Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Body armor for your average infantry troop has come a long way. Today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are issued amazing technology designed to stop the most common threat they will likely face in combat: the rifle round. But the tech that will stop a lethal bullet isn’t just one miracle material that they can wear all over their bodies. There is a combination of forces at work, working to stop another combination of forces.


Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Soldiers don the Interceptor Armor before going on patrol in Iraq.

(U.S. Army)

Kevlar itself is a plastic material five times stronger than steel. Everything about the material, from how it’s woven, right down to its molecular structure just screams strength. Its tensile strength is eight times that of steel. It doesn’t melt, it doesn’t get brittle with cold, and is unaffected by moisture. Kevlar is an awesome antiballistic material because it takes incredible amounts of kinetic energy to pass through it. Its molecular structure is like that of rebar through solid concrete, and forces a bullet to fight its way through at every level.

When layered, the material can sort of “soak up” a lot of the kinetic energy from a projectile. For most low-velocity handguns and even some of the more powerful handguns, a few layers of Kevlar is enough protection. But for high-velocity rifles, it needs some help. That’s where ceramic plates come in.

The standard AK-47 fires with a muzzle velocity of 716 meters per second. For Kevlar alone to protect a soldier from that kind of kinetic energy, the Kevlar would have to have more layers than a troop could carry while retaining the mobility necessary to perform his or her job functions. Kevlar is lightweight, but it’s not weightless, after all. The standard-issue Interceptor body armor was not tested to stop rounds at that velocity, which is classified as Level III protection. The Interceptor Armor does have pockets on the outside of the vests, so ceramic plates can be inserted to upgrade the armor to Level-IIIA.

Just like the Kevlar, the ceramic plates redistribute the kinetic energy of an incoming rifle round, slowing it down enough that it would not be able to penetrate the Kevlar, if it passed through the ceramic at all. It also prevents blunt force trauma from other rounds that may not penetrate the Kevlar, but still cause indentations in the material. The impact from bullets that don’t penetrate the Kevlar can still cause internal injuries. Ceramic inserts are rated to stop whatever projectiles are listed on the plate, and can take up to three hits before failing.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

The ESAPI plate saved Sgt. Joseph Morrissey when he was hit in the chest with a 7.62mm round from about 30 meters while deployed to Afghanistan.

(U.S. Army)

While ceramic may seem like an odd choice for stopping bullets, this isn’t the ceramic material used to make vases or coffee mugs. A lot of materials are actually ceramic, including titanium diboride, aluminum oxide, and silicon carbide, one of the world’s top ten strongest materials – the material used in the U.S. military’s Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts, or ESAPI plates. These enhanced plates, combined with the Kevlar are capable of stopping a Springfield 30.06 round with a tungsten penetrator.

That’s why the U.S. military uses ceramic plates and Kevlar body armor. It not only protects troops but allows them enough mobility to do their jobs in a hostile environment. And body armor tech is only getting better. Materials like spider silk and nanotubes are being tested that are even lighter and don’t take on as much heat as Kevlar. Maybe one day, we all won’t be drenched in our own sweat when we take off our armor.

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The state of Coast Guard icebreakers

Bad news, folks. If the U.S. had to muscle its way into regions choked with ice to deal with a recalcitrant foe, it’d have hard time.


The fact of the matter is that the U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaker capability has dwindled big time, and the Navy has no icebreakers in its fleet.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
The Coast Guard icebreakers USCGC Polar Sea (WAGB 10) and USCGC Polar Star (WAGB 11) during a resupply mission to McMurdo Research Station. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At this time, the Coast Guard has one heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star (WAGB 10) and one medium icebreaker, the Healy (WAGB 20) in service. According to a 2016 Congressional Research Service report, the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea (WAGB 11), has been inoperable since 2010 after five of its diesel engines failed.

As a result, the United States has a very big problem. The Polar Star is down at the South Pole, resupplying the McMurdo Research Station. That means that the Healy is the only icebreaker available for operations in the Arctic.

The Polar Sea? Right now, it is being cannibalized to keep the Polar Star operable, according to a report from USNI News.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
The icebreaker USCGC Healy (WAGB 20) in the Arctic Ocean. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to the “16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World,” the Polar Sea was commissioned in 1976, while the Polar Star was commissioned in 1977. USNI noted that plans do not include beginning construction of new icebreakers until 2020, with them entering service in 2024 at the earliest.

If you’ve followed ship programs like the Littoral Combat Ship, the Zumwalt-class destroyers, or the Gerald R. Ford, that date could be a best-case scenario. The Polar Sea’s operational life is expected to last until 2022, two years prior to the earliest date the new icebreakers would enter service.

Russia, on the other hand, has 41 icebreakers. In addition to maintaining a large fleet of icebreakers, Russia has been trying to winterize modern interceptors like the MiG-31 Foxhound and strike aircraft like the Su-34 Fullback, and its new icebreaker construction push includes nuclear-powered icebreakers.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this World War I soldier earned the Medal of Honor in a mustard gas attack

There are few higher compliments for a soldier than when the General of the Armies calls him the most outstanding soldier who fought in an entire war – and the war to end all wars, no less. But Samuel Woodfill wasn’t just a veteran of World War I, he was also in the Philippines and on the Mexican border. He was even around to train U.S. troops to fight in World War II.

