offered superior flexibility on the battlefield.

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

Government airplane manufactured by Dayton-Wright Airplane Company in 1918.

(U.S. National Archives)

In the air and sea, the strategic change was more obvious. By 1915, Britain had built 250 planes. In this era of the Red Baron and others, primitive airplanes often required that the pilot pack his own sidearm and use it for firing at his opponent. More often, though, the flying devices could be used for delivering explosives in episodes of tactical bombing. German pilots applied this new strategy to severe bombing of England with zeppelins and later with aircraft. Over the course of the war, the use of aircraft expanded remarkably: Britain, 55,000 planes; France, 68,0000 planes; Italy, 20,000; U.S., 15,000; and Germany, 48,000.

With these new uses, wartime petroleum supplies became a critical strategic military issue. Royal Dutch/Shell provided the war effort with much of its supply of crude. In addition, Britain expanded even more deeply in the Middle East. In particular, Britain had quickly come to depend on the Abadan refinery site in Persia, and when Turkey came into the war in 1915 as a partner with Germany, British soldiers defended it from Turkish invasion.

When the Allies expanded to include the U.S. in 1917, petroleum was a weapon on everyone’s mind. The Inter-Allied Petroleum Conference was created to pool, coordinate and control all oil supplies and tanker travel. The U.S. entry into the war made this organization necessary because it had been supplying such a large portion of the Allied effort thus far. Indeed, as the producer of nearly 70 percent of the world’s oil supply, the U.S.’ greatest weapon in the fighting of World War I may have been crude. President Woodrow Wilson appointed the nation’s first energy czar, whose responsibility was to work in close quarters with leaders of the American companies.

Infrastructure as a path to national power

When the young Eisenhower set out on his trek after the war, he deemed the party’s progress over the first two days “not too good” and as slow “as even the slowest troop train.” The roads they traveled across the U.S., Ike described as “average to nonexistent.” He continued:

“In some places, the heavy trucks broke through the surface of the road and we had to tow them out one by one, with the caterpillar tractor. Some days when we had counted on sixty or seventy or a hundred miles, we could do three or four.”

Eisenhower’s party completed its frontier trek and arrived in San Francisco, California on Sept. 6, 1919. Of course, the clearest implication that grew from Eisenhower’s trek was the need for roads. Unstated, however, was the symbolic suggestion that matters of transportation and of petroleum now demanded the involvement of the U.S. military, as it did in many industrialized nations.

The emphasis on roads and, later, particularly on Ike’s interstate system was transformative for the U.S.; however, Eisenhower was overlooking the fundamental shift in which he participated. The imperative was clear: Whether through road-building initiatives or through international diplomacy, the use of petroleum by his nation and others was now a reliance that carried with it implications for national stability and security.

Seen through this lens of history, petroleum’s road to essentialness in human life begins neither in its ability to propel the Model T nor to give form to the burping plastic Tupperware bowl. The imperative to maintain petroleum supplies begins with its necessity for each nation’s defense. Although petroleum use eventually made consumers’ lives simpler in numerous ways, its use by the military fell into a different category entirely. If the supply was insufficient, the nation’s most basic protections would be compromised.

After World War I in 1919, Eisenhower and his team thought they were determining only the need for roadways — “The old convoy,” he explained, “had started me thinking about good, two lane highways.”

At the same time, though, they were declaring a political commitment by the U.S. And thanks to its immense domestic reserves, the U.S. was late coming to this realization. Yet after the “war to end all wars,” it was a commitment already being acted upon by other nations, notably Germany and Britain, each of whom lacked essential supplies of crude.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Commanders are excited about US Space Force

President Donald Trump on Dec. 20, 2019, signed into law the US Space Force, the sixth military branch and first devoted to organizing, training, and equipping personnel to use and defend military space assets.

Trump signed a directive organizing the Space Force as part of the Air Force in February. With the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act that Trump signed Dec. 20, 2019, US Air Force Space Command becomes Space Force but remains within the Air Force, much like the Marine Corps is a part of the Navy Department.


“Going to be a lot of things happening in space, because space is the world’s newest warfighting domain,” Trump said Dec. 20, 2019. “Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital … The Space Force will help us deter aggression and control the ultimate high ground.”

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

President Donald Trump speaks during an event at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Dec. 20, 2019. Trump visited Andrews to thank service members before signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020 which support the Air Force’s advanced capabilities to gain and maintain air superiority and the airmen that are essential to our nation’s success.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark)

Space Force is separate from NASA, the civilian space agency. Other agencies that work on space-related issues, like the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, will continue operating as before.

But most of the Pentagon’s space programs will eventually be housed under the Space Force. Staffing and training details for the new branch will be sorted out over the next 18 months, Air Force officials said Dec. 20, 2019.

Space Force is not designed or intended to put combat troops into space; it will provide forces and assets to Space Command, which was set up in August and will lead military space operations.

The exact division of responsibilities and assets has not been fully worked out, but when the creation of Space Command was announced in December 2018, then-Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan compared the relationship to that of the other five military branches with the four functional combatant commands, such as Transportation Command, which manages transportation for the military, or Strategic Command, which oversees US nuclear arms.

There are “still a lot of things that we don’t know,” Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond, head of Air Force Space Command and US Space Command, told reporters Dec. 20, 2019. Raymond can lead Space Force as chief of space operations for a year without going through Senate confirmation, which his successor will have to have.

