Many Russia-watchers are questioning or makinglight of the Foreign Ministry’s surprise appointment of Steven Seagal as a special envoy for humanitarian ties with the United States — but not the action-film actor himself.
“I take this honour very seriously,” Seagal tweeted late on Aug 5, a day after the Russian Foreign Ministry announced the appointment on Facebook.
Seagal, who has warm ties with President Vladimir Putin and was granted Russian citizenship in 2016, said he was “deeply humbled and honoured” by the appointment.
“I hope we can strive for peace, harmony, and positive results in the world,” Seagal wrote.
Seagal, 66, starred in Hollywood action movies such as Above The Law (1988), Hard To Kill (1990), and Under Siege (1992). His films were popular in the Soviet Union and then in Russia and other ex-Soviet republics.
Seagal has vehemently defended Putin’s policies, including Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, along with criticizing the U.S. government.
Kyiv last year banned Seagal from entering Ukraine for five years, citing what it said were national security grounds.
The Russian Foreign Ministry statement said that Seagal’s task will be to “foster the further development of Russian-American relations in the humanitarian sphere, including interactions in… culture, the arts, public and youth exchanges, and so forth.”
The position is not paid and will be similar to the United Nations’ goodwill ambassador positions, the statement said.
Twenty-six bones, 33 joints, and over 100 ligaments. That’s not your body we’re talking about — that’s just your feet. It’s an awful lot of moving parts to pack into a foot-long space. Throw on 180 or so pounds on top of that, and then consider that if you exercise, every running step you take multiplies the impact of your weight threefold, and you can see the kind of pressure your delicate foot structure is under day in and day out.
The perks of strengthening your feet are multifaceted. First, strong feet give your legs a durable base to push off from when you’re running, cycling, squatting, or doing whatever it is you like to do to stay fit. Second, strong feet are more resistant to foot pain, one of the most common sources of bodily aches right up there with back pain. Tight arches, sore heels, plantar fasciitis — all of these complaints are met with a physical therapist’s advice to build foot strength. By pre-emptively exercising your digits, you might avoid the pain altogether.
Make sense? Great. Here are 7 exercises to get you started. The whole series takes about 20 minutes and you should do it several times a week.
1. Towel scrunch
Sit in a chair with bare feet. Place a towel on the floor, about two feet in front on the chair. Using the toes on your right foot, extend your digits across the towel, then contract them, scrunching your toes together and pulling the fabric close to your chair. Release the towel and extend your toes against, grabbing more fabric and you scrunch them together. Continue reaching and scrunching until you have created a balled-up towel in front of your chair. Do three times.
Sit in a chair, feet flat on the floor in front of you. Place one hand on either knee. Press down with your arms while simultaneously lifting your heels off the floor, resisting the pressure and rising onto your toes. Release. Do 3 sets of 10 reps.
3. Pick-up game
Take the pieces to your favorite board game like Monopoly (chess and checkers work, too), and scatter them on the floor. Sit in a chair in the middle of the mess. Using only your toes, grab, lift, and carry each piece to a nearby bucket where they will be stored. Continue until floor is clean. Bring the kids in on this one — it’s a family favorite.
Tie an exercise band around the leg of a couch or bed. Sit on the floor, about two feet from the bed, and tie the other end of the band around your midfoot so that there is pressure on the band. Begin to flex and point your foot, keeping resistance on the band the whole time. Do 20 reps on one foot, then switch sides and repeat. Do three full sets.
5. Calf raises
The same exercise that tones your calves also builds strength and stability in your ankles. You can do these exercises with both feet at once, or one at a time. Stand facing a wall, about a foot away. Placing hands on the wall for balance as needed, rise up onto your toes and back down, making sure you roll up to the very top each time. Do 3 sets of 12 reps.
Stand in the middle of a room, feet shoulder-width apart. Shift your weight to the right side and lift your left foot off the floor 6 inches. Close your eyes. Attempt to count to 30 (30 seconds) while balancing with eyes closed. Repeat on opposite side.
7. Alphabet game
Stand next to a wall, feet shoulder-width apart. Shift weight to the right side and lift your left foot in front of you, knee bent. Trying to maintain your balance (use the wall for support if necessary), begin to trace the letters of the alphabet in the air with your left foot. Work from A to Z, then switch sides and repeat.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
From the American Revolution and beyond, Black service members have had an irreplaceable role in the trajectory and success of the United States military. Their contributions have helped shape the outcome of individual battles and missions, as well as paved the way for changes regarding equality in the armed forces. Here are three service members who each played unique and incredibly important roles during their time in the service.
Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James Jr.
Pilot and instructor of the famous Tuskegee Airmen, history’s first Black military pilots, Gen. James has an untouchable legacy of accomplishments. From the time he was young, Chappie, a nickname gifted by his brother, had always wanted to be a pilot. At 19, he would become a Tuskegee graduate and respected instructor. In July of 1943, as a Second Lieutenant, he became a pilot and member of the Tuskegee Airmen.
His time as a fighter pilot only bolstered his reputation. During the Korean War, he flew over 100 combat missions. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1950, for his leadership over a flight of F-51 Mustangs (a 1947 re-designation of the legendary P-51) during a close air support mission for U.N. troops, which saved U.S. soldiers from a serious and fatal threat.
Following the Korean War, James quickly began rising in the ranks, and by 1967, as a colonel, he became Vice Wing Commander of the Eighth Tactical Fighter Wing in Thailand, and flew 78 combat missions over North Vietnam. The most notable of which being Operation Bolo, which is considered to be one of the most successful tactical missions against Vietnamese fighter forces during that time.
In addition to all of James’s war efforts, he made an important impact on issues of racial equality, both within and outside of the military. One of his first assignments with the Tuskegee Airmen involved training in B-25 Mitchells at the Freeman Field in Indiana. Here, a group of Black service members were arrested and charged with mutiny and disobeying orders when they entered a “white only” officers’ club. When asked to sign an order supporting the need for racial segregation, James, along with 100 other Black officers, refused to do so. James, who was a Lieutenant at the time, was instrumental in aiding communication between those who were arrested and those in the public, in order to bring attention to what was happening. This incident led to Henry Stimson, the Secretary of War at the time, to ban access to facilities based on race, including officers’ clubs.
In 1975, James became the first Black four-star general in the armed forces. He was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1993. Prior to his death in 1978, he was asked to reflect on his life and service in the United States military, to which he responded, “I’ve fought in three wars and three more wouldn’t be too many to defend my country. I love America and as she has weaknesses or ills, I’ll hold her hand.”
Brig. Gen. Hazel Johnson-Brown
Following President Truman’s ban on segregation and discrimination in the military in 1955, Johnson-Brown joined the U.S. Army, having previously graduated from the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing. She served in the Army from 1955 to 1983, becoming the first Black female Brigadier General in 1979.
Her unparalleled skills as a nurse as well as her leadership capabilities contributed greatly to her successes throughout her career. Her ability to lead was evident when, over time, she was named both Director of the Walter Reed Army Institute School of Nursing as well as Chief Army Nurse in South Korea. She was also named the first Black Chief of the United States Army Nursing Corps, which granted her the distinguished responsibility of not only overseeing 7,000 Army nurses, but also the entirety of eight Army medical centers, 56 community hospitals, and 143 freestanding clinics both in the United States and around the world.
During her time in the Army, she received numerous awards and recognition for her work and contributions. Among them were the Army Commendation Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Meritorious Service Award, Legion of Merit as well as being named Army Nurse of the Year twice. Her time in the service was spent at a variety of medical facilities, some of the most notable being Valley Forge General Hospital and the 8169 Hospital, Camp Zama, Japan.
Johnson-Brown’s ability to lead and inspire continued in her life as a civilian following retirement. She was a professor of nursing at Georgetown University, as well as George Mason University in Virginia, where she played a large role in developing and implementing the Center for Health Policy, which aimed not only to educate nurses in health policy and policy design, but to also actively involve them in the process.
She was also an advocate for racial equality, and was said by many to have challenged the inequalities she witnessed. In reference to a recent promotion, Johnson-Brown was asked about the potential impact of her race on her advancement, to which she responded “Race is an incidence of birth. I hope the criterion for selection didn’t include race but competence.”
Doris “Dorie” Miller
A perfect example of an unsung hero, Dorie Miller’s bravery and actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor saved countless lives and helped change history. As a means to provide more financial stability for his family, Miller enlisted in the Navy in 1939. He received training in Virginia and was promoted to Mess Attendant Third Class which, due to existing segregation in the Navy, was one of the few ranks afforded to Black service members at the time.
In 1940, Miller was transferred from the USS Pyro, to the USS West Virginia, which was where he was on December 7th, 1941. What was a normal work day for him, which began with gathering laundry, quickly shifted to what would become his defining moment. Upon hearing an alarm sound, Miller then went to his assigned battle station, which had already been destroyed by a torpedo, so he returned to seek reassignment.