But to earn his status as America’s one-man Army, he had to go through hell.


Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Mustard gas is not a weapon anyone would want to fight in.

Woodfill was a career military man, spending time fighting Filipino warriors and then guarding Alaska and the Mexican border areas before shipping out to fight in World War I. Though enlisting as a private, Woodfill’s skill and experience earned him a commission before he shipped out to the Great War. The American Expeditionary force needed good officers to fill its ranks as they settled into a defensive position between the Meuse and the Argonne areas of France.

In September 1918, just one month after arriving in France, their defensive position became an offensive move toward the German lines. Woodfill and his company were near the town of Cunel, advancing on the Germans through a thick fog as carefully as possible, when the telltale crackle of machine-gun fire ripped through the fog toward Woodfill and his men.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Woodfill with President Calvin Coolidge after the war.

Woodfill’s men threw themselves away from the fire to take cover, but Woodfill himself rushed toward the machine gun. He jumped in the trench and took down three German soldiers manning the gun. That’s when their officer starting lunging toward him. He made short work of their officer just as another machine gun opened up on him. He ordered his men to come out of hiding and attack the latest machine gun, which they did, making short work of it just in time for a third gun to open up on the Americans.

Woodfill joined his men in a charge on the third gun position. He was the first to get to the machine-gun nest and, having fired all the shots in his pistol, was forced to fight both Germans at the gun at the same time. In the middle of the fighting, he searched desperately for any kind of equalizer – which he found in the form of a pickax. Meanwhile, the fog that had been growing thicker and thicker turned out to be growing thick with Mustard Gas. The Americans hightailed it out of the gas area.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

You would too.

The American company was knocked out of the war by the effects of the Mustard Gas and Woodfill would deal with its effects for the rest of his life. But his heroics and daring in the Meuse-Argonne earned him the Medal of Honor, which was presented to him in France by Gen. John J. Pershing himself. Later, Woodfill would have the honor of carrying the body of the Unknown Soldier to its final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery, alongside fellow Army legends and Medal of Honor recipients Charles Whittlesey and Alvin York.

Woodfill would stay in the Army until 1943, having stayed on long enough to train recruits to fight the Nazis in World War II.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s what happens when the Marines take your beach

Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit practiced their ability to conduct mechanized raids on July 1 against an island in Queensland, Australia, showing off American muscle while also ensuring the Marines are ready to take territory and inflict casualties on enemies in the Pacific. Not that there is any chance of conflict in that region.


Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Marines position their vehicles in the well deck, a portion of the ship that can be flooded with water to allow ships and swimming vehicles to transit between the open ocean and the ship.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Marines double check their gear and prepare to move out from the well deck. Careful checks of the vehicles are necessary before the well is flooded, as an armored vehicle without all of the necessary plugs and protections in place can quickly sink in the open water, creating a lethal threat for the Marines inside.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Amphibious operations have a lot of risks like that. Simple physics force the armored vehicles to move slowly between the ship and shore, leaving them vulnerable to enemy fire. And many of them can’t fire their best weapons while floating because it might cause the vehicle to flounder.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

But the risks can be worth the reward, like in the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Sometimes the only logical way to get a battalion or larger force onto an enemy-held island is to deliver it over the water.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines prepare constantly for that eventuality, buying gear and training on its use so they can land on the sand under fire, quickly build combat power with armor, artillery, and infantry, and then move from the beachhead inland.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The success of these operations depends largely on the initiative of individual Marines and small teams. Enemy defenses can quickly break up formations moving through the surf, and so junior leaders have to be ready to keep the momentum going if they lose contact with the company, battalion, or higher headquarters.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Many of the Marine Corp’s current vehicles are slow and cumbersome in the water, but can move much faster once their treads reach dry ground. For instance, the Assault Amphibious Vehicle can move a little over 8 mph in favorable waters, but can hit up to 20 mph off-road and 45 mph on a surfaced road.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines have multiple versions of the AAV including the recovery vehicle shown above. AAVs can carry 40mm automatic grenade launchers and .50-cal. heavy machine guns, but the primary combat capability comes from the 21 Marine infantrymen who can deploy from the back.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Those infantrymen can still benefit from the AAVs after they deploy, though, since the large weapons and armor of the AAV allows it to break up enemy strongpoints more easily or safely than dismounted Marines.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The Marines on the ground, in addition to fighting enemy forces, will collect intelligence. Some of that will be done with hand-held cameras like that in the photo, but drones may also be flown, and Marines forward may draw maps or illustrations of enemy defense or write reports of what they’re seeing. This allows higher-level commanders and artillery and aviation leaders to target defenses and troop concentrations.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

The destruction of enemy fortifications allows the Marines to break out from the beachhead. If they don’t get off the beaches, it makes it easier for a counterattacking enemy force to push the Marines back into the sea. A breakout helps prevent that by keeping the enemy on their back foot.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Keep scrolling to see more photos from the simulated raid in Australia.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kyle Bunyi)

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why fast-tracking promotions can ultimately hurt the unit

Promotions are hard-fought and well-earned by the right troops. After proving themselves to their chain of command, an ambitious troop is rewarded by being placed into a higher rank that’s worthy of their effort. In general, there’s a timeline for promotions. When you’re among the junior enlisted ranks, you can expect to your hard work to be recognized (roughly) every six months and, at your third or fourth year, you’ll be considered for the move up to NCO.