“There’s not a really good playbook on, how do you stand up a separate service?” Raymond said. “We haven’t really done this since 1947,” when the Air Force was created.

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

US Air Force X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 4 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida, May 7, 2017.

(US Air Force)

While much remains to be decided about Space Force and Space Command, conversations about how the latter will support operations on earth have already started, according to Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, head of US European Command, one of the six geographic combatant commands.

“I talk to Gen. Raymond on a very regular basis. I would say probably once a week,” Wolters said at a Defense Writers Group breakfast on December 10, when about potential partnerships between Space Command, European Command, and European allies.

“From a US EUCOM perspective, we have space componency that Gen. Raymond extends to us to allow us to better defend and better deter, and with each passing day we’re going to find ways to align the assets that exist in space to better deter and to better defend.”

Wolters spoke after NATO officially recognized space as an operational domain, alongside air, land, sea, and cyber, on November 20.

That recognition allows NATO to make requests of members, “such as hours of satellite communications,” Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the time. NATO members own half of the 2,000 satellites estimated to be in orbit.

Wolters called that recognition “a huge step in the right direction.”

“In our security campaign, from a US EUCOM perspective and from a NATO perspective, we always have to improve in indications and warnings. We always have to improve in command and control and feedback, and we always have to improve in mission command. And we have to do that in space,” Wolters said.

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

The Air Force launches a Wideband Global SATCOM satellite at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, March 18, 2017.

(US Air Force/United Launch Alliance)

Supporters see a Space Force as a national security necessity in light of other countries’ advancing space capabilities and because of potential threats in space, such as interference with systems like GPS.

Critics say it’s not clear what capabilities a Space Force brings that Air Force Space Command doesn’t already provide and that its creation will spur an arms race in space.

In recognizing space as a domain, NATO ministers agreed that space was “essential” to the alliance’s ability to deter and defend against threats, providing a venue for things like tracking forces, navigation and communications, and detecting missile launches.

Stoltenberg declined to say how NATO’s space-based capabilities could work with US Space Command, telling press on November 19 that he would “not go into the specifics of how we are going to communicate with national space commands and national space capabilities.”

“What NATO will do will be defensive,” he said, “and we will not deploy weapons in space.”

Wolters didn’t mention space-based weapons in his remarks this month but did tout capabilities offered by operations in space.

“Obviously there are things that take place in space at speeds and with a degree of precision that are very, very attractive for deterrence, and space-to-surface [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] is one of those key areas,” Wolters said, adding that he and Raymond have discussed and will continue to discuss those “big issues.”

“It all has to do with seeing the potential battle space, seeing the environment, and being able to have quick feedback on what is taking place in that environment,” Wolters said. “If you can obviously utilize the resources that exist in space, you can probably do so at a speed that makes commanders happy because they have information superiority.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Chesty Puller may have been America’s first Wolverine

Marine Corps legend Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller is known today for his heroics and his chest full of medals, but some Marines claimed in 1984 that the nickname was a reference to Puller’s metal ribcage, a prosthetic that was placed there after his chest was shot and chopped up by Haitian rebels.


You heard that right: The claim was that Chesty had a metal skeleton like the Marvel hero Wolverine.

 

How World War I ushered in the century of oil
The resemblance is uncanny. (Photo: US Marine Corps)

His nickname, “Chesty,” actually came from his impressive physique and stance, according to a Marine Corps article originally published in 1948 when Puller was a major and the acting commander of a battalion.

The writer of the article, Marine Sgt. Nolle T. Roberts, goes on to describe some stories that Puller’s men had added to his nickname after the fact, including the story of the Wolverine ribcage:

The nickname, “Chesty,” was a natural in view of the colonel’s ramrod stance and belligerent appearance and nature. However, the men of the wartime First Division boasted that Col. Puller had a false “steel chest,” apparently replacing the natural bone structure which had been hacked away by machette-swinging bandits in the Banana Wars. A few claimed that he developed the chest from shouting commands above the noise of battle.

Puller’s chest was likely made with steel because the Army was hoarding all the Adamantium to eventually create Wolverine.

For his part, Puller didn’t quite seem to understand the nickname or the stories surrounding it. In a 1954 letter to Maj. Frank C. Sheppard, Puller wrote:

I agree with you 100% I had done a little soldiering previous to Guadalcanal and had been called a lot of names, but why ‘Chesty?’ Especially the steel part?

The “little soldiering” that Puller is referring to included combat deployments to both Haiti and Nicaragua. Puller supported government forces in Nicaragua and earned his first two Navy Crosses leading units of local fighters against numerically superior rebel forces. So, “a little soldiering” was likely tongue-in-cheek, and it’s easy to see why Puller’s men may have seen him as a man of steel.

While Puller may not have understood the nickname, it’s become a part of Marine Corps culture. Puller is more commonly known by his nickname “Chesty” than by his actual name.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Help reunite these WWII enemies who became best friends after the war

A crowdfunding campaign has launched to reunite two World War II veterans who fought against each other during the war and became as close as brothers after the war. The mission is to bring the two World War II veterans together again for a mini-documentary in Normandy, France.

They fought each other in Tunisia, Africa; however, they reunited decades after, and became friends, even as close as brothers. Sadly, there is not much time left, it may be even the last opportunity to do so. Graham lives in the United Kingdom and Charley in Germany, with their health decreasing and them getting older each day, it may be the last opportunity to have them meet again. But with your help, they may be able to reunite one more time and have their last encounter and story told in a mini-documentary.


