American dudes with rifles make a quick stop in Libya and no one knows why - We Are The Mighty
Articles

American dudes with rifles make a quick stop in Libya and no one knows why

A U.S. Air Force C-146A landed unannounced (and apparently uninvited) at Libya’s al-Watiyeh airbase last weekend. The numbers on the airplane that landed at the base Southwest of Tripoli match with craft assigned to the 524th Special Operations Squadron. Once on the ground, it dispatched a number of personnel, presumably American special operators.


The team of armed men wearing civilian clothes deplaned after 6am on December 14, 2015 without any cooperation from local authorities, which is why they were asked to take off. Their arrival had just enough time for the Libyan Air Force to broadcast them on social media.

The visit comes at a crucial time in Libya’s post-Qaddafi history. Factions of fractured Libya formed coalitions, militias and legislatures to claim legitimacy as the true head of government. One faction is Islamist-based and controls the traditional capital of Tripoli. The other is the democratically-elected, internationally-recognized government with the support of the Libyan Army, based in Tobruk. The two have been fighting since 2014.

The same week the U.S. special forces landed at al-Watiyeh, the two factions signed a UN-brokered peace accord to form a unity government while ISIS launched their own “Islamic police force” in the Libyan city of Sirte. Sirte is a former stronghold of support for deposed dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s regime. The elected government will control the air base in the UN deal.

Aviation enthusiasts tracked the plane’s entire journey, and then tweeted it.

The purpose of the short layover is not yet known. The plane is part of the U.S. Air Force’s fleet of unassuming special-ops planes with civilian call signs. (The Air Force has 17 of these.)  According to Inquisitr, when the Libyan Air Force personnel asked the assumed special forces members why they were there, the soldiers replied that they were part of a larger operation held “in coordination with other members of the Libyan army.” The forces were turned away anyway.

Articles

This elite Nepalese warrior fought 40 train robbers all by himself

If a bad guy wants to mess with someone, they should probably make sure that someone is not a Gurkha.


Gurkha are a legendary class of Nepalese warriors whose lineage dates back to the Middle Ages. Gurkhas fought first against the British during the colonial era, and the Brits were so impressed by their ability in combat, they decided to enlist them in their military efforts.

They’ve been with the British since the days of the British East India company, through to World War II, and even through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their distinctive knife, the Khukuri, is symbolic of their heroism, bravery, and skill in combat.

Gurkhas in Afghanistan

A true testament to their ability is praise for their prowess from friend and foe alike. Indian Army Chief of Staff Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, once stated “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha.” Prince Charles once said, “In the world there is only one secure place, that’s when you are between Gurkhas.” Osama bin Laden once claimed he would “eat Americans alive” if he had Gurkhas on his side. Adolf Hitler said of them, “If I had Gurkhas, no armies in the world would defeat me.”

Gurkhas in the process of defeating Hitler in 1943.

On Sep. 2, 2010, when Bishnu Prasad Shrestha was returning home after a voluntary retirement from the Indian Army, the train incident happened. At around midnight on the Maurya Express train from Ranchi to Gorakhpur, 40 armed bandits boarded the train and started looting the passengers. He allowed himself to be robbed by the gun- and knife-toting train robbers. When they soon began to mess with an 18-year-old girl in front of her parents, who were watching helplessly, he couldn’t sit down any longer. Shrestha lost it.

He took out his Khukuri and fought the entire group of 40 robbers single-handedly, killing three of them and injuring eight others. The rest fled. After the incident, he explained:

“They started snatching jewelry, cell phones, cash, laptops and other belongings from the passengers. They had carried out their robbery with swords, blades and pistols. The pistols may have been fake as they didn’t fire. The girl cried for help, saying ´You are a soldier, please save a sister.’ I prevented her from being raped, thinking of her as my own sister. 

During the fight, he took a serious knife wound on his left hand and the girl took a small cut on her neck. He was able to recover what the bandits stole, 200 cell phones, 40 laptops, a significant amount of jewelry, and nearly $10,000 in cash.

Shrestha in the hospital after the train fight.

When the intended rape victim’s family offered him a large cash reward, he refused it, saying:

“Fighting the enemy in battle is my duty as a soldier. Taking on the thugs on the train was my duty as a human being.”

Bishnu Prasad Shrestha held himself to the traditions of his Gurkha regiment and training. Today, Gurkhas fight with British, American, Indian, Nepalese, and Malaysian forces all over the world. After their service ends, they usually return to Nepal to become subsistence farmers. In 2009, the United Kingdom granted pensions at settlement rights to any Gurkha who served the UK for at least four years.

Check the WATM podcast to hear the author and other veterans discuss how the Gurkhas became feared warriors.

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | StitcherMore Subscribe Options

Articles

The world’s two biggest terror groups may go head to head in Syria

Experts have been warning for a while now that Al Qaeda is still very much a presence as a jihadist group, posing perhaps an even bigger long-term threat than ISIS.


And now, Al Qaeda is planning to challenge ISIS in its stronghold — Syria.

American and European officials told The New York Times recently that Al Qaeda has started moving veteran operatives to Syria as the group plans to escalate its fight with ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh), which operated under the Al Qaeda umbrella until the two groups split off and became rivals.

And though ISIS has been grabbing most headlines with its gruesome propaganda machine and bold proclamations about building a “caliphate” that will take over the world, Al Qaeda has been quietly focusing on its strategy to be the last group standing when the dust settles.