Then, there are troops that get a leg up on their peers by getting that promotion early. With the utmost respect to the troops that have dutifully earned their promotion, I think it’s fair to say we all know some troops that get handed a leadership position for all the wrong reasons.

Just because someone can do their job well and scores high on their PT test doesn’t automatically mean they’ve got what it takes to lead troops into battle.


Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Any hindrance on the unit may prevent it from fulfilling its sole purpose: fighting and winning America’s wars.

(U.S. Air Force by Tech. Sgt. Christine Jones)

While most soldiers, including myself, can attest to the lackluster leadership abilities of some fast-tracked leaders, the RAND Corporation is finally backing it up with evidence in a recently released report titled, The Value of Experience in the Enlisted Force.

The report explores the relationship between a leader’s experience and junior soldiers’ attrition rate. The three key traits of an effective leader, as found through interviews, were:

  1. leaders who care about their soldiers,
  2. leaders who effectively train their soldiers,
  3. leaders who are knowledgeable.

Soldiers under leaders who mastered all three of these were far more likely to reenlist in the Army. Soldiers who served under leaders who failed in two or more these categories were far more likely to leave after just one term. This is precisely where a lack of experience in leadership positions hamstrings the unit.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Being a leader is more then even book knowledge – it’s finding the balance in all traits of being a leader.

(U.S. Army photo by Timothy L. Hale)

There are two key types of experience that leaders need in spades: Interpersonal experience, which is knowing your soldiers and how they react to things, and technical experience, which can be learned in school and by simply leading. Both of these can only be achieved with time.

Soldiers who are tossed under leadership lacking in this invaluable experience are set up for failure. They’ll be unprepared to handle all the minor things that no one tells you about leading troops, like the insane amount of paperwork required or a complete lack of a personal life.

Most of these problems of inexperience are solved by gradually transitioning a troop into a leadership role. It’s best to start someone with command over one or two soldiers rather than immediately putting them in charge of the entire platoon.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Just be honest with yourself and your superiors. Everyone is affected by a single leader in the unit.

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Alex Kilmon)

Now, this isn’t to say that fast-tracking promotions is inherently wrong. It’s more to say that the qualities many units use to identify troops for quick promotion are flawed. These should include leadership skills — not just outstanding PT scores or test results.

As for sergeants, staff sergeants, and sergeants first class, they should only bite off what they can chew. If it takes a trip to the NCO academy before they’re 100-percent confident in leading, then they should go. No one is being helped by shoehorning an unprepared NCO into a leadership position just to maintain the status quo.

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This is how much troops were paid in every major American war

Think it’s hard making it month to month in the barracks on just an E-1 pay? Well, the recruits who won America’s earlier wars had to make ends meet with much, much less to draw on. See how much troops made in each conflict, both in their own currency and adjusted for inflation:


Author’s note: The pay structure changed over time. From the Korean War to today, military pay has been relatively consistent across the services and the numbers listed in entries 8-11 reflect the financial realities of an E-1 enlisted servicemember. For earlier conflicts, pay was calculated using the salary of a first-year Army private or a junior infantryman.

1. Revolutionary War

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
Painting: Battle of Trenton by Charles McBarron

Privates in 1776 earned $6 a month plus a bounty at the end of their service. That pay would equate to $157.58 today, a pretty cheap deal for the poor Continental Congress. Unfortunately for soldiers, Congress couldn’t always make ends meet and so troops often went without their meager pay.

2. War of 1812

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
Andrew Jackson wins the Battle of New Orleans two weeks after the War of 1812 ended.

Pay started at $5 a month for privates but was raised to $8 at the end of 1812. This was in addition to bounties ranging from $31 and 160 acres of land to $124 and 320 acres of land.

That $8 translates to $136.28 in 2016. The bounties ranged from $528.10 to $2,112.40 for terms of five years to the duration of the war.

3. Mexican-American War

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
Storming of Monterey in September 1846 during the Mexican-American War. Image date: ca. March 2, 1847.

Young infantrymen in their first year of service during the Mexican-American War pocketed $7 per month, according to this Army history. That’s $210.10 in 2016 dollars.

4. Civil War

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
The Battle of Chickamauga raged from Sep. 19-20, 1863. Painting: Library of Congress

Union privates in 1863 brought home $13 a month which translates to $237.51 in modern dollars. Confederate privates had it a little worse at $11 a month. The Confederate situation got worse as the war went on since the Confederate States of America established their own currency and it saw rapid inflation as the war situation got worse and worse.

5. Spanish-American War

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
An undated photo shows soldiers manning a battle signal corps station during the Spanish-American War. Photo: Naval History and Heritage Command

While Army private pay in the Spanish-American War was still $13 like it had been in the Civil War, a period of deflation had strengthened the purchasing power of that monthly salary. In 2016 dollars, it would be worth $356.26.