This is their story


In late March 1943, Allied and Axis forces prepared for one of the fiercest battles of the World War II African campaign near Mareth, Tunisia. It was here, where after four months on the run, Rommel’s Africa Corps took one of its last stands. Enclosed on one side by rocky, hilly terrain and the Mediterranean on the other, capturing Mareth proved a difficult proposition for the British Eighth Army.

In order to outflank the Axis forces, the British 8th Armored Brigade, along with New Zealand infantry swung southwest and then north through an inland mountain pass to attack the Axis troops from behind.

They ran into the German 21. Panzer Division. Karl Friedrich “Charley” Koenig, only newly arrived in Tunisia as a 19-year-old officer candidate, waited for his first combat as a loader in a Panzer IV of Panzer-Regiment 5.

How World War I ushered in the century of oil
‘Charley’ Koenig

Across the hardscrabble Matmata hills, Sherman tanks of the Sherwood Ranger Yeomanry Tank Regiment readied themselves for the attack. In one sat machine gunner and co-driver Graham Stevenson. Graham had fought at the battle at El Alamein and bailed out of a tank as a 17-year-old. Taking part in the hard fighting all along the way from Alamein through Tunisia, he had just barely reached the tender age of 18.

On March 23rd, Panzer Regiment 5 and the Sherwood Rangers tanks stalked one another and engaged in individual tank battles. Shells whistled loudly by Charley’s tank, his experienced commander advising calm. Their Panzer IV would not be knocked out on this day, but it would not be for long.

The next day, a radio signal warned the Germans of an incoming RAF Hurricane IID tank buster attack. Scrambling out of their Panzer IV, Charley’s crew moved side-to-side as Hurricanes swept in from all directions at nearly zero altitude firing their powerful 40-millimeter cannon.

An accurate Hurricane pilot hit the rear of the tank, shortly before a lone British artillery shell, fired out of the blue, made a direct hit on their front deck. A half-track arrived in the night to tow them to the be repaired. Charley was now out of the way, while Graham and his crew took part in the Tebaga Gap battle on March 26th, the Shermans and the Maori infantry inflicting a severe mauling on the 21. Panzer-Division.

How World War I ushered in the century of oil
Graham Stevenson

Graham survived Africa and returned to England with the Sherwood Rangers to train in Sherman DD swimming tanks for the invasion of Normandy. Due to a slight disagreement with a commanding officer that landed him in the guardhouse, he came in on Gold Beach, Normandy a bit later than his Sherwood Ranger comrades.

In his first day of hedgerow fighting, untested and frightened infantrymen escorting his tank fled under fire, leaving Graham and his tank commander to conduct their own reconnaissance. Just steps outside of his tank, Graham was hit and nearly killed by German machine gun fire. As an artery bled out, his life hung on a thread. Luckily, a nearby aid station saved his life. But his war ended there.

Charley’s career ended in May, 1943, when he was taken prisoner by the Americans and transported to camps in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Belgium, and England before returning home in 1947. Even decades later, he could never forget the war in Africa, and his honorable opponents.

In 1991, he sought out the Sherwood Rangers and found Ken Ewing, head of the southern branch of the Sherwood Rangers Old Comrades’ Association. It wasn’t long before they became like brothers. After Charley attended ceremonies for the regiment in Normandy and Holland, he was invited in as a member of the Association, where he was accepted wholeheartedly by the remaining British World War II veterans, including Graham, who was in the same tank crew with Ken.

How World War I ushered in the century of oil
Graham and Charley in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

How World War I ushered in the century of oil
Graham and Charley in Bayeux

How World War I ushered in the century of oil
On Gold Beach, the German bunker which stood in the way of the Sherwood Rangers’ entry into Normandy still stands sentinel. On that spot this June 6th , the Sherwood Rangers dedicated a plaque to the tankers who fought and died to take this beach.

Now, Graham and Charley are the only members of Sherwood Rangers Old Comrades’ Association left alive who fought in Africa 75 years ago. Their friendship, which has transcended the brutality of war to reveal that mutual respect, healing, and reconciliation can exist between former enemies, sends a powerful message to future generations.

Heather Steele, Founder and CEO of non-profit organization World War II History Project, has launched a $25,000 crowdfunding campaign to make this reunion and filming of a mini-documentary happen. You can help make this possible — I’ve spoken with Heather and she’s incredible passionate to make this happen. There are various perks available for your kind donations from getting personalized postcards from the Veterans to flying in a WWII bomber or riding a tank!

Click here to Donate to the Crowdfunding Campaign!

MIGHTY HISTORY

Here’s your glimpse into Civil War-era clothing

There’s no denying the fact that fashion trends change over time. Think back to what we were wearing 10 years ago … or 20. The clothing choices of our past are laughable. But when we go even further back, to the days of discomfort and disfunction, that statement is brought to an extreme. Wartime clothes and civilian wear alike was completely different in the 1860s. Bonnets and skirs abounded, and war uniforms were hot and rarely functional.

Take a look at just how different the clothing was during these times — and consider how life might have been in wearing these complicated rigs. (And with no air conditioning — we shudder at the thought.) Together, we consider just how far military wear has come and how function meets daily operations. 