Al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front fighters carry their weapons on the back of a pickup truck during the release of Lebanese soldiers and policemen in Arsal, eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. | YouTube

Al Qaeda is now “taking an opportunity off of what ISIS did” to make itself a main focus of the West’s fight against terror, Ali Soufan, the CEO of strategic-security firm The Soufan Group, said earlier this month at a national-security conference at Fordham University in New York.

“What ISIS did made so many people in the Muslim world think, ‘Al Qaeda are the good guys. ISIS are the bad guys,'” said Soufan, a former FBI special agent who has investigated high-profile terror cases.

“Even when you hear some people testifying on Capitol Hill that, ‘It’s OK. Let’s support al-Nusra or let’s support Ahrar al-Sham because they probably will fight ISIS’ — well al-Nusra is … an official affiliate of Al Qaeda in Syria,” he continued, referencing the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is fighting ISIS for control of territory in Syria.

While ISIS has made a show of its excessive violence — through beheading videos and other propaganda distributed online in several languages — Al Qaeda has been more cautious. The group holds the same brutal ideology to which ISIS subscribes, but it’s been more patient with winning over the Syrian population.

“You can see Al Qaeda taking advantage thinking strategically,” Soufan said. “ISIS is not thinking strategically. ISIS is just doing crazy stuff, a lot of violence, trying to bring a lot of people in.”

And while ISIS has lured thousands to its territory with its violent advertising and declaration of the “caliphate,” or pseudo-state ruled by a strict interpretation of Islamic law, recent reports indicate that fighter defections within the group are increasing and the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS territory has slowed. On top of that, the group has been losing territory without gaining much new land.

“ISIS is becoming like a smoke screen. We’re all looking at ISIS all the time. ‘Oh, look, ISIS, they did a video, or they put out another thing of Dabiq,'” Soufan said, referring to the group’s English-language online propaganda magazine.

He added: “They are technically more advanced than Al Qaeda, but I think Al Qaeda is looking into the long term.”

ISIS fighters in Syria | YouTube

Al Qaeda’s strategy seems to be predicated on waiting for Syrians to slowly come around to the idea of Islamic rule. That lowers the chance of a successful uprising if Jabhat al-Nusra is able to establish Syria as an Islamic “emirate” — land that would be controlled by the group and run under strict Islamic law, similar to ISIS’ so-called caliphate.

Charles Lister, a fellow at the Middle East Institute who has written a book on the insurgency in Syria, said at a recent event in Washington, DC, that Al Qaeda has sought to grow not just acceptance of its rule in Syria, but also support from the general population. He also assessed that Al Qaeda is playing a long game.

“This is an organization that has spent the last five years growing durable, deep roots in Syrian opposition and revolutionary society,” Lister said. “ISIS, on the other hand, has shallow roots. It hasn’t deigned to acquire popular support — it controls populations.”

Al Qaeda’s emirate might now come sooner rather than later — The Times reported that the Al Qaeda operatives being funneled into Syria have been told to start creating a headquarters in Syria and to lay the groundwork for establishing an emirate. The emirate would be in direct competition with ISIS.

Eric Schmitt wrote in The Times that Al Qaeda establishing an emirate in Syria would mark a “significant shift.” Al Qaeda has so far resisted declaring an emirate — it’s part of the group’s long-term strategy to avoid acting too hastily before leaders feel confident that fighters could hold the territory they seize.

Syrians on the ground seem to have been expecting this for a while.

Ahmad al-Soud, the commander and founder of the Syrian rebel group Division 13, told Business Insider earlier this year that “Nusra’s stated goal throughout all of Syria from when they first started until today is to turn Syria into an Islamic emirate.”

“They don’t want any other armed group in Syria except for them, and they want to turn it into kind of what Afghanistan was under the Taliban,” al-Soud said. “Once they … get rid of all the other groups, [Jabhat al-Nusra] can finally duke it out between them and ISIS for who’s the worst.”

Schmitt notes in The Times that “establishing a more enduring presence in Syria would present the group with an invaluable opportunity” because it would “not only be within closer striking distance of Europe but also benefit from the recruiting and logistical support of fighters from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.”

With the collapse of the ceasefire in Syria, the timing might be good for Al Qaeda to increase its presence there. The ceasefire — between the regime of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad and the rebels who oppose his rule — never applied to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS, but it allowed the Syrian government and its allies to focus its fire on jihadists rather than moderate rebels.

Additionally, the West seems to have focused mostly on hitting ISIS in Syria — US officials are emphasizing operations to drive ISIS out of its strongholds in Syria and Iraq and deprive them of more territory.

The dysfunction in Syria provides the perfect vacuum for Al Qaeda to move in and exploit.

Soufan explained:

Al Qaeda’s position is, “Let’s create a lot of these vacuums where there is no strong government, and let’s operate under a different name.” Bin Laden actually, before he died, in his letters, he was telling Al Qaeda, “Do not use Al Qaeda’s name. I do not want anyone to use Al Qaeda’s name, because the moment you use Al Qaeda’s name, the West and the locals are going to come and they’re going to beat you up.”

Al Qaeda has done this in Syria with Jabhat al-Nusra, which is always referred to as such rather than simply “Al Qaeda.”

