Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

Tom Hanks is no stranger to producing incredible dramas that vividly revive battles and wars of the past.


From Saving Private Ryan to Band of Brothers and onward to the more-recent hit series, The Pacific, Hanks has outdone himself in bringing to light the gritty, true stories of combat throughout the Pacific and European theaters.

Now, Hanks, one of Hollywood’s best war-movie producers, will be teaming with another war-movie legend to tell the tale of the Allied airborne assault on Normandy in advance of the D-Day landings in June of 1944.

That’s right — Tom Hanks will be partnering up with retired U.S. Marine, author, and actor Dale Dye on his newest film project. Called No Better Place to Die, the movie tells the true story of a small group of paratroopers operating behind enemy lines during Mission Boston.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster
A U.S. Army paratrooper prepares to jump into combat on D-Day, June 1944 (Photo U.S. Army)

The actual mission itself, run by the U.S. Army’s 82nd “All American” Airborne Division, was later heralded as one of the most critical factors in ensuring the success of the D-Day amphibious landings.

“This is such an important and dramatic story that I’ve always wondered why no one has made a movie about it,” Dye remarks.

The defense of La Fiere Bridge, a vital part of the mission and the focus of the movie, was easily one of the most grueling engagements the 82nd’s All Americans would find themselves in throughout the war.

Listen to Dale Dye talk about the real story behind his movie and his plan to hire veterans to make it:

“I’m very glad to be teaming with Dale on this project,” Hanks said. He especially notes the importance of enhancing the discussion around D-Day and Operation Overlord with the 75th anniversary of the landings coming up later this year.

Hanks himself was a central character in Saving Private Ryan, playing Captain John Miller, an Army Ranger tasked with searching for and bringing home a paratrooper as part of the Sole Survivor policy, and his brothers were all killed in combat.

This won’t be the first time Hanks and Dye have worked together on a war drama.  In 2001, Dye was featured in Hanks’ mini-series, Band of Brothers, playing Col. Robert Sink, commander of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Before that, Dye had a role in Saving Private Ryan as a War Department officer. The two also worked together on Forrest Gump in 1994.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster
Tom Hanks on the set of Forrest Gump (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In both Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers, as well as Hanks’ recent series, The Pacific, Dye contributed his combat experiences and background as a Marine by advising the production team to ensure accuracy, and by leading actors through a conditioning boot camp to give them a brief yet necessary look into the military lives of the soldiers they would be portraying.

While these silver-screen hits do a lot to share the realities of war and the numerous untold stories of heroism and bravery with the general public, Dye and Hanks will be taking it a step further by actually hiring military veterans to play characters in the new movie. It doesn’t just tell the stories of combat veterans, it helps modern-day veterans, too.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster
Dale Dye speaks to members of the press during the premiere for The Pacific (Photo U.S. Marine Corps)

Dye is no stranger to war, having served in combat in the jungles of Vietnam during the height of the war. Though a combat correspondent by trade, he wound up serving as an assistant machine gunner, volunteering to step outside the wire multiple times, even with a fresh injury from the Tet Offensive of 1968.

Retiring as a captain in 1984 after 20 years of service, both as an enlisted and a commissioned officer, Dye left the Marine Corps with a Bronze Star with a Combat V for his heroism in battle, earned while repeatedly exposing himself to withering enemy fire to rescue fallen comrades, and 3 Purple Hearts for wounds sustained in battle.

Given Dye’s track record with war movies, as both an advisor and an actor, and Hank’s history with WWII dramas, you can bet that No Better Place to Die will be an incredible must-watch when it makes its debut.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This monstrosity was probably Germany’s worst plane

I would write an intro about how, in the end days of World War II, Germany was short on manpower, territory, and resources, but nearly every article about Germany’s failed super weapons starts that way. So, just, you know, remember that Germany was desperate at the end of World War II because Hitler was high on drugs and horrible at planning ahead when he invaded his neighbors.


Natter Assault! Germany’s Vertical Launch Fighter

youtu.be

So, on the list of harebrained schemes that the Nazis turned to in order to stave off their inevitable defeat, the Natter has to be one of the craziest. Basically, because they were low on metal and airstrips and they thought rockets seemed awesome, the Nazis made a single-use, vertically launched, rocket-powered plane that only fired rockets. These were supposed to be “grass snakes” that rose from the forests of Germany and slaughtered Allied bombers.

Oddly enough, the Germans were also critically short of the C-Stoff fuel for the more conventional Me-163 rocket fighter, but they went ahead and used the same fuel for the Natter anyway, leading General of Fighters Adolf Galland to tell a colonel that:

…because of a special SS initiative, a defensive surface-to-air rocket aircraft is supposed to be forced into production. And they will be propelled by C-Agent as well. That is the height of stupidity, but it’s also fact.
Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

“Eh, needs more rockets.”

(Anagoria, CC BY 3.0)

Oh, and, worst of all, the planes couldn’t land without breaking apart.

The Natter, officially designated the Ba-349, was made primarily of wood. It would be strapped to a tree or, in its test flights, a special but cheaply built tower. They would then fire four solid boosters to get the aircraft into the sky before the main rocket motor could kick in.

Assuming everything didn’t go to hell during that not-at-all-dangerous process, the pilot could then maneuver onto incoming bombers and fire up to 24 rockets at them. Since the Natter flew at over twice the speed of a B-17’s max, the pilots really needed to fire their rockets accurately and quickly before they overshot their target.

Once they were out of ammo, the pilot would release the nose and deploy the parachutes. The nose would fall separately from the rest of the plane and, hopefully, the parts would land safely. The parts and the pilot would be recovered and ready for another round.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

“This will save the war.”

(San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

It, uh, did not work properly. On the second unmanned test flight, the flight components hit the ground with fuel remaining. That fuel blew up, destroying the plane. But because the blast wouldn’t have—necessarily—killed the pilot, they went ahead with a manned flight.

That flight went worse. No offense to the Nazi test pilot. On March 1, 1945, Lothar Sieber took off in a Ba-349, but it immediately started flying inverted and climbed into cloud cover. It emerged from the clouds a few minutes later and crashed into the ground, miles away.

The pilot was dead, either from the shock of takeoff, the canopy flying off in flight, or the crash. The plane was destroyed. And everyone finally gave up on the idea of the Natter.