Solider uniforms

How World War I ushered in the century of oil
Plate 172 of the “Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies,” containing illustrations of uniforms worn by Union and Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War (US Department of War)

Considering we were fighting ourselves, it’s not hard to believe that solider uniforms — Union and Confederate alike — were quite similar. The main distinction between sides were the colors and footwear. 

Union soldiers wore a navy blue top and a lighter blue on their pants. They also wore black boots that were cuffed with white ankle coverings. Meanwhile, Confederate soldiers wore gray pants, gray tops, and black boots. The cuts and manners in which gear was worn were very similar, most notably, a roll pack on the back and spike bayonet on the rifle. 

Women’s clothing

An example of a Civil War-era field nurse dress (Daisy Viktoria, YouTube)

Meanwhile, women wore big, billowing dresses that flowed out with hooped undergarments. Gloves, bonnets and button-down boots were also daily norms. These fancier outfits were common at the time for women who spent their days socializing. But after the onset of the war, dresses became less elaborate and certain accessories, like gloves, were often done away with altogether. Higher classes still dressed to impress, while those who joined war efforts had to opt for more practical wear.

Working dresses were most often long sleeved and accompanied by aprons. Classes usually wore different types of fabrics, too. With lower class opting for cotton or coarser materials, while upper class chose fabrics with big patterns, stripes, and textures like velvet and silk. 

Due to the high death rate of the war, all classes usually owned black outfits to express their mourning after losing a loved one. 

Men’s wear

Those who were not fighting had their own style of dress during the Civil War. Rich men usually wore suits and hats. Suits had big long coats and hats were tall and wide-brimmed. The thought process at the time was that excess fabric cost more money, so clothes were often big and billowing. Dresses also had excess fabrics on the skirts.

While working classes wore big, loose pants that were usually held up with suspenders. Loose, long-sleeved cotton shirts topped off the look with a tie or ascot for style, and tall boots. 

Kids wear

Examples of tunics, button-pants and other typical clothing for boys in era of the American Civil War. (Reenacting 1860s Life – American Civil War era, YouTube)

Kids were usually dressed in clothing very similar to their parents … just shorter. For instance, dresses and trousers were usually mid-calf level for girls and boys, respectively. This was to differentiate kids’ clothing. It also allowed kids to wear the same pieces as they grew taller. The main difference was younger males who wore dresses, which traditionally took place until or around the age of 5. However, this tradition changed around the 1860s — the start of the war — when young boys began wearing knickerbockers, which were wide-legged pants that buttoned at the knee. 

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airman saves child’s life on the way to pick up an award

A US airman recently saved a child’s life on his flight back to the US, where he was to receive a prestigious award for being exceptional, the Air Force announced this September 2019.

Tech. Sgt. Kenneth O’Brien, a special tactics section chief assigned to the 320th Special Tactics Squadron at Kadena Air Base in Japan, was named one of only a dozen “2019 Outstanding Airmen of the Year,” the Air Force announced in August 2019.

O’Brien served as a member of President Donald Trump’s security detail for one of the summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and he rescued someone from a burning vehicle in Korea. He played an important role in rescuing a Thai soccer team from a cave, and, during the rescue operation, he also saved the life of a Thai Navy SEAL.


“If someone needs to go do something dangerous, I volunteer,” O’Brien said of his rather eventful year. “If someone needs a leader, I volunteer. I happened to be in the right place at the right time and that’s what helped me stand out because I sought out key positions or responsibilities.”

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

Tech. Sgt. Kenneth O’Brien.

Two weeks ago, he was on a flight back to the US to receive his award at the Air Force Association conference when a 1-year-old child lost consciousness due to an airway blockage. The child may have been unresponsive, but O’Brien was not.

“Our man OB leaps into action, clears the breathing passage, resuscitates the kid, hands him back to the parents, and then goes on about his business,” Lt. Gen. Jim Slife, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, wrote in a Facebook post, Stars and Stripes first reported.

The Air Force said in a statement that the child regained consciousness after about a minute. O’Brien regularly checked in on the child throughout the remainder of the flight.

“I’m thankful that the child is OK and that I was able to help when the family needed support,” O’Brien said, explaining that he just “happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

“I can’t decide if he’s Superman or Mayhem (the guy on the insurance commercials),” Silfe said on Facebook. “I don’t know whether I want to be right next to him in case some bad stuff goes down, or whether I want to be as far away from him as possible because bad stuff always seems to go down around him.”

While O’Brien was named as an award recipient in August 2019, his actions on his flight back to the US confirmed that he is deserving of it, his commander said.

“We are very proud of Tech. Sgt. O’Brien,” Lt. Col. Charles Hodges, commander of the 320th Special Tactics Squadron, said in a statement. “He continues to step up when there is a need for leadership and action. This incident demonstrates without a doubt that O’Brien epitomizes the Air Force’s core values and rightly deserves the honor and selection as one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year.”

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

Articles

Warriors in their Own Words: the Wild Weasels cleared enemy skies over Vietnam

During the Vietnam War, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief — affectionately known as the “Thud” — was one of the U.S. Air Force’s primary strike aircraft. But amidst mounting losses from North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery, the Thud took on a new role — the Wild Weasel.

The Wild Weasels of the United States Air Force were some of the most courageous pilots in Vietnam. In a deadly game of cat and mouse, they flew fighter jets like the F-100, F-105 and F-4s deep into hostile airspace to coax the enemy into opening fire with their surface-to-air missiles. Once the Weasels located the site, other fighter bombers were called in to destroy the installations. In this episode of Warriors in their Own Words, Jerry Hoblit, Bill Sparks, Mike Gilroy, and Tom Wilson tell dramatic stories of their days as Wild Weasels.


