A group of terrorists huddle in a house in an al-Shabab controlled area of Kenya. Among them are high-value individuals who perpetuate terror attacks throughout East Africa. They pray and then rig their suicide vests. Drones overhead beam the scene to allied forces, but time is running out and there is potential for collateral damage and civilian casualties.
The new movie “Eye In The Sky” tackles this scenario. The allied mission commander, British Army Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), orders a U.S. military drone strike on al-Shabab terrorist organizers and would-be suicide bombers, but her call is made more complicated by the fact that a little Kenyan girl (Aisha Takow) will likely be killed in the strike.
The film, which premiered last year at the Toronto Film Festival, shows a unique vision of how calls are made in the heat of battle. From Col. Powell and the drone pilot, 2nd Lt. Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) to the highest rungs of the British and American governments, those watching the camera feeds decide the fates of the terrorists and the innocent bystander. They each make their own arguments in turn as the situation evolves.
The film shows a number of thought-provoking moral questions in the microcosm of this one drone strike. It weighs morality against the tactics of modern warfare. The characters try to minimize the damage done by drone strikes while suicide bombers prepare to kill as many people as possible. The film also questions the value of targeted killings over real human intelligence in the war on terror. But the moral calculus has to be figured out in a hurry. The clock is ticking on this potential strike. A decision must be reached before the terrorists are allowed to disappear into the sprawling city to carry out their suicide missions.
“Eye in the Sky” depicts the divide between civilian leaders and the men and women who conduct targeted operations. Civilian leaders want to achieve political goals but dislike the means by which they have to achieve them. The warfighters have to educate elected leaders on weighing the risks of collateral damage while the civilians have to remind the them about the propaganda value of targeted killings for the enemy. Neither side comes away clean as they argue over the fate of civilians who are otherwise going about their daily lives while this international debate unfolds.
The film’s final scene features the late Alan Rickman in his final onscreen role as British Lt. Gen. Frank Benson. In one of his finest moments as an actor, he delivers a harsh rebuke to a civilian Member of Parliament: “Never tell a soldier he does not know the cost of war.”
“Eye In the Sky” is a thrilling nail-biter that also asks questions about the ethics of fighting a high-tech war.
Russia is working on its own TV show about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster — but this version focuses on a conspiracy theory that a CIA agent sabotaged the reactor.
The Russian show, whose release date is not yet known, comes at the heels of HBO’s successful miniseries, “Chernobyl.”
The HBO show attributes the 1986 nuclear disaster to a combination of reckless decisions made by senior plant staff and Soviet state censorship, which resulted in the government hiding dangerous problems at the plant from the public, as well as other scientists and plant staff.
This portrayal is considered highly accurate. Many former Soviet, however, slammed it as inaccurate and slanderous of the Soviet Union.
Donald Sumpter on HBO’s “Chernobyl” miniseries.
The nuclear disaster propelled radioactive particles over 1,000 square miles of Ukraine and Belarus. The death toll remains unknown, but some studies say tens of thousands of people died as a result of the leak.
Moscow’s version of “Chernobyl” — which is produced by NTV, an arm of Russia’s majority state-owned Gazprom Media — is premised on the theory that CIA agents sabotaged the nuclear reactor, which ultimately led to the accident, NTV said in April 2018.
The idea for Russia’s version of “Chernobyl” is based from a popular conspiracy theory in the country, Muradov told The Moscow Times.
“One theory holds that Americans had infiltrated the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and many historians do not deny that, on the day of the explosion, an agent of the enemy’s intelligence services was present at the station,” he said.
The US and Soviet Union were in the midst of the Cold War at the time of the explosion, and espionage and mutual mistrust were high.
Digitalization of Chernobyl disaster.
Journalists from former Soviet countries have taken issue with HBO’s adaptation of the nuclear disaster.
One writer from Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia’s most popular paper, said last month the series was designed to slander Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear energy company.
The same newspaper also ran the headline on a separate story, which said according to The Guardian: “Chernobyl did not show the most important part — our victory.”
The U.S. Navy has just released the final mishap report for the crash involving Blue Angel No. 6 that occurred in Smyrna, Tenn. on June 2, and investigators have determined that it was due to pilot error.