Since Miller had the well known reputation of being the ships heavy-weight boxing champion, he was tasked with helping wounded soldiers to safety, which included the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Mervyn Sharp Bennion, who had been severely injured.
Following that, Miller was ordered to begin feeding ammunition into an unmanned .50-caliber Browning machine gun, despite having never been trained to use them due to his rank. He manned not one but two of these weapons until he ran out of ammunition and the USS West Virginia began to sink. He was one of the last three men to abandon ship.
In recognition of his actions and heroism, Miller was awarded the Navy Cross, by Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz. At the time, this was the third-highest combat related Naval award, and Miller was the first Black sailor to be awarded the medal. He was also the recipient of a Purple Heart, World War II Victory Medal, Asiatic-Pacifc Campaign Medal and the American Defense Service Medal.
While it has never been definitively proven just how tactically effective Miller’s manning of weapons was, his dedication to protection and service in the face of adversity is what makes him such an integral part of history. Miller continued his service until November 24th, 1943, when he and two-thirds of the crew of the USS Liscome Bay died or went missing following a Japanese torpedo strike. The USS Miller, a U.S. Navy Knox class destroyer, was launched in 1972, with its name honoring Dorie.
The United Service Organizations, or USO, has gone above and beyond to serve those in uniform. It’s their mission to strengthen America’s military by keeping service men and women happy and connected to their families back home.
The USO has been the driving force behind entertainment programs and families service for nearly 80 years across more than 200 locations worldwide, including Germany, Djibouti, and Afghanistan.
“When we were off-mission, the USO tents were the go-to spot for all the troops.” Army veteran Eric Milzarski says.
(Photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth, 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. Public Affairs Office)
With all the great press the private organization has earned, a lot of little things get lost in the shuffle. Here are a few things you might not know about this highly patriotic service.
Their unique history
In 1941, President Roosevelt wanted to bring together several service associations to boost U.S. military morale and bring some of the comforts of home to the front. Those associations included the Salvation Army, Young Men’s Christian Association, Young Women’s Christian Association, National Catholic Community Services, National Travelers Aid Association, and the National Jewish Welfare Board.
Together, they formed the USO.
Bette Davis doing her part at New York City’s famed USO the Stage Door Canteen .
They work with tons of celebrities, but…
Mark Wahlberg, Gary Sinise, and Scarlett Johansson have all donated their time to visit deployed troops and have toured bases overseas — which we think is badass.
But back in the 1940s, many celebrities acted as waiters for deployed troops and, sometimes, enjoyed a dance or two with their favorite Marine, sailor, or soldier.
Their outstanding outreach
With more than 200 location worldwide, the not-for-profit organization has catered to the needs of roughly seven million service members and their families. Currently, there are four USO centers located in Afghanistan that average more than 25,000 visitors per month.
USO is mobile
In 1942, mobile USO canteens (which were, basically, trucks with generators) toured throughout the 48 contiguous states. These trucks carried screens, projectors, and speakers to play the popular films and records of the time. In 2017, Mobile USO delivered programs and services to 26 states, covering 50,000 miles and impacted more than two million service members and their families.
To those who work at the USO as volunteers, we salute you.
Troops always like feeling appreciated. A simple “good job” at the right time can go a long way in improving the morale of a unit. You can even take it a step further by expressing your gratitude to troops in many different ways: by releasing them early, taking them out for chow, going a little easier on them throughout the work week — you name it.
Then, there’s the Certificate of Appreciation. Given its name, it may seem like a good thing, but if you’re the type of leader that puts a troop in for one of these after they’ve worked their ass off for an extended period of time, well, you might as well just tell them they’re garbage.
Keep in mind, the Certificate of Appreciation is different from a Certificate of Achievement. They look exactly alike, have the same acronym, and they’re often treated the same way at ceremonies — but the one for achievement is actually worth something: Five promotion points each, to be exact, for a maximum of 20 points. It’s not huge, but it’s something.
2nd Lts. handing them out is fine, because it’s the best they can do and they’re at least trying to do something nice. Company commanders and above who can argue for higher have no excuse.
The other key difference between these two certificates is the approving authority involved. A Certificate of Achievement has to go through the battalion commander for approval. The Certificate of Appreciation, on the other hand, can be signed by literally anyone in the unit because all it tells a troop is that someone appreciates them. Despite that, if you look at who most often hands them out, it’s Lieutenant Colonels in battalion commander positions.