How World War I ushered in the century of oil

F-105s take off on a mission to bomb North Vietnam, 1966.

(USAF)

A history of the Wild Weasels

The F-105 was originally conceived as a single-seat, tactical nuclear strike-fighter. In the early days of the war, these single-seat variants, F-105D’s, flew strike missions with Combat Air Patrol provided by F-100s to defend against MiG fighters.

However, during Operation Rolling Thunder in 1965, North Vietnamese air defenses improved with the addition of Soviet-made SA-2 Guideline missiles.

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

F-105 with Wild Weasel tail code carrying AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missile.

(USAF)

As American losses mounted from North Vietnamese SAMs and AAA, the decision was made to employ specialized F-100F two-seat fighters in a suppression role code-named “Wild Weasel.”

When the idea of flying directly into enemy air defenses was first briefed to the men flying the mission, an Electronic Warfare Officer gave the Wild Weasels their first motto by exclaiming,

“You gotta be sh*ttin’ me!”

After heavy losses in just seven weeks, it quickly became apparent that the F-100 was an insufficient aircraft to carry out the missions. The first Wild Weasel unit flying F-100’s was declared combat ineffective.

As luck would have it, Republic had produced two-seat trainer variants of the F-105 shortly before the end of the production run in 1964. These were quickly modified as the F-105F and rushed into the Wild Weasel role.

The newest Thud was also equipped to carry the first ever anti-radiation missile, the AGM-45 Shrike. These initial aircraft were designated Wild Weasel II.

Even with the improved F-105F, the tactics often remained the same as with the F-100. Using hunter-killer teams, a Wild Weasel aircraft would guide a flight of Thuds loaded with bombs and rockets to find the SAM sites and destroy them.

The Wild Weasel was essentially the bait.

Using their advanced radars and warning devices — or sometimes good ol’ drawing enemy fire — the Wild Weasels would “ferret out” the SAM sites, which then allowed the Thuds to come in and pulverize the position. This was often accomplished by simply following the missile’s smoke trail back to its launch site.

As the F-105F models were upgraded to G-models, known as Wild Weasel III, the Air Force began to change the tactics employed. The Wild Weasels would fly in ahead of a strike package to clear the area of SAMs, stay over the target during the bombing raid in order to attack any other SAMs or AAA that appeared, and then maintain their position until the bombers left the area, at which time they themselves would head for home as well.

This led to incredibly long, dangerous missions for the Wild Weasel crews–often three to five hours of intense flying in hostile air space. It also led to another motto for the Wild Weasels: “First In, Last Out.”

The Wild Weasel mission was exceedingly dangerous, but there was no shortage of brave, if not slightly crazy, volunteers willing to carry it out. Two Wild Weasel Thud pilots would be awarded the Medal of Honor for their gallantry in the air.

The first was awarded to Maj. Merlyn Dethlefsen for his actions on March 10, 1967.

Dethlefsen was flying number 3 in a Wild Weasel flight codenamed Lincoln assigned to protect a strike package of F-105Ds on a mission to hit the Thai Nguyen steel factory.

As his flight entered the target area, the lead engaged in a duel with a SAM site but was shot down while his wingman, Lincoln 02, was put out of action by flak. This left Dethlefsen and his wingman, Lincoln 04, to deal with the SAMs in the area. As Dethlefsen dove for an attack on the SAM site, he was jumped by two MiG-21 fighters.

Dodging two enemy missiles, he fled for cover in the enemy’s flak zone, betting that his pursuers wouldn’t follow. He again pressed the attack on the SAM and was again driven off by the fighters, his Thud absorbing several 37mm cannon shells.

As the strike package egressed from the area Dethlefsen decided to try one more time to destroy the SAM site. Leading his wingman in, he fired his AGM-45 and destroyed the radar. With the defenses down, the two Thuds pummeled the site with their bomb loads.

For good measure Dethlefsen rolled over and strafed the site with his 20mm cannon.

The second Medal of Honor was awarded to Lt. Col. Leo Thorsness for his actions on April 19, 1967. While leading a Wild Weasel mission of F-105’s, Thorsness and his wingman attacked and destroyed a SAM with missiles. Spotting another SAM, they proceeded to move in and destroy it with their bomb loads.

However, Thorsness’ wingman was shot down in the attack. The two crewmen bailed out and as they descended, Thorsness circled them to provide protection and maintain sight for the inbound rescue crews. As he did this, a MiG-17 approached.

Thorsness quickly responded and blasted the MiG with his 20mm cannon, sending it to the ground. As the rescue crews approached the scene, Thorsness peeled off to refuel; however, hearing of more MiG-17’s in the area, he quickly returned to the fight. Seeing the enemy fighters attempting a wagon wheel maneuver, he drove straight in and raked a MiG as it crossed his path.

Thorsness bugged out on afterburners at low-level to avoid the pursuing fighters. Eventually Thorsness was forced to return to base, almost out of fuel. He put his plane into a “glide” and landed at a forward air base with empty tanks.

Eventually high losses and improving technology would see many F-105’s replaced by the newer F-4 Phantom II in the Wild Weasel and strike roles, though F-105G’s continued to operate as Wild Weasels through the end of the war.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s everything you need to know if you want to join the US Army

The Army also has options for those who want to serve as commissioned officers. Which option is best depends on your education level, where you want to go to school, and your age or family status.