Articles

4 reasons the Navy needs more ships

The Washington Free Beacon reported last week that the Navy has stated in its latest Force Structure Assessment that it needs a larger force – setting an ideal goal of 355 ships, an increase from the 308 requested in the 2014 update. Currently, the Navy has 273 ships that are deployable.


Two carriers in the South China Sea. | US Navy photo

Why does the Navy need all those ships? Here’s a list:

China is modernizing and getting aggressive

China’s Houbei-class (Type 022) fast-attack craft. | Congressional Research Service

The theft of a U.S. Navy unmanned underwater vehicle is just the latest in a series of incidents where China has been crossing the line. There have been buzzing incidents in the South China Sea that have gotten very close to Navy electronic surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft. They also have built unsinkable aircraft carriers on some islands in the maritime hot spot. USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) carried out a stealth freedom of navigation exercise earlier this year without incident, but with the buzzing incidents, the next one could get rough.

With the South China Sea becoming a potential free-for-all, the Navy may want more ships.

Russia is modernizing and getting aggressive

Concept photo of Russian Projekt 20386 littoral combat ship. (Photo from Thai Military and Region blog)

Maybe it’s the way they snatched Crimea, or their actions in Syria and the Ukraine, but it is obvious that Russia is also acting up in a manner that doesn’t bode well for American allies in Europe.

Aside from the Kuznetsov follies — notably the splash landings — the Russians are modernizing their fleet. They seem to have come up with a littoral combat ship design that outguns the Navy’s.

Iran may need a smackdown

Iran has threatened Navy aircraft, harassed U.S. Navy vessels, and is developing a knockoff of the S-300. It is also a major sponsor of terrorism, is still pursuing nuclear weapons, and is buying weapons from Russia.

While ISIS is one threat, Iran is lurking as well.

The Littoral Combat Ship needs work

Let’s face it, if we were looking for a new Coast Guard cutter, the littoral combat ship would have been fine. But the Navy needs smaller combatants because there will be a need to handle some of the dirty jobs, like mine warfare.

But with engine problems, the littoral combat ship is having trouble getting its sea legs, if you will. The Navy may well need to look at buying some other ships to buy time to figure out how to fix the technical problems, maybe accessorize it a little, and to figure out what to do with these ships.

Articles

7 mysteriously missing body parts of military leaders

When dictators get toppled or governments change, things get chaotic, to say the least. Sometimes a despotic leader gets to escape to Saudi Arabia to live the rest of his life, presumably not eating people.


Looking at you, Idi Amin. You know what you did.

Democracies tend to have a more peaceful transfer of power, ones that don’t involve revolutionaries storming buildings and stringing people up. But in any conflict, there is always the chance that something will get lost to history.

I’m willing to bet these seven military leaders didn’t expect to end up as a decoration somewhere.

1. Oliver Cromwell’s Head

Cromwell has been called a lot of things: tyrant, dictator, hero. It all depends on your point of view. When he died in 1658, the state gave the former Lord Protector of England a fine funeral under his son, the new Lord Protector, Richard.

Unfortunately, Richard sucked at his job and the monarchy was restored. The new king, Charles II put everyone who killed his father, King Charles I, on trial immediately, with no exceptions. This included Oliver Cromwell’s corpse.

Beat that, Game of Thrones.

Cromwell’s dead body unsurprisingly stayed silent on his guilt or innocence, was pronounced guilty, and hanged. He was then beheaded and the head put on a spike outside Parliament.

For like, 20 years.

In 1685, a storm blew the spike down, and sent the head flying into Parliament Square. It was picked up by guard who secretly took it home to sell it for cash. Instead, he got cold feet and hid it in the chimney until the day he died.

No, this is not another stupid Jeff Dunham bit.

To make a long story short, the head was sold from collector to collector for a full 301 years before it was reburied in Cambridge.

2. Napoleon Bonaparte’s Penis

In 2007, Evan Lattimer’s father died. From him, she inherited Napoleon Bonaparte’s penis even though the French government swears the little corporal is not that of the Emperor.

Napoleon or not, someone’s penis is missing.

In 1821, he died in exile on the island of St. Helena and while the British weren’t watching, the Corsican conducting Napoleon’s autopsy cut off a few pieces for some reason.

It traveled around the world for decades, eventually ending up under the bed of American urologist John Kingsley Lattimer, who put it there and seldom showed anyone because “Dad believed that urology should be proper and decent and not a joke.”

3. Benito Mussolini’s Leg and Brain

Mussolini met a pretty ignominious end during WWII. He was captured by Italian anti-Fascist partisans, beaten and then strung up by his feet. The U.S. Army ordered the bodies taken down and eventually placed Il Duce in la tomba.

I hope they buried his fashion sense with him.

His unmarked grave was found by three young fascists who dug him up and took the body from place to place, eventually ending up in a monastery near Milan. By the time his body was found, it was missing a leg. The legless body was interred in his family crypt in Predappio.

The fun doesn’t stop there. While the body was in American custody, an autopsy was performed on the dictator’s brain. The Americans took half of the brain in an attempt to study what makes a dictator, returning it in 1966.

Can you imagine the shipping costs for a head that size?

Every now and again, however, vials pop up on eBay, claiming to be the Italian’s remains. His leg was never found.

4. King Badu Bonsu’s Head

Dutch colonists in what is today called Ghana got pretty pissed when the Chief of the local Ahanta tribe killed two Dutch messengers, cut their heads off, and put them on his throne.

Kinda like that, but with severed heads.