If that troop royally f*cked up, fine. But there’s nothing more discouraging than seeing everyone else get something better while you’re stuck with a CoA.
Don’t get this twisted — not every action warrants official recognition. If a troop did something great or put forth a little extra effort, but it’s still well within the scope of their normal duties — like if a commo soldier brought the NIPR net back up at a critical moment — then it’s the right amount of reward. You can even make it a huge thing and officially let the unit know that you appreciate the hard work that a certain soldier put forth at the right moment.
This becomes a problem when the act was actually deserving of an award — like what happens to the many troops who “earn” one as an end-of-tour award. Troops who put heart into what they do get burnt out because they’ve earned far better than what they’re being given. Certificates of Appreciations like that are what sour it for the entire military. If you’re going to go through that extra effort to congratulate them, then make it actually matter.
It’s also costs the same amount of money on behalf of the unit, since the troops have to go out and buy the damn medal themselves after the ceremony.
If you actually want to show a troop they’re appreciated, let them know. Hell, you can even keep the exact same format— bring the troop in front of the formation and personally thank them for what they did. Just replace the “military’s version of a high five” with an actual high five.
But when that exact same level of effort on the leadership’s part that could be put toward something that actually matters? Please don’t insult your troops like that. Hell, an Army Achievement Medal is also approved at a battalion commander-level and that could actually make a difference on a troop’s morale by appearing on their uniform — if they’ve done something worthy of it.
Long after around 7,800 soldiers died in the three day battle of Gettysburg, tourists and ghosts hunters claim to encounter the fallen.
The remote village offers over ten different ghost tours that run year round for guests to get a glimpse of the supernatural at several prominent sites from the battlefield. People report the sunken gut feelings along with hearing faint echos of the battle that occurred.
The site of the infamous downhill bayonet charge at Little Round Top is a common location for sightings of energy balls (or will-o’-wisps) spiraling around the forests. Captured on photo, many believe it to be enough proof that they need.
Another hot spot for spirits in Gettysburg is Sach’s Bridge. The 100-foot expanse not too far from the battlefield is frequently covered in fog.
A group of paranormal investigators went to the bridge to try and get photos or EVP recordings. While there, the fog came back in. They say that they saw lights, heard the sounds, and claim shadowy figures rushed past them.
And then there’s the graveyard.
Visiting the graveyard at night is can be unsettling. The fog returns and ghost hunters say that the ghosts want them to leave. The wind ‘pushes’ the visitors away from the grave stones.
Now, there is a perfectly logical reason for all of these. The will-o’wisps of Gettysburg could be floating dust and pollen, since most sightings of “orbs” come during the spring time. There’s nothing supernatural about fog appearing before sunrise and lingering throughout the day. And even in the final picture, snow melting from the gravestone first isn’t unique.
Skeptics can poke holes in nearly everything about the paranormal activities in Gettysburg as being hyped by the locals to keep tourism up. Still, nothing takes away the gut feeling of being on the hallowed grounds of the most pivotal battle in American history.
Despite high demand, there are only a handful of B-1B Lancer bombers available to take off at a moment’s notice.
The head of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), Air Force Gen. John Hyten, told Senate Armed Services Committee members the service has only six bombers that are ready to deploy.
“We have B-1B bombers; this is the workhorse of the Air Force today,” Hyten said during his tense confirmation hearing to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Right now, of all of our B-1 bombers, we have six of them that are fully mission capable: five split between Ellsworth Air Force Base [South Dakota] and Dyess Air Force Base [Texas], one is a test aircraft, 15 B-1s are in depot,” he said. “The remaining 39 of 44 B-1s at Ellsworth and at Dyess are down for a variety of discrepancies and inspections.”
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer, 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, Air Force Central Command, takes off from Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Gracie I. Lee)
Hyten said the B-1 has borne the brunt of constant deployment cycles.
“We saw issues in the B-1 because we’re just beating the heck out of them, deploying them, deploying them. And so we had to pull back a little bit and get after fixing those issues. And the depots can do that if they have stable funding,” he said.
Gen. Tim Ray, commander of AFGSC, agreed that demand has outstripped available aircraft.
Earlier in 2019, Ray said the Air Force overcommitted its only supersonic heavy payload bomber to operations in the Middle East over the last decade, causing it to deteriorate more quickly than expected.