Not that it would have changed much if it had been controllable. The western Allies crossed into Germany about two weeks later, and a few rocket-powered fighters wouldn’t have stopped the advance. But, hey, “Grass Snake” at least looks cool on a T-shirt.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy medical targets ‘platinum 10 minutes’ in future conflicts

Leaders from Navy Medicine spoke about the impact of research and development and highlighted specific research initiatives during a Navy breakout session at the 2018 Military Health System Research Symposium (MHSRS), Aug. 21, 2018.

MHSRS is a scientific meeting focused on the unique medical research needs of the U.S. armed forces and their families. Scientists from across the Department of Defense (DoD) and their partners from across industry and academia share information about current and future research initiatives designed to improve the health, readiness, and survivability of warfighters, on and off the battlefield.


Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, director, medical resources, plans and policy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, spoke to Navy Medicine researchers about the importance of finding solutions to the challenges sailors, Marines, soldiers, and airmen face today and in battle spaces of the future.

“The next fight is going to be very different from what we’ve faced in past conflicts,” said Gillingham. “We need to look beyond the golden hour to the platinum ten minutes. What are we doing to stop the bleeding? What are we doing to ensure our hospital corpsmen have the training they need? I know you are all working on these and other fundamental issues our warfighters face. There’s a tremendous energy and enthusiasm in this room and it’s good to know people of your caliber are tackling these problems.”

Gillingham also challenged the researchers to look to alignment — with the needs of operational forces and each other. He encouraged everyone to do all they could to take advantage of the opportunity MHSRS provides to meet scientists and partners they can work with.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, director, medical resources, plans and policy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and other senior leaders speak at the general officer round-table discussion during the 2018 Military Health System Research Symposium.

“Innovation occurs through the collision and exchange of ideas,” he added. “Are we bumping into the people we can work with at this meeting?”

Echoing that sentiment was Capt. Adam Armstrong, commander, Naval Medical Research Center, whom has oversight of eight research labs located around the globe, who also spoke to the scientists gathered at the Navy breakout session.

“What I like about this meeting is that we can start conversations,” Armstrong said. “We can discuss different aspects of research and we can keep talking and exchanging thoughts. We can take advantage of the synergy in this room and bring it back to our labs and our research.”

In addition to comments from Gillingham and Armstrong, a panel of researchers highlighted a few of Navy Medicine’s current science and technology initiatives, including the use of bacteriophages for the treatment of multidrug-resistant infections, medical evacuations and en route care for injured warfighters, and treatments for motion sickness. These topics will also be presented by Navy Medicine researchers during regular breakout sessions throughout the symposium. Other topics that will be presented Navy scientists include:

  • TBI rehabilitation
  • Telehealth for increasing access to behavioral health care
  • Human performance and survivability in extreme environments
  • Precision medicine in critical care for the injured warfighter
  • Mitigating physiologic episodes in aviation
  • The health and readiness of military families (a new session topic this year, proposed by one of our Navy Medicine researchers)

Looking to the future and the Navy’s Indo-Pacific area of responsibility, military medical research, and development will play an important role in finding solutions to the unique challenges the Navy and Marine Corps team may face in the maritime operational setting and disaggregated operations at sea and ashore.

Navy Medicine West leads (NMW) Navy Medicine’s Western Pacific health care system and global research and development enterprise. Throughout the region, NMW provides medical care to nearly 700,000 beneficiaries across 10 naval hospitals, two dental battalions, and 51 branch clinics located throughout the West Coast of the U.S., Asia, and the Pacific. Globally, NMW also has oversight of eight research laboratories across the U.S. and overseas that deliver high-value, high-impact research products to support and protect the health and readiness of service members.

Featured image: Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, director, medical resources, plans and policy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and other senior leaders speak at the general officer round-table discussion during the 2018 Military Health System Research Symposium.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 5 best beards in military history

The Pentagon can resist all it wants, but beards have made a comeback.

The Official Journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society even conducted a study to explore how individuals with (or without) facial hair are perceived by others. Women rated men with facial hair as more attractive and appearing healthier than those who were clean-shaven — and now male service members want change.


Today’s military men, however, are just going to have to rely on the uniform to gain an edge over civilians — since the advent of the gas mask, facial hair has been strictly regulated by the military. There are certain exceptions, however, such as a new regulation that will allow service members to wear a beard for religious reasons or operations where a beard could help service members blend in better with the local population.

But until the U.S. military embraces the beard, it’ll remain a rare sight on our warriors.

All the more reason to admire the best military beards in history.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

(Electronic Arts)

“Cowboy”

In 2002, Scott Nelson photographed a U.S. Army Special Forces unit in Afghanistan as they began to amp up their pursuit of terrorists in the the area. One of the soldiers photographed goes by the nickname “Cowboy” — and he’s been rather shrouded in mystery ever since.

Nonetheless, it could be argued that he has the OG operator beard — so much so that Danger Close Games used his likeness as inspiration when finding and outfitting the model for their Medal of Honor game.

Something about the tactical environment makes this otherwise-too-long-in-my-opinion beard completely okay.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

Guess why he’s on this list.

Gen. Ambrose Burnside

No list of military facial hair would be complete without the man whose whiskers were so incredible that the world named a patch of facial hair after him.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

Prince Harry and an American wounded warrior in a wheelchair shake hands at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto.

Prince Harry of Wales

The pictures of the bearded prince in his flight suit at the 2015 Battle of Britain Flypast are why I am now in full favor of allowing beards in uniform.

Harry served from 2005-2015, even secretly deploying on combat missions in Afghanistan before his location was publicized and he was pulled out for security reasons. He’s the epitome of cool, he fully recognizes the meaning and importance of service, and he’s proof that a military beard can still look professional.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

Refined AF.

Ulysses S. Grant

The man led the Union to victory and served two terms as president. That is the beard of victory right there.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

Magnificent.

Maj. Gen. George Crook

Crook cut his teeth fighting Native American tribes in Oregon before the Civil War. When he was called on to serve the Union, he used the same tactics in the face of the rebel enemy. His beard is exactly the kind you’d expect from a man the Apaches called “Grey Wolf.”