6. World War I

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
Photo: National Archives and Records Administration

A private, private second class, or bugler in his first year of service in 1917 was entitled to $30 a month. In exchange for this salary, which would equate to $558.12 today, privates could expect to face the guns of the Germans and other Axis powers.

World War I was the first war where, in addition to their pay, soldiers could receive discounted life insurance as a benefit. The United States Government Life Insurance program was approved by Congress in 1917 and provided an alternative to commercial insurance which either did not pay out in deaths caused by war or charged extremely high premiums for the coverage.

7. World War II

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
Photo: US Army

In 1944, privates serving in World War II made $50 a month, or $676.51 in 2016 dollars. It seems like toppling three Fascist dictators would pay better than that, but what do we know.

8. Korean War

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
Dressed in parkas (Overcoat, parka type, with pile liner), Missouri infantrymen pose for a New Year greeting, 19th Infantry Regiment, Kumsong front, Korea, 14 December 1951.

The minimum payment for an E-1 in 1952 was $78 a month which would equate to $700.92 in 2016. Most soldiers actually deploying to Korea would have over four months in the Army and so would’ve received a pay bump to at least $83.20, about $747.64 today.

This was in addition to a foreign duty pay of $8 a month along with a small payment for rations when they weren’t provided.

9. Vietnam War

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
A U.S. Army soldier smokes after an all-night ambush patrol in Vietnam. Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Peter P. Ruplenas

E-1 wages were not increased between 1952 and 1958, so Korean War and Vietnam War troops made the same amount of money at the lower ranks — except inflation over the years drove the real value of the wages down. New soldiers pocketing $78 would have a salary that equates to 642.71 now, while those with over four months of service who pocketed $83.20 were receiving the equivalent of $685.56 in today’s dollars.

10. Persian Gulf War

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
Yeah, $1318.12 should cover patrolling through this. No problem. Photo: Public Domain

Grunts who went into Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein were paid the princely sum of $753.90 a month in basic pay, unless they somehow managed to make it to Iraq with less than four months of service. Then they received $697.20.

These amounts would translate in 2016 dollars to $1318.12 and $1,218.98 respectively.

11. War in Afghanistan and the Iraq War

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
Photo: Spc. Victor Egorov

Troops bringing the American flag back to Iraq in 2003 or deploying to Afghanistan in the same time period received just a little more than their Persian Gulf War predecessors, with $1064.70 for soldiers with less than four months of service and $1,150.80 for the seasoned veterans with four months or more under their belts.

In 2016 dollars, those salaries equate to $1377.93 and $1,489.36, a modest increase from the Persian Gulf War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Otto Skorzeny: The story of the German Scarface

Sensational press accounts were just plain rabid about this man from the time he “escaped” a post-WWII “Officers'” holding camp, until the start of the Vietnam conflict. All he ever really wanted to be was a Mechanical Engineer and to serve his country honorably. Most of us would never have heard of this Commando’s successes were it not for the British desire to explain WWII in detail to the world (in terms of their victorious achievements). This man was Otto Skorzeny.

In the frantic change of the Austrian government on 12 March 1938, Skorzeny was a member of the Gymnastic Club which was trying to support the police and keep antagonistic political factions from breaking into rioting. He was a big man with a strong sense of duty, an energetic attitude, and a loud, commanding voice. It is reported that he personally prevented two armed groups from coming to blows at a critical moment. Then the war came on 1 September 1939, and he tried to get into the Luftwaffe, but, at the age of 31, was labeled “too old” to be a pilot — so he ended up in the Army.


In his regular army training regimentation, Skorzeny saw individuality and personality broken in most of the younger men by the time-honored methods heralding back to 19th century Prussia. Sent on a tour of France after its surrender as an officer-cadet (~E5) he amazed superiors by obtaining the cooperation of Dutch workers to construct a ramp that he designed for loading heavy tanks on to ships in preparation for the invasion of Britain. Later when his trucks needed new tires to complete a mission, he threatened the NCO of a supply depot with harm if he (without written authorization) didn’t get what he needed to carry out his verbal orders. He was reprimanded by a general for being aggressive and transferred to a unit in Yugoslavia.

When he was leading his first combat patrol, a larger group of enemies walked right into his area. Instead of opening fire, Skorzeny jumped up and demanded their surrender — and got it, without firing a shot. He brought in 63 prisoners, including three officers, and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant on the spot. He thought his next assignment would be in the battle for North Africa, and picked up a copy of “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” by T.E. Lawrence for reading on the train. The train stopped short and his unit was instead offloaded to participate in Operation Barbarossa and an extremely bloody Axis invasion of Russia, which began 22 June 1941.

He fought well and hard in the endless Russian forest and plains for the next six months, including during the Russian winter of 1941, when the German Army had no winter uniforms. Skorzeny developed colic, was invalided home to Vienna, and assigned as an Engineering Officer to a reserve regiment in Berlin. In the autumn of 1942, Waffen SS divisions were being converted into armored divisions, so he applied for a transfer and became the regimental Engineer of the 3rd SS Armoured Division. In mid-April 1943, he was sent to Waffen SS headquarters and informed that a technically trained officer was required for a special unit.

Why reserve 1st Lt. Skorzeny? What was going on?

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

The German scarface.