“We overextended the B-1s in [U.S. Central Command],” he told reporters during a breakfast with reporters April 17, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Ray said that’s why he recalled the aircraft to the U.S. to receive upgrades and maintenance to prepare for the next high-end fight.
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber and F-15E Strike Eagle fly in formation during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Clayton Cupit)
“Normally, you would commit — [with] any bomber or any modern combat aircraft — about 40 percent of the airplanes in your possession as a force, [not including those] in depot,” he explained. “We were probably approaching the 65 to 70 percent commit rate [for] well over a decade. So the wear and tear on the crews, the maintainers, and certainly the airplane, that was my cause for asking for us to get out of the CENTCOM fight.”
Last year, B-1s returned to the Middle East for the first time in nearly two-and-a-half years to take over strike missions from the B-52 Stratofortress. The last rotation of bombers from Dyess returned home March 11, 2019, according to Air Force Magazine.
By the end of March 2019, Ray had ordered a stand-down, marking the second fleetwide pause in about a year.
AFGSC officials said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged “drogue chute” incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet. Ray said his immediate concern was for the aircrews’ safety.
The aircraft resumed flights April 23, 2019.
The command again grounded the fleet over safety concerns last year over a problem also related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. Officials ordered a stand-down June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected.
A U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bomber and F-15E Strike Eagles fly in formation during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01, Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Clayton Cupit)
That pause was the direct result of an emergency landing made by a Dyess-based B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas.
Then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation that the B-1 had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn’t blow during an earlier in-flight problem.
Lawmakers took note this summer: The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee in its markup of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act requested that the Air Force offer a plan for how it will address the B-1’s problems. Committee members were aware that the B-1’s availability rates were in the single digits, according to Air Force Times.
The B-1’s mission-capable rate — the ability to fly at any given time to conduct operations — is 51.75%, according to fiscal 2018 estimates, Air Force Times recently reported. By comparison, its bomber cousins, the B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress, have mission-capable rates of 60.7% and 69.3%, respectively.
The Air Force has 62 Lancers in its fleet. It plans to retire the bombers in 2036.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
We’re all familiar with the weapons the GIs carried during World War II, but a gun just ain’t much use without the ammo. The GIs, as Star Trek‘s Scotty once famously admonished, needed the right bullets for the right job.
The ammo that the GIs used ranged from the famous .45 ACP to powerful artillery rounds. In a training film, released in 1943 and linked below, the Army took the time to show what the more common rounds could do.
For most WWII-era artillery, the effective range was quite short. Anti-tank guns, for instance, were rarely impactful against targets more than a thousand yards away. Today, anti-tank missiles, like the BGM-71 tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missile, reach out about two and a half miles or more. The bazooka, potent at 200 yards, has its modern counterpart in the FGM-148 Javelin, which kills tanks over 2,000 yards away.
It’s also interesting to note that the ammo and weapons are quite versatile. The Browning BAR, primarily known as an automatic rifle intended to send hot lead downrange at enemy troops, was also an effective option against enemy aircraft. The 37mm and 57mm anti-tank guns weren’t exclusively useful against enemy tanks, but also against pillboxes and other fortifications. The M2 .50-caliber machine gun was devastating against aircraft and troops alike.
As Russia’s government pulled out all the stops on May 9, 2018, to celebrate the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany and to remember the estimated 25 million Soviets who died during the war, historian Konstantin Bogoslavsky was working to shed light on the fate of Soviet POWs “abandoned” by their own government.
The savagery of Hitler’s war on the Soviet Union is widely documented, but many details remain elusive about the plight of Red Army prisoners.
Their exact number will never be known for sure, but estimates of Soviet Red Army soldiers taken prisoner during World War II range from 4 million to 6 million. About two-thirds of those captured by the Germans — more than 3 million troops — had died by the time their comrades captured Berlin in May 1945.
The archives of the Soviet People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs were recently digitized, and Bogoslavsky has been studying the wartime correspondence between the Soviet government and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Geneva-based international organization that tried to aid prisoners, the wounded, and refugees during the war.
“Already on June 23, 1941, the Red Cross sent a telegram to [Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav] Molotov offering its assistance to the Soviet Union during the war,” Bogoslavsky told RFE/RL. “Molotov confirmed his interest.”
In the first weeks of the conflict, Germany and the Soviet Union both confirmed they would adhere to international conventions on the treatment of prisoners. However, it quickly became clear that neither side intended to keep its commitment.