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MIGHTY TRENDING

3 reasons it’s hard to tell how violent the ‘most violent’ cities in the world are

The most recent ranking of the world’s most violent cities by the Mexican research group Security, Justice, and Peace again drew attention to Latin America, home to 42 of the 50 cities on the list.

Latin America is indeed the most violent region, accounting for about 8% of the global population but tallying roughly one-third of the world’s intentional homicides.

While homicide is not the only kind of violent crime, it is generally considered the best measure of it.


“Of all the different types of crime, homicide is probably the easiest to track because there’s nothing more biologically evident than a dead body,” Robert Muggah, the research director at Brazil’s Igarapé Institute and an expert on crime and crime prevention, told Business Insider.

In most places, there are also legal procedures that authorities are supposed to follow when dealing with homicides.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

Robert Muggah, the research director at Brazil’s Igarapé Institute and an expert on crime and crime prevention.

(YouTube)

“So unlike, say, assault or robbery or sexual violence or domestic abuse, homicide is one of those variables that across time and space is relatively straightforward to capture,” Muggah said, adding that researchers can draw on a panoply of sources — law enforcement, public-health agencies, nongovernmental groups, the press, and the public — to tabulate and track homicides over time.

But, as Latin America illustrates, there are a number of recurrent challenges that arise when collecting homicide data that complicate efforts to make comparisons and compile rankings.

Where did it happen?

“Are we looking at national data, state data, city data, and if we are looking at city data, in this case, how are we defining a city?” Muggah said.

A city’s geographic limits can be defined in a number of ways. The UN has three: the city proper, delineated by administrative boundaries; the urban agglomeration, comprising a contiguous urban area; and the metropolitan area, the boundaries of which are based on social or economic connections.

The populations of each of those areas can vary enormously, as can the number of homicides.

“It turns out cities are surprisingly difficult to define. There is no unified or uniform definition of a city, and this has been a source of some consternation for geographers for over a century,” Muggah said.

The Igarapé Institute eschews homicide rankings but does maintain a Homicide Monitor that compiles data on killings, using the urban-agglomeration definition for cities, Muggah said.

The Mexican group adheres to some set of criteria, requiring minimum population of 300,000 people and excluding places with active conflicts, such as Ukraine or Syria.

But the group says in its methodology that whenever possible it includes all the municipalities that it assesses as part of a city — “localities that form a unique urban system, clearly distinguishable from others, independent of the geographic-administrative divisions inside the countries.”

Muggah and his colleagues noted issues with this method in relation to the 2015 ranking, which found Caracas, Venezuela, to be the most violent city. That year, others also said the group based its tally on the homicide total for the metropolitan area of Cali, in southwest Colombia, and, in their view, overstated the number of homicides.

The group’s ranking for 2018, its most recent, put Tijuana, Mexico, at the top of the list, with a homicide rate of 138.26 per 100,000.

Tijuana has seen a precipitous rise in deadly violence, but the city’s public-security secretary disputed its rank, citing the inclusion of the nearby city of Rosarito, Mexico, in the homicide count and the failure to account for Tijuana’s migrant population.

Security, Justice, and Peace rejected the criticism, saying that it based its population count on official numbers and that excluding Rosarito would have actually raised the homicide rate. (Though it did not say why it assessed Tijuana’s metropolitan area and not those of other cities.)

What’s a homicide?

“It turns out there are many kinds of homicide,” Muggah said. “We have homicide that’s intentional. We have homicide that’s unintentional, which we also call manslaughter. We have homicide committed by police, which sometimes isn’t included in the formal homicide statistics.”

Mexico has experienced an alarming increase in homicides, setting records in 2017 and 2018.

Mexico’s official crime data includes two categories for homicide: “homicidio doloso,” which refers to intentional homicides, and “homicidio culposo,” which refers to manslaughter or unintentional homicides.

The most recent tallies for intentional homicides in Mexico in 2017 and 2018 are 28,868 and 33,369, respectively. The totals for all homicides are 46,640 in 2017 and 50,373 in 2018.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

Missing persons in Mexico.

While official government tabulations distinguish between unintentional and intentional homicides as they are legally defined in those countries, counts by nongovernmental groups, the media, and the public can elide that distinction, grouping different kinds of lethal violence together.

“And that matters,” Muggah said, “because in some countries, including Mexico and Brazil, when you include police lethality, police killings, which fall under a different category, that can actually significantly augment the overall count.”

In many cases, Muggah added, “those deaths are not what you describe as illegal.”

In 2017, Brazil had 63,880 homicides — 175 killings a day — up 3% from 2016 and a record. (Homicides were trending downward through the first nine months of 2018, but full-year data for 2018 is not yet available.)

In 2017, there was also an increase in the number of people killed by Brazil’s police, rising 20% from 2016 to 5,144 people, or 14 a day. Authorities in Rio de Janeiro state have attracted special scrutiny for their lethality, drawing accusations of extrajudicial executions.

Not only where and how you measure, but also when?

Even when homicide data for a full calendar year is available — which is not always the case; Security, Justice, and Peace list in some cases extrapolates from partial-year data — it may change over time.

“In many cases, there are outstanding trials and judicial processes that are ongoing to determine … what in fact that lethal outcome was, and that can take months. It can take years,” Muggah said. “Typically though, there’s a delay when governments produce data to issue this information because they’re still dealing with many of the legalities around sorting out homicide.”

Full-year 2017 crime data for Mexico, released in January 2018, put the number of homicide victims at 29,168.

The most recent data for that year, updated in March 2019, indicates there were 28,868 homicide victims. (The Mexican government changed its methodology at the beginning of 2018 and updated previous tallies to reflect that.)

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

Police on the street in the high crime area of Iztapalapa, Mexico City.

There are also 26,000 unidentified bodies in Mexico’s forensic system, and the government estimates that more than 40,000 people are missing. Hidden graves full of unidentified bodies are frequently found all around Mexico.

All of that — coupled with issues such as a lack of prosecution and suspicions about officials manipulating crime data — means Mexico’s homicide totals are subject to change for the foreseeable future.

“In many countries, Latin America, in particular, there are huge impunity rates and a great gap in processing some of these cases, precisely because of the volume but also the lack of capacity to go through all of these cases, and so there’s a reason” for a delay, Muggah said.