The Dutch, slightly miffed at having their citizens used as decoration, responded the way most colonizers would – with a punitive expedition. They captured Badu Bonsu and lopped off his head. This time, instead of putting it on a chair, they put it in a jar. Of formaldehyde.

He looks thrilled about it.

Fast forward two hundred years later, the Netherlands have gracefully decided to give the old man’s head back to his home country. You might think the people who happened to be carrying around the pickled head of an African chief might keep track of it but no. It was found locked in a closet where it had presumably been for 170 years.

5. Che Guevara’s Hair

The Cuban revolutionary met his end in Bolivia in 1967, executed by Bolivian forces. His hands were cut off as proof and his body was thrown into an unmarked grave. But, like the people who surrounded Napoleon after his death, someone with access to Guevara’s body decided to take home a souvenir.

The person who happened to be present and bury Guevara was also a CIA spook. He kept a scrapbook that included photos, documents, fingerprints, and a lock of Guevara’s hair. In 2007, it was all sold at auction for $100,000.

6. Geronimo’s Skull

In 2009, native tribes sued the Yale University secret society known as the Order of Skull and Bones. They alleged the group had the skull of Apache leader Geronimo on display in the clubhouse. And the Apaches wanted it back.

There’s a lot of things Native Americans probably want back.

Geronimo died as a POW at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 1909. A Skull and Bones legend says Prescott Bush, father of George H.W. Bush and grandfather to George W. Bush, dug up the Apache’s body and stole the skull and other bones. He then brought it to the clubhouse in New Haven, Connecticut.

7. Thomas Paine’s Entire Body

Unlike everyone else on this list whose head or skull was stolen after death, Thomas Paine’s good friend John Jarvis was already thinking about getting his hands on the famous patriot’s noggin. Paine, of course, asked Jarvis to leave his bones the hell alone. When Paine died in 1809, they did just that. For a while. Somebody dug his body up ten years later.

Since Paine died a drunk in New York, very few people were present for his funeral. Wanting to give Paine a proper burial, newspaper editor William Cobbett and some friends exhumed Paine with the intent of moving his body to England.

The only problem happened when the body got to England – Cobbett couldn’t afford the burial. The old editor stashed the remains in his attic, where Tom Paine remained until Cobbett died. After that, no one knows what happened to the Revolutionary author.

Articles

An ode to the Zeppelin, arguably the worst idea in aviation history

Sure, you can think of history as the grand narrative of human progress—but the past is also full of examples of really dumb ideas. Here’s one we can’t get over: the rigid airship, better known as the Zeppelin after a particularly successful design. Invented in Germany in the late 19th century, Zeppelins were hailed as a milestone of air travel. They were also completely ridiculous. Here’s why.


You could travel faster in your car

Wikipedia

Why do people subject themselves to air travel at all? Simple: planes get us where we need to go as quickly as possible. You might think that there was a similar rationale behind Zeppelins and other rigid airships—but you’d be dead wrong. The max speed of the classic Graf Zeppelin? a staggering 80 miles per hour. The famous Hindenburg was a bit better—at 84 MPH. Sure, the fact that it could cross the Atlantic in two and a half days was impressive compared with the five days required for an ocean liner trip, but, as I hope my next two points will make clear, that’s still way too long to allow yourself to be inside a Zeppelin.

They were filled with (extremely) flammable gas

Wikipedia

You’ve heard about the 1937 Hindenburg disaster (pictured above), but that was scarcely the only time an airship burst into flames. Some, like the Imperial German Navy L 10, exploded after being struck by lightning. Others went up in flames, killing all crew and passengers, for no apparent reason. And let’s not forget that Zeppelins were a staple method of military transport, including air raids, during WWI, meaning they were prime targets for enemy fire: slow-moving, enormous, and a single spark could take the whole thing down.

A gust of wind could flip a stationary Zeppelin upright

Wikipedia

This 1927 photograph of the USS Los Angeles shows one of the many hazards of Zeppelin travel: while docked, a gust of wind caused the airship’s tail to rise straight up in the air, a “sudden increase in lift which was not controllable.” If that’s not scary enough on its own, check out the interior of a passenger cabin, which (unsurprisingly for the 1920s) had nary a seatbelt in sight. Ouch.

Wikipedia

Winds could really mess with a Zeppelin even when they didn’t turn them on end: many of history’s airship disasters involved a Zeppelin simply floating away uncontrollably, with or without people inside.

Articles

It will make you angry to learn how a veteran lost $100k in benefits

Before you read any further, the lesson here is don’t listen to anyone with an opinion about your VA benefits. Even when the Department of Veterans Affairs makes a “final” decision on your case, you can still appeal. So, don’t listen to your Staff Sergeant. Anyone still wearing a uniform is not an expert on your personal VA claim.


Unfortunately, this happens a lot more frequently than you might think. That’s where Moses Maddox comes in. Maddox is more than just a veteran who advocates for his fellow vets. For almost a decade, the former Marine has built a career in helping other veterans with personal, academic, financial, and success counseling through various organizations.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify

Maddox talked to us about finding your veteran community, managing our veteran ego, and how to thrive in your post-military life. He talked to David Letterman about his experience, so we’re grateful he took a moment to sit down with us on the Mandatory Fun podcast.