According to the report, the pilot, Capt. Jeff Kuss, took off from the Smyrna Airport as part of the team’s afternoon practice session. Kuss, flying as what the Blue Angels call the “opposing solo,” attempted to execute a “high performance climb,” which involves a high G pull into the vertical using the jet’s afterburners followed by a “Split S” back toward the ground.
Kuss started his dive from too low an altitude, the report states, and he failed to take any corrective action as he hurtled straight down at full power. Just before the F/A-18C hit the trees, Kuss pulled the ejection handle, but it was too late. By the time the canopy blew off and his seat rocketed away he’d traveled too far to allow the chute to open. He died from what the report described as “blunt force trauma” after hitting the ground.
Although the report reveals that Blue Angels 5 and 6 had a brief discussion about a cloud deck above the departure end of the airport, the investigators dismissed weather as a causal factor. The report also states that Kuss was fully qualified for the flight and in good health and that the Hornet he was piloting had no mechanical problems.
The Navy’s report also reveals that the Blue Angels have a history of “Split S” mishaps. In 2004, Blue Angel No. 6 — new to the team at the time — hit the ground after failing to properly execute the maneuver during a practice session. The pilot survived the crash, but the aircraft was a total loss.
The U.S. Marine Corps also had a Hornet crash in 1988 when the wing commander at MCAS El Toro — who flew the air show routine even though he was not fully qualified to do so — attempted a Split S below the proper altitude. The pilot, a colonel, survived, but sustained massive injuries to both of his feet and his face.
Watch the video of the USMC El Toro Split S mishap below:
The Blue Angels skipped the next three shows following Kuss’ death. Cdr. Frank Weisser, who’d been part of the team from 2007-2010, was brought back to assume Opposing Solo duties for the balance of the 2016 season.
Kuss is the twenty-seventh Naval Aviator to die while flying with the Blue Angels either during practice or actual shows in front of crowds. The last fatality before him was Lcdr. Kevin Davis, who was lost in a crash just outside of MCAS Beaufort, SC after blacking out from high G forces and losing control of his airplane and hitting the ground while attempting to rendezvous with the rest of the diamond formation.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are producing a new reality show for Verizon’s Go90 mobile video network. The show, called The Runner, will feature a contestant trying to make his or her way across the country without being caught by a team of pursuers or the audience. The winner of the game will get over $1 million.
The Runner is casting the show in two groups: Runners and Chasers. According to the show’s producers Runners must be shrewd, in good shape and independent. Runners have no one to rely on but themselves. The ideal runner is adaptive, resilient, street smart and great with strategy.
Chasers must apply as a two-person team. The team must be outgoing, clever, competitive, and in good shape. It doesn’t matter if the team consists of friends, relatives, or co-workers as long as they can strategize and win.
The producers are specifically looking for military personnel with SERE or other survival training or a special operations background.
While taking enemy contact, a Chinese mortar struck a Marine bunker near where replacement Marine Cpl. Salvatore Naimo was engaging opposing forces. From this position, he heard the screams of his wounded comrades coming from inside the newly-damaged area.
Naimo, who joined the Marines to avoid being drafted into the Army, dashed over to aid his brothers, exposing himself to enemy fire.
As mortars continued to destroy the surrounding area, Naimo spotted two severely wounded Marines and scooped up one of them up, protecting him with his own body. Soon after, Naimo dropped off the first injured Marine at the aid station and headed right back for the second man as waves of incoming enemy fire blanketed their position.
After returning to the aid station with the second wounded Marine, Naimo informed the corpsmen that he was going to head back to the bunker and continue to fight.
Upon his arrival at the unmanned bunker, he was lucky to discover the Marines before him had stockpiled it with machine guns, ammo, and extra grenades. As the next wave of Chinese attacks throttled, Naimo fired the arsenal of weapons into the enemy — who closed within 15 yards of his position.
Hours later, Marine Lt. Walter Sharpe came across Naimo’s bunker, where he found 36 dead soldiers from the 65th Army Group of Mongolian laid out. Sharpe decided to recommend Naimo for the Navy Cross but sadly was killed in action two days later. He never filed the proper paperwork to get Naimo his Navy Cross.