It’s necessary to reflect on violence and trends in crime, but, Muggah added, “the challenge is that many governments are operating at different speeds.”

Relaying on data for only part of a year, or drawing on only certain sources that are readily available can often “unintentionally bias our sample,” Muggah said.

Know what you don’t know.

A challenge for “all of us who are in the business of monitoring and tracking and building systems to better understand criminality is that there are many places or instances where crime, including lethal violence, is not particularly well reported, or if it is reported it’s reported very badly,” Muggah said.

Latin American countries release crime data fairly regularly, but closer examination reveals “great gaps in the data,” especially in parts of Venezuela, Mexico, and Brazil, Muggah said.

“There’ll be reports that … don’t accurately capture the cause of death, and therefore you get misattribution. There’ll be a situation where they just can’t store the bodies because there’s insufficient space, and so you get undercounts,” he said. “There’ll be places where the governments themselves, police in particular, have no incentive to report on lethal violence and therefore will skew the figures.”

Outside the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, a 36-member group that includes most of North America and Europe, available information about crime is also lacking, Muggah said.

“If you go to Africa, with the exception of a few countries, it’s … a knowledge gap around homicide,” he added. That’s also the case in parts of Asia, “where governments just don’t want to report overall statistics on crime, citing it as a national-security issue.”

Incentivizing cities.

In the methodology included in its most recent report, Security, Justice, and Peace said that it compiles the ranking with the objective of “calling attention to violence in cities, particularly in Latin America, so that the leaders are pressured to fulfill their duty to protect the governed to guarantee their right to public security.”

“What we are also looking for is that no one … wants their city or cities to appear in this ranking, and that if their city or cities are [on it] already, they make the maximum effort so they leave it as soon as possible,” the group added.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

Brazilian Federal Highway Police.

There are positive and negative potential effects of inclusion on such a list, Muggah said.

“One hopes that as a positive outcome, [inclusion] would incentivize city leaders, business leaders in cities, civic activists, and common citizens to be alert to the many risks that are there and also to seek and strive to find ways to get themselves off that list,” he said.

Stigmatizing cities.

But there can be negative consequences. Reducing a complicated issue such as personal security to a single metric risks sensationalizing the problem and can skew public perceptions, potentially empowering leaders who push hardline punitive responses, Muggah said.

In some cases, it can “stigmatize cities,” Muggah said, affecting foreign and domestic investment, credit ratings, and business decisions. It can also have a particular effect on local economies, especially for tourism, on which many parts of Latin America rely.

“The hope is that by shining a light … on these challenges that somehow this will provoke” a constructive response from the city, its residents, and its leaders, rallying them around a common goal, such as reducing insecurity and getting off that list, Muggah said.

“It’s not clear yet if that in fact has ever happened, whether these lists have contributed positively to social change, and that might be asking too much of a list,” Muggah said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Under the sea: Russia, China and American control of the waterways

In the summer of 2007, in a bizarre incident shown live on Russian television, scientists accompanied by a couple of senior politicians descended 4,300 meters to the floor of the Arctic Ocean in two Mir mini submarines. Divers then planted a Russian flag on the seabed, and Russia officially notified the United Nations that it was claiming the ridge as part of its sovereign territory.

In effect, the Chinese did the same kind of thing when they decided to start building islands in the South China Sea by dredging sand from the bottom of the ocean.

In both cases, the countries were creating new sovereign territory.


One implication of their declaration was that anyone traveling within the 12-mile limit defined by international law was traversing through their sovereign waters, and could only do so subject to their approval.

Indeed, the Chinese take their claim so seriously that it even threatened that it “is not frightened to fight a war with the US in the region” to protect its sovereignty.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

A Russian flag planted by from a submarine undersea at the North Pole.

So the question is: why do American policymakers care about seemingly insignificant tracts of land so far away from America’s shores?

International law and American concerns

International law is pretty clear. You can’t declare any territory submerged under the sea outside the conventional 12-mile limit as your own, although you may have some privileges in the waters that lie immediately beyond it. You certainly can’t build up some land to above the waterline, thus creating an island, and call it part of your own territory. And in neither case can you legitimately control access by other vessels. Indeed, no international commission has upheld the Russian or Chinese claims. But that hasn’t stopped either the Chinese or the Russians from trying.

Americans, however, are pretty emphatic when it comes to denying such claims have any legitimacy.

In the Russian case, American policymakers were understandably caught off guard and bemused by this strange symbolic act.

But, at the same time, American policymakers have a right to be worried. Climate change could vastly increase sea traffic through the Arctic Ocean. And the future implications of Russian control of these sea-lanes have lots of potential downsides, given recent friction over Ukraine and Syria.

In the Chinese case, Americans were caught off guard and bemused when they shouldn’t have been.

The Chinese have been making claims for a long time about their sovereignty over huge portions of both the East and South China Sea. But in this case, Americans are worried about what China’s control of these waterways might do now to these commercial shipping lanes. Every year an estimated 50% of the world’s total of commercial trade plus oil passes through the area.

Global trade and American national security

The question of why we do care isn’t as obvious as it may seem.

America’s policymakers declare that the maintenance of global trade and commerce is in its national security interests. So America needs to keep these shipping lanes open to what they call “freedom of navigation.”

What that means is that they can send an Aegis class destroyer (so this was a powerful ship, not the equivalent of a coast guards vessel) and sail it past the Subi Reef (think of an island so small it would drive you mad if it was deserted and you had to live on it alone). It’s the equivalent of a drive-by — just to send a message.

Then you put the US secretary of defense on an aircraft carrier, the USS Roosevelt, and do it again — just to ensure that both the Chinese and America’s important regional allies understood the message:. “This isn’t your territory — and our mighty navy is not about to allow you to push us out.”

You might understandably assume that the Chinese, with their huge volume of exports, would also want to maintain open seas. And that the Russians would want to ship oil and gas to keep their economy afloat by water. So there is nothing to worry about.

But that’s where more modest concerns about global trade are replaced by those about deeper, hardcore national security interests. For Americans there is a difference between “our” open seas and “their” open seas.

Freedom of navigation and American doctrine

A central element of American national security doctrine is the notion of “Freedom of Navigation” or FON.

In effect, we (Americans) assert our right to sail where we want, when we need to. Behind that, however, is the deeply embedded concept of “control of the commons..”