Yeah, we’re totally on the same level.
(Worldwide Pants)

Maddox believes we’ve come a long way and the military is getting better at preparing us for our post-military lives. The problem in his mind is that the military is designed to weed out the weak among us and the weakness in ourselves, a necessary process to prepare military members for what they may have to do. But once you’re out, that process proves detrimental – the perception that mental issues are weaknesses is what keeps us from addressing those problems.

The greatest challenges he faced when transitioning out of the Marine Corps stemmed from his admitted lack of planning. He set a countdown to his EAS date and was excited as the day approached. When it came, he felt nothing. He was so fixated on getting out that he didn’t have a plan for what he was going to actually do when the day came.

Over the course of two months, he went from handing out millions in humanitarian aid to handing out gym memberships at an LA Fitness.

“The nothingness and monotony of civilian life has just as much potential to beat you down as war did,” Maddox says. It’s a refrain he tells to many transitioning veterans. When the military is gone, the silence is the biggest hurdle.

But all that changed. One day, Maddox drove to the VA to see if they could help him. When he was there, a Vietnam veteran saw the despair in his eyes — and told him that the feeling was normal. No one had ever told him that his struggles were normal and treatable. So, armed with this knowledge, Maddox took care of it.

IAVA Member Veterans Moses Maddox (L) and Dave Smith attend IAVA’s Sixth Annual Heroes Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street on November 13, 2012 in New York City.

Now he advocates for veterans in many areas of post-military life. He looks back on his service fondly, but acknowledges that the Marine Corps was not the only thing he had going for him. Helping people is his passion, helping veterans is now his life’s work.

Learn more about Moses Maddox and how he discovered his “new why” on this episode of Mandatory Fun.

Resources Mentioned

Sponsors


Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.

About Mandatory Fun

Mandatory Fun is hosted by:

Share your thoughts about this episode on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

Articles

5 times the US military ripped victory from the jaws of defeat

The U.S. military has a history of finding effective ways around serious tactical and strategic problems. Here are five times they found themselves outgunned, outnumbered, or outmaneuvered but managed to pull off a victory anyway.


1. Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller and the troops at Chosin Reservoir

Photo: US Marine Corps

When Marine legend Col. Lewis “Chesty” Puller found himself hopelessly surrounded and outnumbered at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea, he had few options and worst prospects. But instead of surrendering to the 7 Chinese divisions surrounding him, he ordered his men to advance south.

From Dec. 6, 1950, to Dec. 11, Puller and his Marines fought viciously to reach the relative safety of Hungnam. They not only made it to the port, but they brought out their wounded and dead, all of their important equipment, and a large number of refugees while also inflicting heavy casualties on the Chinese forces.

While Puller’s withdrawal from the Chosin Reservoir was an unlikely success, the overall U.N. campaign was a failure and North Korea fell to Communist forces.

2. Samar Island at the Battle of Leyte Gulf

At Samar Island in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, a 13-ship Navy task force of escort carriers, destroyers, and destroyer escorts found themselves facing a Japanese force of 23 ships including the largest battleship ever built, the Yamato. The largest guns of the American fleet were 5-inch cannons that were unlikely to pierce the hulls of the Japanese attackers.

Though the only weapon they had capable of killing the heavy Japanese ships was their limited torpedo supply, the destroyers and destroyer escorts of the Navy task force charged at the Japanese force in an attempt to let the U.S. carrier escorts escape.

Over the next two hours, the limited American ships and Naval aircraft attacked the Japanese force so viciously that Japanese Adm. Takeo Kurita believed he’d run into the entire U.S. Third Fleet. Kurita retreated. Three of his cruisers were sunk and a fourth crippled while the U.S. lost four ships but protected the troops landing on Leyte Island.

3. The Battle of the Bulge

Photo: US Army Sgt. Bill Augustine

The Allied advance across eastern Europe was nearly stopped at the Battle of the Bulge when three German armies managed to launch a surprise attack against four American divisions strung across a 124-mile front.

One of the key positions in the battle was Bastogne, Belgium where 22,000 Americans — mostly paratroopers with the 101st Airborne Division — were holding off a massive force of 54,000 Germans backed by heavy artillery. The Germans suggested an American surrender after two days of fighting.

The American general responded simply, “NUTS!” and the American force held out for another five days, giving time for armored units from the Third Army to reach them. Rather than withdraw to rest, the paratroopers then began retaking Allied positions lost in the previous weeks.

4. John Paul Jones and his sinking flagship capture his enemy’s ship

Painting: US Naval History and Heritage Command/Thomas Mitchell

The father of the American Navy was watching his flagship, the Bonhomme Richard, sink beneath him after attacking the HMS Serapis on Sep. 23, 1779 at the Battle of Flamborough Head.

When the British commander offered John Paul Jones’s the chance to surrender, Jones uttered his famous response, “I have not yet begun to fight!” He then crashed his ship into the Serapis, had his sharpshooters clear the enemy deck, and captured the Serapis while the Bonhomme Richard sank.

5. Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold commands an ad hoc navy to save his army

Photo: Wikipedia/National Archives of Canada

In Jun. 1776, elements of the Continental Army retreated to Fort Tinconderoga and Fort Crown Pont in New York. Knowing that a larger and more capable British army and navy was trying to finish the war before Winter fell, Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold had to find a way to stall.

So, he created an ad hoc navy over the summer. Despite having almost no naval experience, Arnold led his fledgling fleet north against a British fleet in Oct. 1776. The 25-ship British fleet sank 11 of the 15 American vessels.