Enlistees can also join the Army Reserves or Army National Guard directly.


How World War I ushered in the century of oil

Students at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state take the Test for Adult Basic Education to improve their general technical score on the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery, Aug. 27, 2010.

(Photo by Spc. Alicia Clark)

First, you’ll need to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB.

The ASVAB is a multiple-choice exam that will help determine what jobs you qualify for in the military. Each service has its own minimum standards, according to Military.com, which provides practice tests for those who want to prepare.

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Recruiters gather with high-school students for an education event where they learned about Army operations and procedures, in December 2018.

(US Army photo by Amber Osei)

You’ll eventually meet with a recruiter.

If you’re not sure where your nearest recruiting station is, you can submit an application online, and the recruiter will come to you.

Otherwise, it’s important to remember a few things when you’re at the office:

You have no obligations until you sign a contract.

Make sure you understand whether the job you want has openings — if not, you may want to consider waiting until it does.

You’ll eventually need to pass a medical exam.

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Army Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., the Army’s chief of staff, administers the oath of enlistment to 26 recruits in New York City.

(Army photo by D. Myles Cullen)

Once you decide to enlist, the recruiter will take you to a Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS.

If you haven’t taken the ASVAB already, you’ll take one when you get to the MEPS.

If you have, you’ll undergo a medical exam, speak with a counselor about job opportunities and the enlistment contract, and take the enlistment oath.

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US Army soldiers from One Station Training Unit low crawl through an obstacle course during their first week of basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

Basic Combat Training, has three phases.

After “reception week,” recruits enter Red phase — basic tactical training and Army heritage and tradition are hallmarks of this phase, as is the physical-fitness test. This phase is meant to break down individual recruits’ confidence in order to train them to work as unit during the next phase.

Next, they enter White phase, where they will start to rebuild confidence and learn marksmanship and combat training.

The last step is Blue phase, during which they will be trained to use weapons like grenades and machine guns and conduct field training and 10- and 15-kilometer marches.

Once they graduate, they will move on to advanced training in their specific job fields.

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Cadets enter Michie Stadium for their graduation ceremony at West Point — 936 cadets crossed the stage to join the Long Gray Line in May 2017.

(US Army photo by Michelle Eberhart)

If you’re applying for a ROTC scholarship or admission to the Military Academy at West Point, the process starts online.

You’ll apply for West Point on the academy’s admissions page. Once you submit a questionnaire, you’ll be assigned a candidate number to finish the process.

Requirements to enter the academy are slightly higher than they are to enlist. Competitive SAT or ACT scores are a must, as are a physical-fitness exam and recommendations from teachers or counselors at your high school.

You’ll interview with an academy alumnus and also have to complete a separate application process for a nomination, usually by a senator or congressional representative.

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ROTC cadets take a break from Leader Development and Assessment Course training.

(US Army photo)

Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).

ROTC scholarships may be awarded to high-school students who wish to pursue a four-year degree at a civilian college.

The Army’s service obligation after graduation is four years on active duty and four years in the Army Reserves. Under some circumstances, like a lack of active-duty billets, students can go straight into the reserves. (Candidates can also enlist directly into the Army Reserve.)

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

Officer candidates with Washington National Guard troops disembark a morale flight on a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.

(US National Guard photo by Maj. Matt Baldwin)

Officer Candidate School (OCS).

OCS is meant for enlisted service members or civilians who already hold a four-year degree and want to become a commissioned officer.

The Army holds this 12-week leadership and tactical training course at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Let them walk on the grass: The role of senior NCOs

At the qualification range, a group of Soldiers congregate during the lunch break. Unexpectedly, a Sergeant Major descends upon them In his growling voice he barks about their uniform deficiencies and how the range is not to standard. As quickly as he appears, he vanishes, and for a few minutes, Soldiers awkwardly stare at each other thinking, “what the hell?” The proverbial Sergeant Major storm did little to change the unit, and the Soldiers resume their meal and continue as if it never happened.

The role of the senior noncommissioned officer is not ensuring all Soldiers have eye protection and reflective belts or ensuring the lawns in their footprint are pristine, fixing deficiencies using the “leadership” methodology described above. Young Soldiers across the Army picture master sergeants and sergeants major holding coffee cups, spewing anger, and never actually doing anything. The problem with the senior NCO leadership is this image and the fact that they’ve made this image a reality!


When senior NCOs see a unit’s problem with standards and discipline they think it’s a problem that can be fixed right away with a spot correction, but in reality it is a systemic problem of failing to develop the unit’s NCOs and aspiring leaders. NCOs in a unit not enforcing standards either don’t know the standards or are ignoring them. A senior NCO can go around making all the spot corrections in the world; it will never fix corner cutting, shortcomings of communication, and lack of discipline.

The senior NCO’s job is to establish the standard, outline the expectations, and develop leaders across their formation. This leadership eventually trickles down to the most junior Soldier. However, the current methodology of leadership from the first paragraph and perception of senior NCOs is something leaders must overcome to fulfill their roles.

Here are five ways senior NCOs can enhance the image of our profession and, more importantly, improve their unit.

Get out. Emails can be checked at a later date. The window to engage with Soldiers is limited, while access to a computer usually is not. Running effective meetings frees up space to see Soldiers. Identify quality engagement opportunities that maximize presence across the formation.