Military historian Alfred Thayer Mahan popularized this idea over 130 years ago. He stressed the importance of America’s navy in ensuring the free flow of international trade. The seas were his “commons.”

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

Alfred Thayer Mahan 1840 – 1914.

Mahan argued that the British Empire was able to retain its commercial and military advantage by ensuring its ships could go anywhere. And that it could deny anyone else from doing so, if needed, in times of war. The overriding lesson is that wars are not won on the land. They are won on the sea by denying your adversary access to resources.

Today, Mahan’s work remains a core element of America’s military doctrine. It is taught to America’s naval officers at their major training academy where he himself once worked and where his work is still regarded as having biblical significance. But it no longer is just applied to commercial trade. It now is applied to the access of its military in all kinds of commons — in the air, on the sea, in space and even in cyberspace.

So American policymakers become frustrated when they believe Chinese hackers spy on the US or they build islands because it demonstrates that the US can’t “control” that commons.

The answering message is clear. As Ash Carter, the US Secretary of Defense, said in a speech about Russia “At sea, in the air, in space and in cyberspace, Russian actors have engaged in challenging activities.” Carter went on to make it clear that the US wouldn’t tolerate Russian efforts to control those domains. Responding to Chinese threats, he also clearly implied in the same speech that China’s continued activities could indeed lead to conflict.

The importance of chokepoints

But the sea remains the priority when it comes to controlling the commons.

And Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea offers the prospect that a key trading route located in a narrow strip of water between land masses either side, what they call a chokepoint could be closed by the Chinese, in the future, if not today.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

(US Department of Defense)

The Malacca Strait on the Western end of the South China Sea is one chokepoint — the immediate object of the US’ concern. The Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where much of the world’s oil passes through, is another. And, at least according to the US Congressional Research Service, the Arctic Ocean, where the Russian planted their flag, could become another.

So this leaves the Americans with an abiding dilemma.

They are saddled with a grand military doctrine built on the principle of keeping the globe’s key access points freely accessible to the US. The barely audible counterpart is that it should maintain a capacity to deny that access to any potential adversary in case of war. The doctrine, however, in practice can itself engender conflict — as we saw with the Chinese.

America may have a much bigger military capacity and even newer technologies that allow it to fight conventional wars. But defending the open seaways is expensive and often counterproductive. The Chinese, for example, are the world’s largest importer of fossil fuels and China is far more dependent on foreign oil than the newly fossil fuel independent United States.

So critics ask why the US is defending the Persian Gulf when the Chinese are the prime beneficiaries?

The answer, it appears, has far more to do with military strategy than with global commerce.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy’s ‘agile’ new fleet prepares to counter Russia in the Arctic

In the six months since its activation, the Navy’s 2nd Fleet has bulked up and is embracing its mission in the North Atlantic and the Arctic, where the US and its partners are focused on countering a sophisticated and wily Russian navy.

Second Fleet was deactivated in 2011 for budget reasons — 65 years after being set up to deter the Soviet Union in the Atlantic and around Europe. Most of its assets were shifted to Fleet Forces Command.


The fleet returns amid a shift toward a potential great-power conflict, but the new version will differ from its predecessor by being “leaner, agile, and more expeditionary,” Rear Adm. John Mustin, the fleet’s deputy commander, said Jan. 16, 2019, at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium.

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Rear Adm. John Mustin at Naval Base San Diego, Feb. 24, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Craig Z. Rodarte)

“When I say lean, what does that mean? The staff complement is organized and billeted to be operational. The majority of staff will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training,” Mustin said.

Questions have been raised about how 2nd Fleet will integrate with other numbered fleets — particularly 6th Fleet, which oversees waters around Europe, and 4th Fleet, which is responsible for the Caribbean Sea and waters around Central and South America — but Navy officials have said the goal is not to draw stark lines in the sea.

Second fleet’s primary focus will be working with 6th Fleet and 4th Fleet “to ensure a seamless command and control for force employment — ensuring there is no vulnerability, no seam in the Atlantic,” Lt. Marycate Walsh, a spokesperson for 2nd Fleet, told Business Insider in December 2018.

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US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham hits heavy seas in the Atlantic Ocean, deployed in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 18, 2018.

(Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

Prior to its deactivation, 2nd Fleet was mostly a training command for units getting ready to deploy.

Now, however, the focus is “to develop and dynamically employ maritime forces ready to fight across multiple domains in the Atlantic and Arctic,” Mustin said at the symposium.

“Previously, forces reported to 2nd Fleet when they entered the fleet’s geographic area of operations. Under the new model forces will be assigned once in the final stage of the training cycle and through the end of the period in which forces are available for operational tasking, unless the unit transitions to the control of another numbered fleet,” Walsh told Business Insider in December 2018.

“This allows 2nd Fleet to focus its attention on the development and employment of forces at the highest level of warfare,” Walsh added.

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An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter crewman watches simulated fast-attack craft approach the USS Kearsarge during a Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training exercise, June 24, 2018.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Ryre Arciaga)

Like the stand-up of 2nd Fleet, the Navy’s first East Coast use of Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training — a Top Gun-like exercise meant to impart advanced knowledge of weapons and tactics to surface crews — is part of the effort to train for warfare against an enemy fleet.

Mustin said during his remarks that he was the 18th staff member to report to 2nd Fleet and that by March the command will have 85 people assigned — a “number that will continue on a glide slope that is increasing rapidly,” he said.

To avoid bloat and redundancy, the 2nd Fleet will work with Fleet Forces whenever possible, Mustin said. Both commands are based in Norfolk, Virginia. Ships will be under Fleet Forces’ operational command, while 2nd Fleet will have tactical control.

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A fire controlman trains sailors on firefighting tactics in an engine room l aboard Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 17, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

But the fleet is growing to be fit for purpose and fit for its time, Walsh told Business Insider.

“It makes sense to describe 2nd Fleet in terms of capability rather than in terms of the number of personnel assigned,” Walsh said. Most of the personnel assigned to it will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training, “with only a few staff members focused on higher headquarters administrative functions.”

Mustin also told attendees at the symposium that they could expect 2nd Fleet personnel to be roaming their area of operations — working from forward posts on command ships or from austere locations ashore — while keeping in touch with home base in Norfolk.