In the first six months of the war, as the Germans raced across the Soviet Union to the outskirts of Moscow, more than 3 million Red Army soldiers were taken prisoner, often as a result of encirclement as Soviet officials refused to allow them to retreat or failed even to issue orders.
According to the archival materials, Bogoslavsky said, the Axis powers offered to exchange lists of prisoners with the Soviets in December 1941. Molotov’s deputy, Andrei Vyshinsky, wrote to his boss that a list of German prisoners had been compiled and advised that it be released to prevent harm to the Soviet Union’s reputation.
“But Molotov wrote on the message, ‘…don’t send the lists (the Germans are violating legal and other norms),'” Bogoslavsky said. “After that, almost all the letters and telegrams received from the Red Cross…were marked by Molotov as ‘Do Not Respond.'”
The Soviet government adopted this policy as a result of a cold-blooded calculus.
“By the end of 1941, more than 3 million people had been taken prisoner, and one of the Soviet leadership’s goals was to control this avalanche,” Bogoslavsky said. “A Soviet soldier had to understand that if he was captured, he wouldn’t be getting any food parcels from the Red Cross and he wouldn’t be sending any postcards to his loved ones. He had to know that the only thing awaiting him there was inevitable death.”
One Soviet document issued under Stalin’s signature, the historian noted, asserted that “the panic-monger, the coward, and the deserter are worse than the enemy.”
In addition, the Soviet government refused to allow any Red Cross representatives into its own notorious prison camps, where they might stumble on secrets of Stalin’s prewar repressions.
“The distribution of food and medicine to prisoners was carried out by representatives of the Red Cross, and that would have meant allowing them access to camps in the Soviet Union,” Bogoslavsky said. “The Soviet leadership was categorically opposed to that. Despite numerous requests, Red Cross representatives were never given visas to travel to the Soviet Union.”
“Of course, the entire responsibility for the mass deaths of Soviet prisoners must fall on the leadership of the Third Reich,” he added. “But Stalin’s government, in my opinion, was guilty of not giving moral support or material assistance to its own soldiers, who were simply abandoned.”
In March 1943, Molotov wrote a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union William Standley, who had forwarded an offer from the Vatican to facilitate an exchange of information about Soviet prisoners being held by the Germans.
“I have the honor of reporting that at the present time this matter does not interest the Soviet government,” Molotov wrote. “Conveying to the government of the United States our gratitude for its attention to Soviet prisoners, I ask you to accept my assurances of my most profound respect for you, Mr. Ambassador.”
During the course of the war, the Soviet government also refused to cooperate with the governments of German allies Finland and Romania on the prisoners issue. Soviet prisoners in Finland did receive Red Cross packages that were organized by a charity in Switzerland and distributed in Finland on a unilateral basis.
In 1942, Romania offered to release 1,018 of the worst-off Soviet prisoners in exchange for a list of Romanians being held by the Soviet Union.
“The Soviet leadership simply ignored that offer,” Bogoslavsky said.
“The Soviet Union was the only country that refused to cooperate with the Red Cross and did not even allow Red Cross delegations onto its territory,” he added. “Germany did not work with the Red Cross in connection with Soviet prisoners, but it did cooperate concerning those of its Western enemies — the Americans, the British, and the French.”
The misfortunes of many Soviet POWs did not end when the guns fell silent.
“It is a myth that all those who returned from POW camps were sent to the gulag,” Bogoslavsky said. “The NKVD (Soviet secret police) set up special camps for checking and filtering returning prisoners. According to historian [Viktor] Zemskov, about 1.5 million former prisoners passed through the filtration process. Of them, about 245,000 were repressed.”
The smell of crisp pine in the air and the peaceful quietness of nothing but the rushing of emerald green glacial rivers as they flow down the side of a mountain describes most of the state of Washington. However, this heart-stopping landscape has a potentially lethal side that can claim even the most experienced hikers. But, luckily for those in northern Washington, there’s a highly trained group of Sailors ready to answer the call.
Video produced by Jonathan Snyder, Defense Media Activity
From the frigid waters of the Puget Sound to the dense tree canopies of the Olympic forest to the towering rock facades of the Cascade Mountain Range, Sailors from the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island Search and Rescue (NASWI SAR) team provide 24-hour SAR for the fixed winged assets in the area, as well as the civilian population. While most squadrons in the fleet have multi-mission platforms, Whidbey Island SAR’s one focus is rescue.