British commandos were causing a problem, so Hitler wanted to develop a commando team. Here was a reserve officer with combat experience, but not quite an exemplary service record. For the General Staff, Lt. Skorzeny was perfect — suitable, presentable, technically trained, and non-political. (It might be noted that Hitler’s Commando Order of 18 October 1942 clearly stated that all Allied commandos captured “should be killed immediately without trial.”)

Skorzeny was promoted to captain and told to get to work on creating a special operations unit or two. Firstly, however, he had to be introduced to the “secret” side of the German military and was introduced to Admiral Canaris of the Military Secret Service (Auslands-Abwehr). He tried to get a number of junior officers transferred to his new unit — and was turned down. LTC Schellenberg of the General Staff advised him that he needed to collect all the information he could and start a School for Espionage and Sabotage while looking for men and equipment. His new command was already penciled in to take over a mission in Iran that was going badly.

Fortunately, the platoon of men he inherited were all combat veterans. Added to their number was a platoon size group of legal specialists from the Political Intelligence Section that knew how to gather surplus equipment and personnel. Finally, he was in contact with the Director of the State Security Department who he had known in his student days in Austria. This was the source of many enlightening discussions about Reichführer Himmler, who eventually became the sabot in all Military and Political machinery.

Fighting furiously against red-tape, Skorzeny located a 19th-century hunting lodge in a tract of forest and meadowlands at Friedenthal (Valley of Peace), close to Berlin. He then requested after-action reports on the British Commando attacks perpetrated since 1940 and received a vast dossier, which had been meticulously collected, but not well-reviewed. He learned from the apparent British mistakes. Immediately he realized that all training should be conducted at night because that is when small groups can beat larger formations. Everyone was to be trained to competency on every weapon and piece of equipment the units might carry into battle. Other training included parachutes and operation (and repair) of all sizes of transportation vehicles.

On 26 July 1943, Skorzeny took an afternoon off for lunch and a quiet chat with an old university professor — and the whole world changed. Checking with his admin office in mid-afternoon, he was advised that a plane would be at the aerodrome at 1700 to take him to the Führer’s Headquarters [FHQ]. He directed his XO to gather his uniform and meet him at Tempelhofer. No one in his office knew what or why. Upon arrival, he and five other officers — all more senior than him — were led into the command center of the Wolf’s Den and lined up according to rank. All made short statements about their military careers; his was the shortest. The Führer began asking about their knowledge of Italy and their thoughts on the Axis partner. The other five spoke the “party line,” but Skorzeny stated, “I am an Austrian my Führer.”

In order to understand that comment, it should be mentioned that as a result of WWI Italy took a portion of Austria — South Tyrol — that it could not win by combat. Hitler was also Austrian and understood what Skorzeny meant. The five other Commanding Officers of Special Force units were dismissed. Hitler personally charged Skorzeny with the rescue of Mussolini who had been arrested by Italian police in preparation for Italy’s surrender to the Allies and its change of sides. The location of the Duce was unknown.

Furthermore, Hitler did not want the German Army Commander in Italy or the German Ambassador in Rome to know of the operation. Skorzeny and his force were transferred to the Luftwaffe and reported directly to General Student. While discussing the situation with General Student, Himmler showed up to dominate the conversation with a short history of Italian vacillation since the Allied invasion of Sicily, and a ranting monologue of names of reliable Italians and traitors, and how to deal with each.

During a pause in the performance, Skorzeny requested to step out and call his commandos to put them on alert status. While waiting to have his call put through, he lit a cigarette to think of the scope of the assignment. Himmler came down the hall and chewed him out for smoking and declared him possibly unfit for the job. One of Hitler’s Staff Officers who overheard the remarks assured him that this was a trait of Himmler and General Student would fix everything once the operation got rolling. So began one of the great commando stories and the start of an amazing two years that ended with Skorzeny being declared “The Most Dangerous Man in Europe.”

Skorzeny’s phone call to his Chief-of-Staff was short and terse. Fifty of his best men and officers needed to be ready not later than 0500 for extended action in Tropical Uniform, with parachute gear, six days of emergency rations, and a teletyped list of equipment. Due to the mission’s classification, he could not tell them what they would do, or where and why they would be deployed. As he thought about a short nap, he realized that he had never made out a will. That was resolved immediately. He took a shower around 0600 and met General Student at 0730 at the aerodrome.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Skorzeny and Benito Mussolini surrounded by German commandos and soldiers.

The tale of the 12 September 1943 rescue of Mussolini is one of great adventure for both Skorzeny, as a leader, and his commando team. There was even a delayed-and-failed first effort due to confusing intelligence. (The Nazi Propaganda machine created a motion picture of the event to splash across the theater screens and demonstrate Nazi invincibility when the General Staff knew they were losing.)

Because of the mission’s success, he was rewarded by being allowed to recruit from the Brandenburg Division. This was the original German Army Special Force. The Division would slip behind the enemy front line and carry out sabotage or prevent vital bridges from being destroyed. By 1943 however, the German Army was on the defensive or preparing for the next Allied invasion. These highly-skilled and qualified soldiers were being used as gap-stopping cannon fodder in Africa and Eastern Europe. The now-famous Skorzeny, as a Division Commander, began to “borrow” supplies and equipment from every depot within reach, based solely on his relationship with Hitler. While training the enlarged command, he was called upon to plan the abduction of other well-known figures who seemed to be potential or actual problems. First on the list was Marshal Pétain, the Vichy France Head of State. Skorzeny and his commandos made plans and practiced to perfection while waiting for the order to go. After over a month of waiting, they were told to stand down and returned to the Valley of Peace in time for Christmas.