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Guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham approaches fleet-replenishment oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys, right, for replenishment-at-sea in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 19, 2018.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

Those personnel will include staffers from allied countries and other partners who are fully integrated rather than assigned as liaisons, said Mustin, who added that surface warfare officers interested in 2nd Fleet had been approaching him at the symposium.

Moreover, plans are to rotate Navy reservists through the fleet to work alongside active-duty sailors, with the goal of keeping those reservists up-to-date. “This is not your grandfather’s 2nd Fleet, or, as my staff likes to point out, my father’s 2nd Fleet,” Mustin said.

Second Fleet will also work on development in other aspects of naval warfare.

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Lt. Gen. Robert Hedelund, commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, and Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of 2nd Fleet, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 27, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nicholas Guevara)

Working with the Naval War College and the Warfare Development Centers, the fleet “will be a hub for the Navy’s concept development and implementation, ensuring that when the Navy operates around the world, it is prepared to compete, fight, and win in great-power competition,” Walsh told Business Insider in December 2018.

In September 2018, the Center for Executive Education at the Naval Postgraduate School led 2nd Fleet staff in a seminar to develop the fleet’s mission set, and in coming months the 2nd Fleet will work with the Naval War College on staff training to “ensure the fleet is equipped to command and control naval forces at the highest level of warfare,” Walsh said, adding that most 2nd Fleet staff will attend the school’s College of Maritime Operational Warfare.

“Going forward, this same kind of integration applies to the employment of the naval forces [that] 2nd Fleet commands,” Walsh added.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 deadliest battles for troops to fight in

For better or worse, the grunts handle the main chunk of the fighting. These are your combat arms troops — infantry, scouts, tankers, artillerymen, etc.


The supply guys in the back can usually get a bit comfy knowing that they probably won’t get called to the front line — except in the case of total war when the front line is so decimated that everyone, back to front, needs to push into the fray.

To quantify the level of suck, we’ve ranked the following battles by a metric that measures the percentage of casualties in relation to troops present on the battlefield and total loss of life from both sides. Thankfully, for today’s troops, full-scale battles aren’t as catastrophic as they were before the advent of modern medicine.

6. Battle of Antietam (Civil War)

Fatality Rate: 3.22%

Starting things off is the single bloodiest day in American military history: Sept. 17, 1862, the Battle of Antietam. Within the span of 12 hours, around 25 percent Union troops and 31 percent of Confederate troops were wounded, captured, or killed. Six Generals died as a result of the battle along with 3,454 other troops.

The battle is considered a Union victory strategically and it paved the way for the Emancipation Proclamation, delivered just five days later. But, when the dust settled outside of Sharpsburg, Maryland, no one knew who won. If the Confederacy waited a few more hours, it could have gone in their favor, Lincoln would have never had the confidence to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, and the South would have had stronger European allies, thus drastically changing the course of the war.

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5. Battle of Gettysburg (Civil War)

Fatality Rate: 4.75%

The three-day battle between Gen. Meade’s Army of the Potomac and Gen. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia would be remembered both as the turning point of the Civil War and for the enormous loss of life.

With between 46,000 and 51,000 casualties on both sides, the Battle of Gettysburg is the costliest battle in U.S. history. The fighting for the “Little Round Top” alone left nearly 1,750 dead.

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Time to do grunt stuff, boys!

4. Battle of Tuyuti (Paraguayan War)

Fatality Rate: 8.71%

The Paraguayan War became the bloodiest of all Latin American wars when Paraguay pushed its boundaries on all sides, unifying the previously-uneasy alliances between Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay.

While the entire war would cost Paraguay nearly 70 percent of its total adult male population, the Battle of Tuyuti cost the Paraguayans nearly their entire force in a failed surprise attack on the Triple Alliance encampment.

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Note to self: Never piss off all of your neighboring countries at the same time.

3. Battle of Okinawa (World War II)

Fatality Rate: 35.48%

The battles of the Pacific Theater finally culminated in one of the last major battles of WWII, which saw the deaths of 240,931 troops and Okinawan conscripts. While the American troops suffered over 82,000 casualties with 14,009 deaths, the Japanese lost up to 80% of their defense forces.

The reason for such a high Japanese death toll is two-fold: First, pitting untrained, conscripted Okinawan civilians against the battle-hardened American forces that fought through the Pacific isn’t exactly an even match. Second, the Japanese refused to surrender. After witnessing the horrors of Okinawa, mental fatigue was widespread among American GIs.

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2. Battle of the Argonne Forest (World War I)

Fatality Rate: 39.48%

The final Allied offensive of World War I was also its bloodiest. For years, German troops pushed down the French and British troops, but they finally managed to stand up again with the aid of the Americans. When H-Hour finally began on Sept. 26th, the Allies expended more ammunition than both sides of the American Civil War – in just the first three hours.

The loss of life was astounding on both sides. 28,000 Germans, 26,277 Americans, and an estimated 70,000 French soldiers were on the push towards Sedan, France. French forces finally managed to recapture the Sedan railway hub in the final days. Then, it was announced that the Armistice was signed on Nov. 11th, 1918, bringing an end to the war.

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It was also the largest American military operation with 1.2 million troops operating under Gen. Pershing’s command.

1. Battle of Cannae (Second Punic War)

Fatality Rate: 53.42%

This battle is remembered throughout history for many reasons. Hannibal’s impressive march on a Roman Army twice as large, the first recorded use of the “Pincer movement,” but also the overwhelming defeat of that massive Roman army.

The scholar Polybius estimated that, of the 86,400 Romans who fought, only 770 Romans made it out alive. The Carthaginian forces managed to only lose 5,700 of their 50,000 and only 200 out of their 10,000 cavalrymen.

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Everyone thought elephants in battle would be a terrible idea until they had to fight elephants in battle.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Global military spending just saw its biggest spike in a decade, but the US outspends everyone else by far

Global military expenditure was $1.917 trillion in 2019, rising 3.6% from 2018 and 7.2% from 2010 to reach the highest level since 1988, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

World military spending decreased steadily in the years after the 2008-2009 global financial crash but has risen in each of the five years since 2015, the latest in what SIPRI researcher Nan Tian described as four phases in military spending over the past 30 years.