More than six decades after his heroic efforts, then-Lt. Bruce F. Meyers (who was injured in that same battle) filed the necessary paperwork to award Cpl. Salvatore Naimo the well-deserved Navy Cross.
World War II Veteran Alyce Dixon, affectionately known as “Queen Bee” by those who know her and care for her at the Washington, D.C., VA Medical Center, is now 108-years young.
Cpl. Dixon has quite a story and quite a personality. Rocking a tiara on top of her head for the occasion, she was queen for the day at the D.C. VAMC. Fellow Veterans, volunteers, staff and family members celebrated her life at a special ceremony held Sept.11.
“God has been so good,” Dixon said. “He left me here with all these lovely people and all these nice things they’re saying. I hope they mean it.”
Dixon is now the oldest living female World War II veteran according to VA records. She joined the military in 1943 and was stationed in both England and France with the postal services. She was one of the first African-American women in the Army as part of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion – the only unit of African-American women in the WAC to serve overseas during WWII.
“This has been a marvelous day. I feel real special,” Dixon said regarding the celebration that included flowers and gifts from family and friends.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said August 24 the Trump administration is considering supplying weapons to Ukraine after a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev.
Mattis said he would return to the United States and advise leaders on what he learned during his visit to Ukraine.
Mattis’ trip is the first by a US defense secretary to Ukraine in more than a decade.
The meeting comes after US Treasury Department in June announced it would add 38 more individuals and entities to the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s list of those sanctions due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
The move is an attempt to pressure Russia into following Minsk Protocol cease-fire agreement.
Mattis said the United States will continue to pressure Russia because it is “seeking to redraw international borders by force.” The Pentagon chief said the United States will continue to pressure Russia until Moscow changes its behavior.
“The US and our allies will continue to press Russia to honor its Minsk commitments and our sanctions will remain in place until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered them,” Mattis said.
Troops overseas are generally expected to keep their heads down and do their jobs. But every once in a while, some military leaders decide to let their Joes and Jills take a break from work and put together some of the hilarious videos they see on the internet.
Typically, this includes a bunch of troops dancing and singing along to a popular pop song. There’s also the occasional motivational speech (such as number 2 on this list where U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Brian Walgren gave a paraphrased speech from Col. John Glenn) that goes viral.
Just a warning, most of these viral videos include adult language.
In no particular order, here are seven of the bests viral videos from troops overseas:
1. U.S. troops perfectly recreate Miami Dolphin cheerleaders lip syncing to “Call Me Maybe”
2. Gunnery Sgt. Brian Walgren motivates Marines before they assault Marjah
3. Marines in Iraq sing “Hakuna Matata” before the gym
4. Marines sing (part of) “Build me Up, Buttercup”
5. Paratroopers lip sync “Telephone”
6. A bunch of Marines coming home sing “Sweet Caroline” to their flight attendant named Caroline
7. Navy and Marine medical unit performs “Gangnam Style” dance
With more than 6,000 ships and 150,000 troops involved, along with nearly 12,000 aircraft, D-Day stands as the largest amphibious assault in history. The Allies pulled together every resource available to breach Hitler’s Fortress in Europe, but they had to do so without America’s experts in amphibious warfare. The U.S. Marine Corps was busy pushing back the Japanese in the Pacific, island by island. Here’s how Eisenhower and his generals did it.
Planning for D-Day pits allies against each other
The demands of D-Day caused fights for resources. The Americans and British fought over when to make Normandy the priority while the Army was pitted against the Navy for resources, according to historical essays from “Command Decisions.”
The stress between the American and British leadership centered on an American belief that the British wanted to spend more time consolidating gains in the Mediterranean rather than pivot to France and open the new front in the war. The Americans thought that British leadership wanted to spend more time in Southern Europe to gain political power there, while British planners thought the focus should remain in the area a little longer to force Germany to move more reinforcements away from Normandy.
For the Army and Navy, the fight was over how shipbuilding assets should be used. The Army wanted more landing craft while the Navy needed shipbuilders focused on repairing and rebuilding the deepwater fleet that had been diminished by Pearl Harbor, submarine warfare, and escort duties for convoys.