Next on the list was Marshal Tito of the Yugoslavian Partisans. Skorzeny dispatch his division intelligence team to the area. A great deal of work was expended to locate Tito’s constantly shifting HQ — then in western Bosnia. Skorzeny sent his Chief of Staff to meet with the German Army Commander in the area to work out last-minute details. The liaison did not go well. Out of the blue, Skorzeny’s intel team reported that the local Army Corps was preparing their own operation against Tito, which would commence on 25 May 1944. Skorzeny realized that if his people knew about it in advance, so did Tito. The operation failed. (If you are interested in the details of this failure see KOMMANDO by James Lucas.)

Skorzeny brought his intel team home and began to train for the next problem proposed by the High Command. Off and on during the first half of 1944, he had been working with the Italian Decima Flottiglia MAS, led by Commander Junio Borghese, on special weapons for sinking ships. He received an order to report to Vice Admiral Heye who was forming up the Naval Small Battle Units (Kleinkampfverbånde) and was ordered by Himmler to assist in the training of the “K-men.” He also got involved with Luftwaffe Squadron 200, Hanna Reitsch, and the concept of piloted V-1 buzz bombs. Yet, most of his effort was spent dealing with entrenched bureaucracy. Once again, he was asked to train special pilots, but could not get any flight fuel for the effort.

The Western Front became active on 6 June 1944 and Skorzeny’s Commando Battalion 502 was put on alert. He was on his way to observe some frogmen exercises in Vienna on 20 July, when word of the attempted assassination of Hitler came. He was pulled off the train at the last station in Berlin and told to return to Berlin to deal with a military revolt. Confusion ran rampant and rumors were faster than speeding bullets. He was somehow detailed to protect the HQ of the Commender-in-Chief, Home Forces. High ranking officers were committing suicide or were being executed in the parking lot. Fear was gripping the staff at the Headquarters, and, according to Skorzeny, he took responsibility and got all the clerks back to work. Whatever he did, it raised his standing, and that of his battalion, in the eyes of Himmler and the political leadership. The Military Section D— the Counter-espionage unit — was attached to his command.

On 10 September 1944, he received a call to report to FHQ at a newly constructed Wolf’s Den in Berlin’s vicinity. After a three-day round of conferences and situation reports, he was briefed on his next mission. With Russian Armies breaking through Hungary’s defenses, the designated Hungarian head of state, Admiral Horthy, commenced secret negotiations with the Allies for surrendering. If successful, it would mean the loss of many German Army Divisions and Austria would become the next battleground.

Multiple German units were to be placed under Skorzeny’s command and he was directed to Budapest to see what could be done to prevent Hungary’s break away from the Axis camp. He was given a document that stated that he was on a personal and confidential mission for the Führer, and all political and military authorities were to assist him. It was essentially a Carte Blanche, personally signed by Hitler. The object this time was not to rescue anyone but to keep Hungary as a functioning Axis partner. Skorzeny sent in his command intel section and started quietly gathering his forces in and around Budapest. His favorite group was a battalion of cadets from the southern Austria WienerNeustadt Kriegsakademie. This may have been the first time he realized that he had become a legend.

Intelligence discovered that the son of Admiral Horthy was meeting with delegates from Tito’s partisan Army who was working for Russia as well. Another meeting was scheduled for the morning of October 15th. Working with great efficiency Skorzeny’s team rushed the meeting while others were fighting the Royal Hungarian Military guards. Within five minutes the son of Horthy and the Yugoslavians were captured, rolled up in carpets and loaded on a truck to the aerodrome, then flown across the border to Vienna. At 2 o’clock that afternoon a special announcement came over Hungarian radio: “Hungary has concluded a separate peace with Russia!” Orders for the German response “Operation Panzerfaust” were issued and German forces immediately took up planned positions around the Hungarian Government Citadel.

What occurred that evening and the next morning seems like a scripted scene from “Mission Impossible.” Skorzeny, with literally a handful of highly trained commandos, captured the whole Government Complex and Citadel and took the necessary steps to keep Hungary and its armed forces in the fight for the Axis. The whole action took less than thirty minutes and resulted in the death of three Hungarian soldiers and four Germans. Skorzeny was greeted by Hapsburg Archduke Frederick.

On October 18th, Skorzeny, now a LTC, escorted Admiral Horthy to meet with the Führer. He immediately returned to Budapest for joint ceremonial burial service. He would not see Admiral Horthy again until both were war-crime prisoners at the Nuremberg trials. Allied Intelligence took note of this event.