“Generally, helicopter squadrons around the fleet, whether they’re a Romeo or Sierra Squadron, they’re going to have a multi-mission platform. Those helicopters, pilots and flight crews need to be able to do a multitude set of missions, from the Romeo side, which is hunting subs and possible rescues, where the Sierra side could go from rescue, logistics and anti-mine warfare. Unfortunately, they don’t get to really ever focus on one,” said Lt. Chris Pitcher, NAWSI SAR operations officer. “Our job is to go out and save people, whether it’s pulling them out from the water or from the side of a mountain, and we train almost every day for those different scenarios. So when those scenarios do pop up, we’re not surprised, and we can get the job done and get that person to a higher level of care.”
Because of this, NAWSI SAR is the only squadron in the fleet that is outfitted with an advance life-support helicopter platform. It allows crews to not only save pilots in case of emergencies, but also work with local hospitals and emergency rooms to provide care for anyone in need of medical attention.
“We are a fully outfitted, advance life-support helicopter platform,” said Chief Hospital Corpsman Wayne Papalski, NAWSI SAR’s flight paramedics lead chief petty officer. He explained that the team operates the same way as first responders who save lives after someone calls 911 for a family member. “We strive to mirror ourselves with the civilian community, so that way we can have that continuum of care that started in the civilian community and continue to a local hospital.”
With the millions of visitors the Pacific Northwest sees every year, NAWSI SAR has not only performed rescues in the Cascades and Olympic National Parks, but also in Idaho, Oregon and even Canada. This has made the Sailors learn to quickly adapt to changing environments.
“The terrain here is pretty diverse. You have the ocean that can range from mid 50s to high 40s. You have mountain ranges that can have some of the densest forest with 200-foot firs to some the rockiest sheer rock cliff faces that you can imagine. And once you get past the other side of the Cascades, it turns from this nice coastal 60 degrees here in Whidbey Island into this dry desert that reaches 110 to 112 degrees,” said Pitcher. “It just depends on what the mission calls for, and to be ready to be able to respond to any kind of situation, because, obviously, if the jets go that far, we need to be able to respond.”
The unpredictable landscape has made Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Francisco Toledo learn to be uncomfortable, he said. But he also said that the only way to become comfortable is by constant training.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from, we kind of check your ego at the door. We have our own training syllabus, so when you check in, you start from scratch using what you learned previously in the fleet to come up here to make yourself a better aviator or crewman,” said Papalski. “We have a pretty robust training syllabus that takes you throughout the entire state to all of our local working areas. Pretty much any situation that you will probably face as a qualified crewman or pilot, we try to put you in.”
Because of the level of difficulty and danger of the job, Sailors said it leaves a lasting memory. Most believe that when they look back at their careers someday, they will consider their time at Whidbey to be some of the best years they have had.
“Looking back at my four years here, I’ll tell you this is the best command I’ve been at. It’s just been an amazing and humbling experience, getting to do what I got to do up here, and what some of my brothers and sisters in the other room got to do to help people,” said Papalski. “When you look back at your career 20 or 30 years from now and know that you actually did something that was giving more than you were taking, it means a lot.”
Virginia Hall was one of the most successful espionage operatives of World War II, earning not only the contempt of the Gestapo, but also the Distinguished Service Cross — the only civilian woman to be so honored. As a spy, she organized agent networks, recruited the local population of occupied France to run safe houses, and aided in the escape of Allied prisoners of war.
Oh, and she did it all with a wooden leg named ‘Cuthbert.’
Hall’s story is coming to the big screen in the feature film A Call To Spy, written and produced by Sarah Megan Thomas, who also plays “the limping lady” herself alongside Stana Katic (Castle, Absentia) as Vera Atkins and Radhika Apte (Andhadhun) as Noor Inayat Khan.
A Call To Spy features the unsung spies of Winston Churchill’s Secret Army — including their personal sacrifices, particular challenges and dangers, and social barriers that still resonate today.
Watch the trailer right here:
Virginia Hall was recruited by British spymaster Vera Atkins to report on German troop movements and recruit members for the resistance in France. Posturing as an American news reporter, she encoded messages into news broadcasts and passed encrypted missives to her contacts.
She signed up with the U.S. Office of Strategic Service and in 1944 she organized missions to sabotage the Germans. She is credited with more jailbreaks, sabotage missions, and leaks of troop movements than any other spy in France.