Speaking with the leadership and disappearing to another event before engaging the Soldiers who are actually doing the training doesn’t change perceptions. Ensure leaders understand the expectation that battlefield circulation is an opportunity to see training and highlight the great work of leaders and Soldiers in their formation.

Teach. In most cases, the senior NCOs are the most experienced tacticians, with the most deployments, live fires, and combined training center rotations. Offer techniques, tactics and best practices to make the event better. Share this wisdom with not only the NCOICs, but with the most junior Soldiers. Attack the negative images of senior NCOs from both angles; from the top down and the bottom up.

Even if the senior NCOs aren’t experienced in their Soldiers’ field, their perspective can help them understand the bigger picture and relevancy of the tasks or training.

Listen. Establish two way communication with Soldiers at events. People like to talk about what they do. Learn about them, their concerns, issues, and complaints. Don’t interrupt, listen and take notes to fall back on and read later.

Ask leaders and Soldiers what help or resources they need. This is something a senior NCO can impact immediately. Helping to fix problems with range control, logistics, line unit and staff relations, and coordination between units is NCO business.

Remember the people you talk with don’t see the world from the same lens as a senior NCO. When responding, do not belittle or be condescending, you will lose the battle for personal respect, damaging the reputation of the senior leadership position.

Make the Correction. Any unsafe acts need to be corrected immediately. However, in most cases, there is another approach than the sergeant major storm. Meet with the leadership before departing. Have a professional conversation with NCOs discussing the issues and why it’s important for everyone to enforce the standard. Enable and empower the NCOs to make the correction. It doesn’t matter if leaders agree or disagree with the standard, it’s the NCO’s job to enforce them.

Finish by highlighting a positive. The first engagement and the last will be the two things people remember. It is easy for anyone to dwell on the negative, but at most training events, there are good things happening. This may be the only time that Soldier sees their senior NCO leadership and that impression will stick for a while.

Follow up. Before visiting the unit again, reflect on the notes taken. Address the issues and concerns, and follow up with unit leadership if they people weren’t at the event. Send an email to leaders to reinforce the message. The next time there is an opportunity to observe the unit, see if things changed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The worst cyber attack in DoD history came from a USB drive found in a parking lot

The media dubbed it “The Worm that Ate the Pentagon” and it was the most serious breach of the Pentagon’s classified computer systems. In November 2008, the Army caught a worm called Agent.btz crawling through the Defense Department’s Secret Internet Protocol Router Network – the classified SIPRNet – as well as the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System used by the U.S. government’s top intel agencies.

No one knows if any information was taken or who its creator was. All they know is it took 14 months to eradicate.


The worst breach of U.S. military computers in history begins in 2008, in a parking lot at a U.S. military installation in the Middle East. A flash drive infected with a virus called “agent.btz” was inserted into a DoD computer network and quickly spread throughout the U.S. military’s classified and unclassified networks. Data – anything on these networks – could now be transferred to other servers under the control of agent.btz’s creator. The worst part is that no one knew it was there, what it might have sent, and to who the information went.

Once in place, the malicious code began to “beacon” out to its creator, letting whoever created it know that it was in place and ready for further instructions. That’s the only way analysts from the NSA’s Advanced Networks Operations team noticed it was there. At the height of the Global War on Terror, the Pentagon’s defense intelligence networks had been compromised.

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

“Go over to that village and get the wifi password. My USB drive isn’t working.”

The NSA and DoD quickly determined the cause of the infection, and banned thumb drives as a response. They then collected thousands of thumb drives from officers and other troops in the field, finding they were all infected with the worm as well. Reports of new infections to the network didn’t slow down until well into 2009. In an operation called “Buckshot Yankee,” the Defense Department led an all-out assault on the worm. The effort was so intense and deliberate that it led to the creation of the 11th military unified command – The U.S. Cyber Command.

Pentagon officials blame Russian agents for the virus, but individuals who worked on Buckshot Yankee dismiss that assertion, saying that the worm, though potentially destructive, ended up being “relatively benign.” Still, others assert that Russian intelligence agencies have used code similar to agent.btz before. Even with the concerted effort against the worm, Pentagon officials couldn’t answer the simplest of questions. How many computers were affected? How many drives were infected? Where was the virus’ patient zero?

No one knew. To this day, no one knows for sure.

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

The Air Force’s “silent service.”

In the end, it taught the Defense Department an important lesson. It was much more vulnerable to a small threat, even a cyber threat, than it should have been. Now the DoD claims it is better-equipped to detect such threats and infections, and to respond to them. The policy shift took the responsibility of protecting classified and unclassified Defense networks out of the hands of the local IT troops (or contractors) and put it in the hands of senior commanders.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why this Soldier was nicknamed the ‘popcorn colonel’ in Vietnam will make you laugh

When Lt. Colonel Richard J. Shaw arrived in Vietnam, he had already proven himself a valorous Soldier by fighting the Germans in WWII, going toe-to-toe with the Chinese in Korea, and now he was looking to go up against the Viet Cong.


Once he had made it to the jungle, Shaw was assigned as an advisor to a Vietnamese regiment consisting of around 3,000 troops. Shaw had his work cut out for him — his troops were spread out across three different locations within his area of observation.

After getting embedded with his Vietnamese counterparts, Shaw adapted the local lifestyle and ate the indigenous foods. His daily diet consisted of three cold rice bowls, wrapped in leaves and served with some fried fish. He did this every day for 11 straight months… holy sh*t.