That evening, returning to Berlin with his primary commando officers, Skorzeny was given a written order to report to FHQ. After explaining details of the Hungarian Operation to Hitler, he was informed of the secret plan for December called the “Ardennes Offensive.” The big picture was to score a success in the West and work an armistice with Britain and the United States. Then Germany could send all remaining forces to fight Russia and thereby “save” Europe. His mission would be simple “just rush in to capture and hold three essential bridges, and, dressed in captured uniforms, have commando teams cause confusion behind Allied lines. All this was to be held in the strictest secrecy. Within a week, German High Command posted an order for English-speaking soldiers to be sent to LTC Skorzeny at Friedenthal for “Secret Commando Operations.”

Skorzeny, his Chief of Staff and one of his Battalion Commanders, held tight to the actual mission. Meanwhile, rumors were running wild through the collected gaggle of volunteers. Only half of about 400 English-speakers could communicate in that language. Captured American transportation equipment, which was promised, never materialized, and there was practically no ammunition for the larger U.S. guns. They only had one working Sherman tank, so a dozen Panther tanks were painted olive-drab with big white stars.

In the final phase of training, the rumor mill of the organization decided that the “real” mission would be to make a rapid dash to Paris and capture the Allied Headquarters and Eisenhower. Some of the junior officers and NCOs worked on various plans to get the organized groups to an assembly point in Paris — the Café de la Paix. Allied Intelligence and Security teams would spend the better part of December and January focused on that area.

There was a series of delays in commencing the operation and a series of final briefings at the Wolf’s Den. At some point, Hitler personally forbade Skorzeny from going behind enemy lines. This completely dismayed him. He was directed to coordinate the action by radio and stay with the 6th SS Armoured Army battle headquarters. His commando teams would operate in the battle area of the 1st SS Armoured Regiment under Colonel Peiper. At 0500 on Saturday, 16 December, the attack, known to the Allies as the Battle of the Bulge, began.

The primary mission of his battalion-sized “brigade” was to capture and protect three bridges across the River Meuse so that the Panzer Divisions could stream into Holland on their second day of the attack. When German forces failed to even make their first day goals, it became obvious to Skorzeny that making it to the Meuse wasn’t going to happen. His “brigade” was now used as a regular infantry unit.

However, he had sent half a dozen teams of English-speaking commandos in American uniforms to create confusion by changing or removing road signs and cutting phone lines between American front-line units. A rumor got out that Germans dressed like G.I.s were everywhere. The rumor took on a life of its own and a couple of hundred soldiers were arrested behind the lines, roughed-up to get information, and left in jail for a week — or more.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

The outcome of Skorzeny’s last operation: German commandos disguised as American soldiers.

General Bradley was stopped numerous times by over-zealous MPs while trying to visit his front lines. General Montgomery could no get through to discuss the situation with his American counterparts. In Paris, Eisenhower became a virtual prisoner of his own Intel and MPs for five critical days of the battle. An officer resembling Ike was dressed up and driven around Paris trying to trick “Kraut Commandos” into making their move. The rumors’ results would haunt Skorzeny for decades.

The Battle of the Bulge ended in German defeat. It was supposed to impress the Allies of the German Army’sviability and hopefully lead to negotiations about a separate peace treaty on the Western Front. It was the last straw for any German commando action. The remaining German forces were thrown into the losing battles — usually in the East. All that remained was the relentless closing in of the Russian Eastern Front and the Allied Western Front until Berlin was taken.

To cover faulty intel about Skorzeny’s activities, in December the U.S. Army circulated a “Wanted Poster” describing him as a “SABOTEUR, SPY, ASSASSIN” and declared him “The Most Dangerous Man in Europe.” He was tried in Nuremberg by the “Hanging Judge” but saved by the testimony of a British Special Operations Officer who claimed that everything Skorzeny was charged with (in violation of the pre-WWI “Rules of War”) had been done by Allied commando teams against the German Army. He spent years in courtrooms and prisons until finally cleared of all charges and false accusations.

He continued to be held in a detention center because the new German government was afraid to let him go. Finally, he told the warden he had enough and escaped. Not wanted for any crime, he quickly ended up in Spain and started a new life as a Mechanical Engineer.

A number of books were written about his actions: Charles Foley’s “Commando Extraordinary” was published in 1955. Ballentine’s illustrated history, compiled by Charles Whiting, and titled “Skorzeny,” was out in 1972. (Special forces were in the news then and back in vogue.) Skorzeny also released his own memoirs “Skorzeny’s Special Missions” which was written in 1957, immediately translated in English and published in London.

Editor’s note: This article was written by LCDR Sankey Blanton USNR (retired) and submitted by Robert Adams.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Navy’s oldest nuclear-powered attack sub completes final deployment

The US Navy’s oldest nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine wrapped up its final deployment Sept. 8, 2019, after sailing around the world.

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia completed a seven-month, around-the-world deployment when it returned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the Navy said on Sept. 9, 2019.


Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

The USS Olympia returns home following a seven-month deployment.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda Gray)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

The crew of the USS Olympia returns home from a seven-month deployment.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Zingaro)

The powerful sub “completed her final deployment after 35 years of service, circumnavigating the globe in seven months starting from Oahu, Hawaii, transiting through the Panama Canal, Strait of Gibraltar and Suez Canal,” Cmdr. Benjamin Selph, the sub’s commanding officer, said.