In a conversation with Thomas, I asked why she was drawn to tell this particular story. “I loved James Bond. I loved Dunkirk and 1917. But by and large, if a woman is in a military film, the story involves a romance — and I know they have more significant roles than that,” she told me. “I studied World War II spies extensively and finally uncovered the women in Churchill’s Secret Army. For my film, I decided to concentrate on women who were part of the mission before it became a success.”
In studying women’s roles in particular during World War II, Thomas was surprised to discover just how many untold stories there actually are.
“In 1941, we were losing the war. Americans hadn’t yet joined the Allies. Women were recruited as an experiment. They were sent in because they were inconspicuous, they were unexpected. And it turned out they were very good spies,” Thomas observed.
“I was also surprised at how different the women were. Their only commonality was that they spoke French — but they came from all walks of life,” she explained. As women are featured more and more in stories previously centered on men, audiences are seeing the spectrum of personalities and strengths they have to offer.
A Call To Spy won the Audience Choice Award at Whistler Film Festival and the ADL Stand Up Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Thomas’ previous Sony Pictures Classic film Equity, a film about women on Wall Street, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Thomas created the concept, co-wrote the story, produced, and starred in the film alongside Anna Gunn.
“It’s important to tell all stories. It’s important to tell original stories. There are so many interesting stories yet to be told, and with the female lens we’re starting to see change happening. It’s exciting for diverse voices everywhere,” she told me.
A Call To Spy shares the 2020 challenge of being released during the COVID-19 pandemic. For an independent filmmaker, it came with a whole new host of challenges to solve. “We don’t have a $50 million press budget — we need word of mouth,” she explained. The film screened successfully and won awards at festivals before the pandemic, but afterwards Thomas and her team had to pivot.
She’s been following her own advice for emerging filmmakers: “Just do the work. It’s a difficult profession no matter what level you’re at — don’t let that be daunting. The right people will say yes at the right time.” Thomas is currently working on a mini-series that is a spin-off of the film.
“Audiences can expect a thrilling and entertaining spy film, but I also hope after they watch that there’s something to discuss on a personal level. How many people would put their lives on the line with such difficult odds? Right now we’re at a global crossroads — what sacrifices are we willing to make for each other?” she pondered.
Please, please, please. Don’t ask this question. We are trying very hard to live in la la land. Right now that date is spoiling everything and haunting our every thought. Do you go to buy milk at the grocery store and cry when you happen to see THAT date on it? No? We do. We know you mean well, but instead of reminding us of impending doom….distract us. Oh, and don’t ask when he’s coming home either.
Uh….we don’t have a choice. We are the lucky ones that fell head over heels in love with a man that happened to be in the military. It’s not something we chose, but someONE. If you really love someone, you’ll make whatever sacrifice necessary. And by the way…it’s not ALL bad! I truly love this life. Have you ever had a homecoming? You’ll never experience what I feel is the most amazing event EVER. I do it because I love him; I do it because I love military life.
Just stop. Have you met a military spouse? We don’t ask for help. You don’t survive this life by being weak – we do it all ourselves. We fall into bed at the end of a very long day wondering how we’re going to do it again tomorrow and the next day for the next…how many days do we have left? In order to help us out, please be pushy. Try mowing the lawn without asking. I will never forget when I was cleaning the house one day only to look out the window and see my neighbor mowing the front lawn. He GOT it. And of course I cried. Someone noticed and didn’t make me ask for it. Yeah, maybe you don’t want to just show up with dinner because you don’t know our plans for that night…so instead pop a gift card to Panera in the mail. Or bring a dinner you prepared and froze to be used when we’re having that day. Tell her you feel the need to hang with the kids for a few hours at the park – we’ll know you are lying. But we’ll pretend you’re not. The point is, just do it. TELL us what you are doing. If you give us the opportunity to say no, we will.
5. How do you do it all?
Through God’s unending grace. Grace has become something I’ve been clinging to over the last several months. I always thought of grace as in forgiveness. To me they were simple synonyms. But man, God’s grace is so much more than that. It’s not just forgiveness for my screw-ups, it’s allowing me to screw up in the first place. See, I’m no longer afraid to fail. I WILL fail. It is something I have only now learned – I am not superwoman though non-military members will tell you so. I think that gets in your head after a while. We constantly worry that to everyone else we at least look like we have it altogether and I’m sure most of us take pride in that. But we forget that it’s okay to be a broken mess sometimes. We simply can’t be perfect. Once we begin to accept that, so much stress just seems to dissipate. Our life is stressful enough, don’t carry the baggage of being superwoman on top of it.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.