The post-Cold War years saw spending decline in what many saw “as a peace-dividend period,” Tian said Tuesday during a webcast hosted by the Stimson Center and SIPRI.

That decline bottomed out around 2000, when the September 11 attacks prompted years of defense-spending increases that peaked around 2010 and 2011, Tian said. Spending fell again in the early 2010s.

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World military expenditure by region from 1988 to 2019. Rough estimates for the Middle East are included in the world totals for 2015-2019.

SIPRI Military Expenditure Database

“But more recently, in the last three years, we really see that spending has really picked up,” Tian said. “The reason is the US announcing really expensive modernization programs … and also the end of austerity measures in many of the world’s global spenders.”

US military spending grew by 5.3% in 2019 to a total of 2 billion — 38% of global military spending. The US’s increase in 2019 was equivalent to all of Germany’s military expenditure that year, SIPRI said.

Military spending in Asia has risen every year since 1989, with China and India, second and third on the list this year, leading the way. (Tian said SIPRI’s numbers for China are higher than Beijing’s because SIPRI includes spending it defines as “military-related.”)

“In the case of India and China, we’ve seen consistent increases over the last 30 years,” Tian said. “While India and China really [were] spending in the early 1990s far less than Western Europe … Chinese spending really starts to pick up since about 2000.”

China’s spending, now several times that of France or the UK, and India’s growing expenditures point to “a change in the global balance,” Tian said.

“Whereas a few years ago we saw … [for] the first time that there are no Western European countries in the top five spenders in the world, this is the first time where we see two Asian countries, in India and China, being within the top three spenders, followed by Russia and Saudi Arabia.”

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Military spending as a share of GDP by country in 2019. The countries with military spending of 4.0% or more of GDP are listed.

SIPRI Military Expenditure Database

Data is not available for all the countries in the Middle East, but Saudi Arabia is by far the biggest spender for which SIPRI could estimate totals. In terms of arms imports, the Middle East “has now the largest share it has ever had since 1950, as a region,” SIPRI senior researcher Siemon Wezeman said on the webcast.

“That’s partly related to ongoing conflicts [and] very strong tensions, Iran vs. the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia. It is a very strong driver of arms imports, especially by the Gulf States,” Wezeman added, noting that Iran, under arms embargo, is not a major weapons importer.

Most of Africa’s military spending, 57%, is done by North African countries. “They have the money,” Wezeman said, “especially Algeria, and Morocco to a lesser extent, are basically the big ones buying there.”

“Many of the other African countries buy a couple of armored vehicles — a helicopter here, a little aircraft there — and do that every few years. That’s basically their armed forces,” Wezeman said, adding that fighting insurgencies, like Boko Haram, or peacekeeping, as in Somalia, also drove increased military spending.

Sub-Saharan Africa has seen “extremely volatile spending” in recent years, related to the many armed conflicts there, Tian said.

“As countries need to fight … they need to allocate resources to the military. But conflicts, of course, are extremely destructive on a country’s economy,” Tian added. “So we see that countries are increasing spending one year, decreasing spending another year.”

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A Croatian army Hedgehog Battery conducts a Vulkan M-92 Mobile Multiple Launch Rocket System live-fire training at Bemowo Piskie, Poland, December 5, 2018.

Sgt. Arturo Guzman/US Army National Guard

Overall military expenditures by Western European nations fell slightly between 2010 and 2019, but Eastern European countries have increased their military spending by 35% over the past decade.

“Some of this is really down to a reaction to the perceived threats of Russia,” as well as the replacement of Soviet-era equipment and purchase of US and NATO equipment, Tian said.

“European countries, aside from seeing a bigger threat from Russia, also are going through a cycle of replacing their fourth-generation combat aircraft with fifth-generation combat aircraft. So there is a big load of new combat aircraft, mostly or almost all of them US-exported weapons, going to Europe,” Wezeman added.

But an economic contraction sparked by the coronavirus pandemic is likely to bring down military expenditures.

“We’ve seen this historically following the ’08-’09 crisis, where many countries in Europe really cut back on military spending,” Tian said, noting that military spending as a share of GDP might increase if “GDP falls and spending doesn’t decrease as much as GDP.”

This time around, spending in Europe may “be stronger in the coming years” despite the coronavirus, Wezeman said, “because the contracts … in many cases have been signed.”

Below, you can see who the top 10 defense spenders were and how much of the world’s military expenditures they accounted for in 2019.

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The first operational F-35A Lightning II is welcomed to the Japanese Self-Defense Force’s 3rd Air Wing, at Misawa Air Base, February 24, 2018.

US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton

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A British paratrooper prepares to load a helicopter in a simulated medical evacuation during the Swift Response 16 exercise in Hohenfels, Germany, June 17, 2016.

Sgt. Seth Plagenza/US Army

5. Saudi Arabia, .9 billion — down 16% from 2018 and 3.2% of the world total.

Saudi Arabia’s 2019 defense spending and its share of the world total are estimates by SIPRI.

2. China, 1 billion — up 5.1% from 2018 and 14% of the world total.

China’s 2019 defense spending and its share of the world total are estimates by SIPRI.

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The future US Navy aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy as its dry dock is flooded three, October 29, 2019.

US Navy/Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Adam Ferrero

1. United States, 2 billion — up 5.3% from 2018 and 38% of the world total.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The US is now buying this air defense weapon from Israel

When we talk about American arms deals, usually the United States is the seller, and almost everyone else is the buyer (if they know what’s good for them). But this time, Israel has the technology that everyone in the air defense arena should aspire to, especially in terms of protecting people from missile attacks.


The Israelis have had to perfect their surface-to-air missile tech, especially when it comes to intercepting missiles and rockets while in mid-flight. The Jewish state has been taking random rocket, mortar, and missile attacks from anti-Israel terrorist organizations like Hamas, based in the Gaza Strip to Israel’s south and Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, to Israel’s north. Currently, the system is a short-range interceptor system, but its effectiveness is its primary selling point.

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According to the Israel Defense Forces, the Iron Dome’s high rate of success can be repeated almost anywhere, given that the system is a mobile, all-weather system. In 2011, before its widespread deployment, the Iron Dome successfully intercepted four of the five rockets fired by Palestinian militants at the city of Beersheba. The next year, when IDF troops invaded the Gaza Strip, Hamas Qassam rockets were successfully intercepted 75-90 percent of the time, with some 300 rockets being fired at Israel.