As he lost ship after ship to damage, Arnold would grab all of the sailors he could from foundering vessels and then leave the ships burning or grounded. Then he retreated across land and burned his remaining ships and Fort Crown Point to the ground.

Despite losing nearly all of his ships and Fort Crown Point, Arnold successfully evacuated his men to Ticonderoga and delayed the British long enough that they couldn’t attack the fort before winter settled in. The British were ordered into winter quarters and the Continental Army prepared for 1777 — the year they would gain the advantage in the war at the Battle of Saratoga.

Articles

11 best-ever nicknames of military leaders

A lot of people get nicknames in the military, usually something derogatory. But not these guys. These 11 military leaders got awesome nicknames by doing awesome stuff.


Check out the WATM podcast to listen to the author and other vets discuss how some of these and other military leaders ended up with their nicknames.

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | Stitcher | More Subscribe Options

Here’s what they are and how they got them:

1. Group Capt. Sir Douglas “Tin Legs” Bader

(Photo: Royal Air Force photographer Devon S A)

Group Capt. Sir Douglas Bader was a Royal Air Force hero of the second World War known for his exploits in the air and frequent escape attempts as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. He did all of this despite the fact that he lost his legs in 1931 in an air show accident. He was drummed out of the service due to disability but returned when Britain entered World War II. He wore two prosthetic legs and earned his insensitive but inarguably awesome nickname.

2. Capt. Michael “Black Baron” Wittmann

Capt. Michael Wittman was an evil Nazi with an awesome nickname. (Photo: German military archives)

Michael Wittman was an SS-Hauptsturmführer, the SS equivalent of an army captain, in command of a tank crew in World War II. From his time as a young enlisted man to his death as a captain, he was known for his skill in tanks and scout cars. As the war ground on, Wittman became one of the war’s greatest tank aces, scoring 138 tank kills and 132 anti-tank gun kills.

He was recognized with medals and a message of congratulations from Adolph Hitler. He was giving the nickname “The Black Baron” as an homage to the World War I flying ace, “The Red Baron,” Manfred Von Richtofen.

3. General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing

(Photo: US Army)

General of the Armies John “Black Jack” Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces through World War I and became one of America’s highest ranked officers in history, second only to President George Washington.

Pershing’s nickname was originally a horrible epithet given to him by students while he instructed at West Point. They angrily called him “[N-word] Jack” in reference to his time commanding a segregated unit. The name was softened to “Black Jack” and has become a part of his legacy.

4. Gen. Norman “The Bear” Schwarzkopf

(Photo: US Army)

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf is probably best known for his leadership of Desert Storm. He sported two colorful nicknames. He didn’t like the most famous one, “Stormin’ Norman,” probably because it alluded to his volatile temper. But he seemed to have a fondness for his second, “The Bear,” an allusion to his 6ft., 4in. height and nearly 240-pound size.

In his autobiography, he described his wife as “Mrs. Bear” and he named one of his dogs “Bear” as well.

5. Lt. Gen. James “Jumpin’ Jim” Gavin

Lt. Gen. James Gavin is probably best known for the same achievement that gave him his nickname, commanding one of America’s first airborne units and literally writing the book on airborne operations, FM 31-30: Tactics and Technique of the Air-Borne Troops.

Even after he rose to the rank of general officer ranks, he kept conducting combat jumps with his men. He landed in Normandy as a brigadier general and jumped in Operation Market Garden as a major general, earning him another nickname, “The Jumping General.”

6. Gen. Sir Frank “The Bearded Man” Messervy

Gen. Sir Frank Messervy was a successful cavalry officer in the British Indian Army in both World Wars and later served as the first commander of the Pakistan Army. In garrison, he had the appearance of a stereotypical, well-groomed Englishman. But he famously neglected to shave during battles, leading to a thick beard when he was engaged for more than a few days.

7. Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller

One of the greatest heroes of the Korean War, Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller tried to join World War I but the conflict ended just before he could ship out. Instead, he fought in anti-guerilla wars, World War II, and the Korean War. But for all of his battlefield exploits, he received a nickname for his physical appearance. His impeccable posture and large frame made him look “chesty,” so that became his name.

8. Maj. Gen. Smedley “The Fighting Quaker” Butler

Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler was born into a Quaker family in Pennsylvania in 1881. Despite the Quakers’ aversion to violence, Butler lied about his age to become a Marine Corps second lieutenant in 1898, developed a reputation for being fierce in a fight, and made his way to major general while receiving two Medals of Honor in his career.

Butler also received a brevet promotion to captain when he was 19 for valorous action conducted before officers were eligible for the Medal of Honor. In recognition of his huge brass ones, his men started calling him “The Fighting Quaker.”

9. “The Constable” Gen. Charles de Gaulle

Gen. Charles de Gaulle was the highest ranking member of France’s military in World War II and led Free French Forces against the Nazis after the fall of France.

De Gaulle gained the nickname “The Constable” on two occasions. First, in school where he was known as the “Grand Constable.” After the fall of France, the nickname was bestowed anew when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called him “The Constable of France,” the job title of ancient French warriors who served Capetian Kings until the 10th century.

10. Staff Sgt. William “Wild Bill” Guarnere

Photo: US Army

Staff Sgt. William Guarnere fought viciously against the Germans as a paratrooper in Europe and gained a reputation for it, leading to his nickname “Wild Bill” and his portrayal in Band of Brothers.