Both problems were settled at the Cairo-Tehran conferences in 1943. British leaders assured the U.S. that they were committed to crossing the English Channel in 1944. The issue of new landing craft was settled due to two factors. First, the Navy had reduced need for new ships as German submarines were sinking fewer craft. Second, Churchill decried the shortage of landing craft, pledging his country would focus on constructing ships for the landing if the Americans would increase their effort as well.
Heavy German defenses force the Allies to do the unexpected
The obvious points for an Allied force to invade Normandy in the 1940s were the large port at Pas-de-Calais or the smaller ports at La Havre and Cherbourg. German defense planners reinforced these zones to the point that invaders would either fail to reach the beaches or be immediately pushed back upon landing. Instead, the Allies created a plan to land at a beach instead of a port.
The final plan was to land between Le Havre in the east and Cherbourg in the west. The invading forces would spread from there while airborne troops would jump ahead onto key objectives, securing bridges, destroying artillery, and wreaking havoc on the enemy communications. The plan faced numerous challenges, though two stood out.
This would leave the Allies with relatively lightly-defended beaches, but a huge logistics problem once they had landed. Large ships would have no deepwater piers to pull up to and no cranes to remove supplies from cargo holds.
The Allies would ultimately get around this through the construction of “Mulberry Harbors,” prefabricated, floating piers protected by sunken World War I ships and caissons. The first piers were operational by June 14 and allowed vehicles and supplies up to 40 tons to drive from deepwater ships to the shore.
Weather delays D-Day but also saves it
The movement of supplies and soldiers to Britain had taken place over two years, culminating in a massive troop buildup in 1944. But the day of the invasion had to be set for small, three-day windows centered on proper tides and moonlight. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, set the invasion date for June 5, 1944 and trusted British Capt. James Stagg to make the weather decision for proposed invasion dates.
Stagg and the British meteorologists found themselves in disagreement with the Americans as to the weather for June 5. Stagg recommended delaying the invasion due to storms the British predicted, while the Americans thought a high pressure wedge would stave off the storms and provide blue skies. Luckily, Eisenhower only heard directly from Stagg and accepted his recommendation. D-Day was pushed to June 6.
The Germans, meanwhile, also predicted the storms but thought they would last for at least a week or more. With this weather forecast, the German high command went ahead with war games and pulled its troops away from the coastal defenses so they could practice defending the coasts. The head of German land defenses, Gen. Erwin Rommel, left to give his wife a pair of birthday shoes. The beaches would be more lightly defended and lack key leadership when the Allies arrived.
June 6, 1944: D-Day
Though the weather wouldn’t clear for hours, Stagg recommended to Eisenhower that he go ahead with the June 6 invasion. Just after midnight, the invasion of Hitler’s Fortress Europe began.
Prior to the beach landings, 23,000 American, British, and Canadian paratroopers dropped through heavy cloud cover to begin securing what would become the flanks of the main force at the beaches. They also struck at key logistics and communications hubs, allowing for the eventual push from the beach while also weakening the Germans’ ability to organize their counter attacks. Allied bombers struck targets on the beaches, preparing the objectives for the main force.
The landings on the Normandy coast began at 6:30 a.m. with the 8th Regimental combat team under Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt at Utah Beach. Soldiers at Utah experienced a successful, relatively light invasion. Over the next few hours, Allied troops were landing at Gold, Juno, Sword, and Omaha Beaches.
“As our boat touched sand and the ramp went down, I became a visitor to hell,” said Pvt. Charles Neighbor, a veteran of Omaha Beach. By nightfall, the other four beaches were held with forces pushing between two and four miles inland. At Omaha, Allied soldiers continued to fight against pockets of resistance.
D-Day cost the lives of 4,413 Allied soldiers and between 4,000 and 9,000 Germans. The remaining pockets of resistance on Omaha Beach were conquered on June 7, and the Allies began the long push to Berlin. The War in Europe would rage for nearly another year before Victory in Europe Day, May 8, 1945.