How World War I ushered in the century of oil
Sticky rice with black beans and coconut. A standard Vietnamese dish. This is more than what the colonel ate.
(Authenticworldfood.com)

Nearly a year later, Shaw’s weight had dropped dramatically due to light diet and all the physical activity required by fighting the enemy. The determined colonel was eventually pulled out of the jungle by his superiors and sent back to the rear to “fatten him up.”

Before taking time off for R&R, Shaw had sent a letter home asking his wife to send him some popcorn. Soon enough, a railroad cart arrived at Da Nang, where he was currently stationed — the goods had arrived. Shaw divided the popcorn kernels up between the three regiments and had them shipped to his friendly counterparts to be enjoyed.

Before Shaw headed back home for some much-earned time off, he befriended one of the regimental commanders, Capt. Tang. Shaw saved him three smaller bags of popcorn so he could take it back and share it with his family.

How World War I ushered in the century of oil
UH-1B helicopters were commonly used for resupplying troops on the frontlines during the Vietnam War.

Eventually, Shaw returned to his troops and was surprised to meet a pissed-off Capt. Tang.

Apparently, the regimental commander took the popcorn kernels home and boiled them in water instead of cooking them in oil. Shaw just laughed at what he heard from his counterpart, who was still fuming in anger.

On that day, Shaw taught the loyal captain the proper way of cooking popcorn. The event earned Shaw the nickname of “popcorn colonel.”

Later, Lt. Colonel Shaw returned home from his Vietnam deployment and retired from honorable service in 1968.

Watch the American Heroes Channel‘s video below to hear the colonel’s humorous story for yourself.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Soviet Union also made an airborne armored personnel carrier

The Russian BMD series of airborne infantry fighting vehicles are really quite impressive. Both the BMD-1 and BMD-2 provided Soviet airborne troops with some serious firepower — more than enough to make life miserable for opposing forces in the rear areas that airborne troops can reach. But the Soviets developed another armored vehicle to fight alongside the BMD series — one that complements the BMD’s lethality with payload.

The BTR-D is an airborne armored personnel carrier. It has a crew of three and is capable of holding up to ten troops. But it isn’t just a troop transport, the BTR-D also packs some heat in terms of armament. Its heaviest main weapon option is a 30mm automatic grenade launcher, better known as the AGS-17.


So, seeing as the Soviets had already developed the impressive BMD series, why would they need an armored personnel carrier as well? The answer is volume. The BMD-1 is only capable of carrying five troops and, according to some sources, the BMD-2 only hauls four. The 10-troop capacity of the BTR-D is a huge benefit. In rear areas with few opposing tanks or infantry fighting vehicles, ten paratroopers backed by an armored vehicle with a 30mm automatic grenade launcher and two bow-mounted 7.62x54mm PKM machine guns can bring some serious hurt to a support unit.

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

The BTR-D had an anti-aircraft variant that packed a ZU-23 twin-barrel 23mm anti-aircraft gun.

(Photo by Serge Serebro, Vitebsk Popular News)

By now, if you’re familiar with the impressive firepower of the BMD-2, you might be asking yourself, “why not just carve out some space for carrying more troops?” The simple truth is that nothing’s free. If you want to maintain airborne capabilities, you need to consider a vehicle’s weight and size (planes, even a C-5 Galaxy, have only so much volume). The design of the BTR-D prioritized troop capacity over armament, meaning there simply wasn’t room for the type of firepower found on the BMD series.

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

The BTR-D was the basis for the 2S9 self-propelled mortar.

(DOD)

There were several variants of the BTR-D created to meet the needs of a variety of missions. One of those variants is equipped with anti-aircraft guns — a nasty surprise for pilots over what they thought was friendly territory.

Learn more about this Soviet airborne APC in the video below!

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

www.youtube.com

Military Life

This is the Communists’ perfectly-bred military working dog

After the end of World War II, the Red Army was looking to create the “supreme” military working dog. After combining 17 different breeds, the Communists created a marvel of animal husbandry: the Black Russian Terrier.


The Soviet-run Red Star Kennel mated Giant Schnauzers, Airedales, Rottweilers, and Moscow Divers as the primary breeds. These were chosen for the Schnauzer’s agility and sharp guarding instinct; the Airedales’ happy disposition, perseverance, and staying power; and the Rottweiler for its massive make, shape, and courage.

Other breeds included Newfoundlands, Caucasian Shepherds, and others – including the now-extinct Moscow Water Dog.

They created the ideal working dog, a large breed that stays alert, is protective without being aggressive, and is able to withstand the extreme climates of Russia – which ranges from frozen Siberia to dry, hot desert. By 1983, it was declared a new breed worldwide.

As a result of the extremely selective breeding, the Black Russian Terrier is a big dog, upwards of three feet tall and 130 pounds – and needs a job to do in order to be happy.

 

How World War I ushered in the century of oil

While initially used to guard prison camps and against potential industrial sabotage, the dogs were needed at a time when the population of the Soviet military’s working dogs was on the decline. While not added to the American Kennel Club until decades later, the young breed was at work in the Soviet Union by 1954.

They love to run around in big spaces and a reportedly very lovable pets. But they need to be around people. Think of it: a specifically bred large, powerful dog with big teeth, who only wants to cuddle. Some owners report they will destroy your house like German Panzer Army if you leave them alone too long!

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