Because of his exotic last name, he also gained the unfortunate nickname of “gonorrhea.”

11. Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion

Brig. Gen. Francis Marion was best known for leading guerilla fighters through the woods and swamps of the southern colonies during the American Revolution. After repeatedly being harassed by Marion and his men, the British sent Col. Banastre Tarleton to hunt him down.

Marion evaded Tarleton over and over again. When a 26-mile chase through the swamps game up empty, Tarleton complained that he would never find that “swamp fox” and the name stuck.

Articles

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft

An artist’s conception of V-280 Valors supporting a tank battle. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)


The U.S. Army is hosting a fly-off starting a year from now, and some of the biggest names in defense manufacturing are working in earnest to win it.

The Army put out a “request for proposals,” better know in procurement circles as an “RFP,” last year as the first step in their Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMRTD) program, and the competition is down to two efforts: The V-280 “Valor” by Bell Helicopter and the SB-1 “Defiant” by Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.

The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.

“We realize there’s still a pretty significant filter out there about the troubled history of the tiltrotor,” said Robert Hastings, Bell’s EVP for communications and government affairs . “But the Marines today would tell you it’s transformational. Younger pilots who never had to unlearn bad habits from other airplanes are flying the V-22 in ways we never imagined.”

Hastings, who flew Cobras and Blackhawks in the Army and also served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs during Robert Gates’ tenure at the Pentagon, related a conversation he had with a V-22 squadron commander during the most recent Singapore Air Show. The CO told him that at that moment he had Ospreys in Australia, Okinawa, and the Philippines as well as at the show.

“He was a lieutenant colonel with an operational sphere of influence as big as what an admiral had a generation ago,” Hastings said. “To quote Gen. Davis, the Marine Corps’ assistant commandant for aviation: ‘The V-22 has not only changed the way we operate; it changed the way the enemy worries about us.'”

But while Hastings readily lists the V-22’s successes in the nation’s most recent conflicts, including how the CV variant has been used by the Air Force Special Operations Command, he is quick to point out that the V-280 is what he called a “clean sheet design.”

“The V-22 is largely a 1980s product,” he said. “Manufacturing is different today.”

The first Valor on the assembly line in Amarillo. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)

Hastings explained digital designs along with more precise machining allows parts “to slip into place very nicely” instead of having to be sanded down and otherwise manipulated by technicians along the assembly line as they had to while making the Osprey. With these sorts of improvements, Bell is striving to make the V-280 cost half of the V-22’s $71 million unit flyaway cost.

Bell has partnered with Lockheed-Martin to give the Valor a state-of-the-art cockpit suite, building on what engineers and test pilots have learned during the development of the F-35. While there’s no plan for helmet visor symbology (which has been a challenge to develop during F-35 testing), Hastings said the cockpit’s “open architecture” could afford V-280 pilots that capability in the future. The cockpit also accommodates a wide array of sensors and mission packages, which are designed to give the Valor a lot of combat agility.

Bell is calling their JMRTD candidate a “third generation” tiltrotor. (V-22 is second generation.) The V-280 differs from its predecessor in a number of ways: It’s much lighter because it’s constructed entirely of carbon-based materials. It has a straight wing instead of the Osprey’s forward-swept wing. It has a side door instead of an aft ramp.

Hastings also pointed out that — with an internal fuel cell added in the cabin area — the Valor can fly 2,100 miles, which will give the Army a self-deploy capability it’s never had before.

Artist’s conception of a section of Valors ingressing during a mission. (Courtesy of Bell Helicopter)

“Imagine a future where the 82nd Airborne is told to deploy, and the aviation division commander says to his aviation unit commander, ‘Meet me at the Horn of Africa in three days,'” Hastings said. “He doesn’t have to worry about a third of his strategic lift assets being tied up by those helicopters.”

The JMRTD fly off program will last two years, and at the end of it the Army will pick one of the two airplanes to replace its force of 2,000 Blackhawks and 800 Apaches. (And Hastings pointed out that the utility and attack variants of the Valor have 85 percent commonality beneath the prop-rotor — another cost-saving feature, he said.) The Army wants the new airplanes ready for war by 2029.

“We believe that helicopters will be around forever,” Hastings said, “but we think helicopters have reached as far as you can expand them. We think tiltrotors have a ton of growth in terms of what you can do with them.”

Articles

Watch USMC footage of artillery strikes on ISIS in Syria

US Marines have been on the ground in Syria since March, when a detachment from an amphibious task force arrived in the country, where they joined US special-operations forces to support US partner forces.


The Marine units deployed to Syria included elements of an artillery battery that can fire 155-millimeter shells from M777 Howitzers.

The military has already released footage and photos of Marines in Syria firing their howitzers in support of local coalition partners during their advance on Raqqa, ISIS’ self-declared capital in northwest Syria.

“The Marines have been conducting 24-hour all-weather fire support for the Coalition’s local partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces,” the Defense Department said at the time that footage was released.

During the first week of July, the US military released the first footage of Marine artillery units striking an ISIS target on May 14, destroying what the Defense Department called an ISIS artillery position in support of Syrian Democratic Forces.

The M777 howitzer has a range of 15 to 25 miles, and the artillery units in Syria have moved at least once to support the ongoing fight against ISIS there, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com in April.
“The fight evolves, so they’re moving to where they can best provide support based on the capability of the weapons system,” Neller said. “The commanders there understand the capability, and they’ll reposition them as required in order to provide the fire support and other effects they need to do to make the campaign successful, ultimately.”