Every year, the United States team with its Pacific allies for a military exercise in Thailand, Cobra Gold. Cobra Gold is the largest multinational military exercise in which the U.S. participates and has been an ongoing exercise for more than 30 years. In 2015, Cobra Gold included 26 nations, and for the first time, included China. The exercise smooths interoperability between nations in the region, especially when coordinating responses to a crisis, like Tsunamis and Typhoons.
The operation consists of a live fire exercise, a command post exercise, and (as with many military exercises) an operation to benefit the local population. There is also a jungle survival Training exercise where Thai Marines train U.S. troops to find water, which foods are safe to eat (scorpions!), and famously, demonstrate how they subdue a Cobra.
After the jungle training, those in attendance are given the option to participate in the Thai custom of drinking the Cobra’s blood.
It was an uphill battle, according to Kaj Larsen, a fellow SEAL and friend of WATM who helped campaign for Greitens. The outgoing governor, Jay Nixon, was ineligible to run for re-election due to the state’s term limits, but Greitens nevertheless faced a tough challenger in current Missouri Attorney Gen. Chris Koster.
“We started with nothing against our opponent’s $11 million,” Larsen wrote on Facebook as Greitens claimed victory in the state. “But when your buddy is in a gunfight, you show up with ammunition to help. For three months straight we outworked our opponent.”
Kaj Larsen introduces Eric Greitens for his victory speech at a hotel in the Chesterfield suburb of St. Louis. (Facebook photo)
Greitens is a Republican who ran against what he saw as corrupt establishment politics; called for banning gifts from lobbyists; advocated instituting term limits for every elected office in Missouri; wants to cut government spending; supports the Second Amendment, and called for more backing of local firefighters and law enforcement officers in the state.
At 42, Greitens is the youngest governor in the United States. This is his first attempt at public office. Republicans have only won the Missouri Governor’s seat once since 1992.
According to his book, “The Heart and the Fist,” Greitens went to Naval Officer Candidate School in January 2001, then went to BUD/S — the basic training course for Navy SEAL candidates — in February 2002.
His awards include the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, among many Achievement and Commendation Medals.
“We’re going to take on the special interests and clean up Jefferson City,” Greitens said in his victory speech as recorded by the Kansas City Star. “Our mission in this campaign was to build a stronger and better Missouri we can take in a new direction.”
Not everyone is thrilled with Greitens’ victory. The most controversial issue surrounding his campaign is his support of making Missouri a “Right-to-Work” state, sapping power from local labor unions.
“It was one of the high honors of my life to introduce my friend and swim buddy last night as he took the stage to give his victory speech,” Larsen wrote on Facebook.
Winning the governorship is a big deal, but as the BUD/S motto goes: The only easy day was yesterday.
Speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C., Lt. Gen. Jon Davis said the review, commissioned by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Jan. 26, would study the two aircraft “apples to apples” to determine whether the 4th-generation Super Hornet can fill the shoes of the brand-new F-35C.
Davis noted that the Marine Corps owns a significant portion of the program’s institutional wisdom as well.
“I probably have the most experienced F-35 pilots in the department of the Navy on my staff right now,” he said.
Mattis’ directive, aimed at finding ways to shave cost off the infamously expensive Joint Strike Fighter program, dictates that the review assess the extent that improvements can be made to the Super Hornet “in order to provide a competitive, cost-effective fighter aircraft alternative.”
Davis said that F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin and Super Hornet maker Boeing would have opportunities to make their case for the aircraft.
However, he said, he expects the study to validate the need to have the technologically advanced F-35C deployed aboard carriers in the future.
“I think it will be a good study, and my sense is we’ll probably have validated the imperative to have a 5th-generation aircraft out there on our nation’s bow,” he said.
If F-35Cs are taken out of the picture as a result of the review, attrition rates of the 4th-generation Super Hornet may become an issue, Davis said, suggesting such a move would limit the aircraft’s ability to deploy in some situations.
“We’re not going backward in time, we’re going forward in time,” he said. “The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, we’re deployed, naval and expeditionary, and we want to make sure our Marines and our sailors have the very best gear in case something bad happens. And that’s 5th-generation airplanes.”