This kind of success rate far outpaces the U.S. Patriot missile batteries, which is around 50 percent most of the time but can be as high as 75 to 85 percent. Given this success and the dire need for short-range anti-missile batteries in NATO-allied Europe, the 7 million deal is an easy win for both parties. Israel’s Iron Dome beat out similar weapons from Boeing and General Dynamics Land Systems’ Stryker during short-range air defense operation demonstrations at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

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Israel’s Iron Dome Missile Defense System intercepts an incoming projectile during 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense.

(Photo by Emanuel Yellin)

The United States currently used its THAAD missile defense system to protect Europe from short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missile threats but does not have short-range surface-to-air defense systems in place as of now. The best part about the Iron Dome deal for the United States is the all-weather mobility the system offers as well as the ability of the Iron Dome’s Tamir missiles to fire at multiple targets simultaneously, at different ranges.

Articles

5 little-known facts about R. Lee Ermey, the military’s favorite Gunny

Editor’s Note: On April 15, 2018, R. Lee Ermey passed away from complications of pneumonia. His long time manager, Bill Rogin, made the announcement via Ermey’s twitter handle. In honor of his passing, We Are The Mighty is proud to share these facts about America’s favorite Gunny.

Most people know R. Lee Ermey from his role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket.” And if you somehow joined the military and never saw “Full Metal Jacket,” the first question anyone would ask is “How is that even possible?” But the second would be “How much do you know about this guy, anyway?”


Ermey didn’t go right into acting and if it weren’t for his Marine Corps-level determination, we might never know him at all. Which would be a shame, because his life before and after “Full Metal Jacket” is equally interesting.

1. His first job after the military was untraditional.

Ermey was medically retired from the Marine Corps and was at a loss about what to do as a civilian. He told Entertainment Weekly in a 1997 interview that he “bought a run-down bar and whorehouse” in Okinawa. He had to leave the business behind when the Japanese FBI caught wind of his black marketing. He escaped to the Philippines, where he met his wife.

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What Ermey actually looked like as a Drill Instructor in 1968.

2. His first role was an Army helicopter pilot.

It was while in the Philippines that the future Gunnery Sergeant was cast in “Apocalypse Now” by Francis Ford Coppola himself. Ermey was studying drama and did a number of Filipino films before Coppola discovered him. You can see him in yet another legendary war movie scene.

Coppola also hired him as the film’s technical advisor for all thing military.

Also read: 7 ooh-rah tips from the career of R. Lee Ermey

3. He wasn’t supposed to be in “Full Metal Jacket.”

Ermey was doing his job as technical advisor, reading the part of Sgt. Hartman while interviewing extras for the film. They already hired another actor for the part but Ermey had a plan to get the part. He got the job as technical advisor because of his other roles in Vietnam movies. He taped the interviews he did as Hartman and Kubrick cast him after seeing those tapes.

Interestingly enough, Ermey wrote the insults he hurled at the Marines in the film. Kubrick never gave him input on what a drill instructor might say. He wrote 150 pages of insults.

4. Ermey is the only Marine to be promoted after retiring.

He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant after spending 14 months in Vietnam and doing two tours in Okinawa. He was medically retired for the injuries he received during his service. But it was in 2002, that Marine Corps Commandant James L. Jones promoted Ermey to E-7, Gunnery Sergeant, the rank he became so well-known for. It was the first and only time the Corps has promoted a retiree.

5. He originally joined the Corps to stay out of jail – and almost went Navy.

In the old days, joining the military was an option for at-risk youth and juvenile delinquents to avoid real jail time. Ermey was arrested twice as a teen. He admits to being a bit of a hell-raiser. And he didn’t even know about the Marine Corps the day he decided to join.

 

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Actor and Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey (center on right) with his 1966 Marine recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“Basically a silver-haired judge, a kindly old judge, looked down at me and said ‘this is the second time I’ve seen you up here and it looks like we’re going to have to do something about this,” Ermey told a gathering in 2010. He wanted to join the Navy because his father was in the Navy, but they rejected him on the grounds that he was a troublemaker.

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This is why you don’t mess with South Korean pilots

When you look at South Korea, this is a country that has a need to be very ready to fight for its survival. This is particularly true for the pilots in the Republic of Korea Air Force. If South Korea were to lose a war with North Korea, the ones who survive the war and who are captured will be unluckier than those who are killed in action.


 

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Three F-15K Slam Eagles fromt he South Korean Air Force participate in ‘Red Flag Alaska.’ (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

 

Hyperbole? Well, just look at the “re-education camps” that the North Vietnamese used after they conquered South Vietnam. The stakes are at least that high for South Korean military officers should South Korea fall to the North.

 

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South Korean P-51 Mustangs. (AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM)

As you can imagine, these pilots train a lot. South Korea has often taken part in Red Flag Alaska, where American and allied pilots train for war. But the Republic of Korea’s Air Force is also very powerful in its own right – flying high-tech fighter jets that are made in South Korea. That is a far cry from when it was flying second-hand P-51 Mustangs during the Korean War.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster

According to FlightGlobal.com, South Korea has 169 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons, 59 F-15K Slam Eagles (comparable to the F-15E Strike Eagle), 71 F-4Es, 158 F-5Es, 20 FA-50s, 80 T-50s, and 36 F-5Fs in service. This is one of the most modern air forces in the world. By comparison, North Korea has 35 MiG-29s, 56 MiG-25s, and still relies on nearly 200 J-5 and J-6s, which are Chinese copies of the MiG-17 Fresco and MiG-19 Farmer, respectively.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster
The KA-50 light multi-role fighter, based on the T-50 Golden Eagle trainer. (Republic of Korea Air Force photo)

The combination of good planes and well-trained pilots is a very difficult one to defeat. South Korea stands a very good chance of being able to take control of the air should hostilities break out with North Korea.

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.

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‘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.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster
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.

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster
Graham and Charley in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster
Graham and Charley in Bayeux

Tom Hanks is teaming up with Dale Dye for a new D-Day blockbuster
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!

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