Marine artillery units previously deployed to Iraq to support the fight against ISIS there were set up in a fixed position — though they came under fire just hours into their deployment in March 2016.

The 26th Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, is greeted on his first full day in the position by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., in Arlington, VA, Jan. 21, 2017. (DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen.)

US forces in Syria are aiding local partner forces in what Defense Secretary James Mattis has called an “annihilation campaign,” seeking to surround and destroy ISIS fighters — foreign fighters in particular — “so we don’t simply transplant this problem from one location to another,” Mattis told reporters in May.

Mattis “asked me and the military chain-of-command to make a conscious effort not to allow ISIS fighters to just flee from one location to another,” Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Defense News in June.

“Our commanders on the ground have tried to meet that goal of annihilating the enemy in order to mitigate the risk of these terrorists showing up someplace else.”

Marines with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit fire their M777 Howitzer during a fire mission in northern Syria as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery Laning)

Fighting to retake Raqqa has already begun, and over 2,000 ISIS militants are thought to remain there.

US special-operations forces are already working with Arab and Kurdish partners to vet and train a force to secure the city during and after the effort to oust ISIS. Questions remain about how Raqqa and the surrounding area will be secured, as well as about how territory wrested from ISIS around Syria will be divided among the various factions operating in the country.

The US-led coalition and its partner forces have already come into conflict with Syrian pro-regime forces, which are backed by Iran and Russia. Southeast Syria near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders has been a flashpoint for these confrontations, though a local ceasefire has recently gone into effect there.

Articles

How America literally chops the heads off of nuclear bombers

Boeing’s B-52H Stratofortress will be in service into the 2040s — a long career for the eight-engine bomber. But what of the earlier versions of the B-52? What is happening to them? Well, the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty consigned many to a fate reminiscent of the French Revolution.


The luckiest B-52s were placed on static display – many as “gate guardians” outside air bases and some in museums. A few others ended up as training airframes – permanently grounded, but still serving.

This Boeing B-52G is on display at the Global Power Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The rest of them, though, were given a very harsh sentence in the so called “Protocol on Procedures Governing the Conversion or Elimination of the Items subject to the Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms” — an ignominious death.

The so-called “BUFFs” sentenced to elimination were taken to a “conversion or elimination facility.” The United States chose the Aircraft Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base to be that facility.

Once there, the BUFF was to be “eliminated” in accordance with the Treaty. Here’s that that protocol says must be done:

“(a) The tail section with tail surfaces shall be severed from the fuselage at a location obviously not an assembly joint;

“(b) The wings shall be separated from the fuselage at any location by any method; and

“(c) The remainder of the fuselage shall be severed into two pieces, within the area of attachment of the wings to the fuselage, at a location obviously not an assembly joint.”

A before and after shot of scrapped B-52s. (USAF photo)

The tool for this is surprisingly simple. According to a CNN report, it was a 13,500-pound blade that is hoisted about 60 feet above the BUFF. Then the blade drops like a guillotine (vive la France!).

The planes are then left out for 90 days to allow a Russian satellite to verify that the planes have gone through the “elimination” protocol. After that, they will be taken to be scrapped. Among those that have met that fate, according to CNN, was “Memphis Belle III,” a descendant of the famous World War II bomber. Each plane has 150,000 pounds of aluminum and other metals that will likely be soda cans, a car fender, or the stereotypical razor blades.

B-52s destroyed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. (USAF photo)

Below is a video showing this process underway from the ground level.

Articles

Saddam Hussein hired a Canadian inventor to build him a spacegun


Canadia inventor Gerald Bull was obsessed with the idea of building a supergun that could launch satellites into space — a spacegun — circumventing the expensive and wasteful use of rockets. In the ’60s, he worked with the Canadian and U.S. governments on supergun technology, but all research was shut down once the Vietnam War began. Determined to make his vision a reality, he sold weapons in South Africa to build up some cash, but was caught and jailed for six months. In the ’80s, Bull was tapped by the Iraqi government, and began working on Project Babylon for Saddam Hussein, which included “two full-sized Big Babylon 1000mm calibre guns and a prototype 350mm calibre gun called Baby Babylon.”

“Using nine tonnes of special supergun propellant, Big Babylon would have been theoretically capable of firing a 600kg projectile across 1,000 kilometres, putting Kuwait and Iran well within striking distance from inside Iraq. Alternatively, the gun could be used to launch a 2,000kg rocket-assisted projectile carrying a 200kg satellite.”

Project babylon supergun

“Bull wasn’t ignorant to the possibility that Iraq could use his supergun technology to fire missiles, but he justified his actions by pointing out that it would be an impractical weapon, says Hall. Its size meant that it would not be possible to move the gun once it was constructed; it only pointed in one direction, was slow to fire, could be easily located and easily destroyed if anyone wished to. Everyone would know where it was, and everyone would immediately know if it had been fired from the seismic tremors it caused. The recoil force from the gun would have totalled 27,000 tonnes – equivalent to a nuclear explosion – and would have registered as a major seismic event around the world.”

While tests began on Baby Babylon, Big Babylon was never completed as Bull was soon after assassinated while entering his own apartment. Shot twice in the head and three times in the back, there were no witnesses, and while the killer was never identified, Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has been linked. Head over to the BBC to read the full story.