Selph said the sub and its crew worked visited various allies and partners during the deployment, at times engaging other navies, such as the British Royal Navy. “We joined the crew of HMS Talent in a day of barbeque and friendly sports competitions of soccer, football and volleyball,” he explained.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

The crew of the USS Olympia moors in Hawaii following a seven-month deployment.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Zingaro)

Selph said that “sailing around the world in our country’s oldest serving nuclear-powered Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine is a testament to the durability and design of the submarine but also the tenacity and ‘fight on’ spirit of the crew.”

Master Chief Electronics Technician (Radio) Arturo Placencia, Olympia’s chief-of-the-boat, said the boat and its crew “performed with excellence,” adding that “for everyone onboard, this was the first time we completed a circumnavigation of the globe.”

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Sailors assigned to the USS Olympia load a Mark 48 torpedo from the pier in Souda Bay, Greece, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee)

The War Zone, a defense publication, tracked the Olympia’s travels from Hawaii to the Western Pacific and through the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea, and the Suez Canal. The sub then conducted operations in the Mediterranean before heading to the Atlantic, passing through the Panama Canal, and sailing through the Eastern Pacific to Pearl Harbor.

Source: The War Zone

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

USS Olympia returns home following a seven-month deployment.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda Gray)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Sailors load a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile aboard the USS Olympia as part of the biannual RIMPAC maritime exercise.

(U.S. Navy photo)

Even in the final years of its more than three decades of service, the Olympia remained a symbol of US undersea power. For example, last summer, it became the first US sub in 20 years to fire a Harpoon sub-launched anti-ship cruise missile. The US military is building this capability as it confronts great power rivals with capable surface fleets.

Source: Submarine Force Pacific

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Electronics Technician (Nuclear) 1st Class Todd Bolen hugs his girlfriend at Olympia’s homecoming.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Zingaro)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Cmdr. Travis Zettel, commander of the USS Bremerton, left, hands the Rear Adm. Richard O’Kane cribbage board to Cmdr. Benjamin J. Selph, commander of the USS Olympia, at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Lee)

In Navy tradition, a lucky cribbage board belonging to Cmdr. Richard O’Kane, who was dealt an incredible winning hand before his Gato-class sub, USS Wahoo, sank two Japanese freighters in 1943, was passed from the USS Bremerton to the Olympia when the latter became the oldest fast-attack sub. Before it is decommissioned, the Olympia will pass the board to another sub, reportedly the USS Chicago.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Feast your eyes on this F-16’s new ‘Ghost’ paint scheme

An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet made its initial flight after receiving the first US Air Force “Ghost” paint scheme, May 23, 2019.

The design was chosen by a poll held by Brig. Gen. Robert Novotny, 57th Wing commander, on his social media account to add a new look to the 64th Aggressor Squadron (AGRS).

“I love this job, and I love what we do at Nellis Air Force Base, so I want to take any opportunity to boast about our fine men and women who do great work for their nation,” said Novotny.

“Social Media gives me a chance to connect directly with the folks who have a similar passion for military aviation.”


Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Aircraft painters for Mission First (M1) assigned to the 57th Aircraft Maintenance Group sand the tail of an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 1, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Jesus Yanez, 57th Maintenance Group Mission First (M1) aircraft painter, sprays the underside of an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 8, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Troy Blaschko, 57th Maintenance Group Mission First (M1) aircraft painter, peels off letters for the masking, inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 7, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressor Squadron (AGRS) received new decals and stenciling inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 16, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Peter Mossudo and Troy Blaschko, both 57th Maintenance Group Mission First (M1) aircraft painters, place masking for stenciling on an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet inside the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 16, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet assigned to the 64th Aggressors Squadron Viper Aircraft Maintenance Unit on the flight line at Nellis Air Force base, Nevada, May 21, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Senior Airman Rodolfo Aguayo-Santacruz, 926th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (AMXS) crew chief, prepares to control an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet getting towed out of the corrosion shop on Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, May 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Guthrie)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon with the “Ghost” paint scheme at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

(Nellis Air Force Base/Facebook)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon with the “Ghost” paint scheme at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

(Nellis Air Force Base/Facebook)

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon with the “Ghost” paint scheme at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

(Nellis Air Force Base/Facebook)

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what an unarmed chaplain brings to the battlefield

Chaplains are some of the most misunderstood troops in the formation. While they’re exempt from the minor stresses of the military, like going to the range or pointless details, they’re not above doing the one thing every troop is expected to do: deploy.

This puts them in a unique position. Sure, they have an assistant that’s kind of like a mix between an altar boy and an armed bodyguard, but they themselves are not allowed to pick up a weapon of any kind to remain in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

But that minor detail has never held any chaplains back from serving God and country on the front lines.


Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

It doesn’t matter which religion is on your dog tag, everyone gets the same respect.

(U.S. Army)

Their main objective is to facilitate the religious and emotional needs of all troops within their “flock.” Even if a chaplain was, say, a Roman Catholic priest back in the States, they accept anyone from any faith into their makeshift place of worship down range. They remain faithful to their personal denomination and preach in accordance with their own faith, but they must also learn enough about every religious belief in the formation to properly accommodate each and every troop.

This is because there is no alternative for deployed troops. Chaplains are few and far between in a given area of operation. When the worst happens and a soldier falls in combat, that Catholic chaplain needs a complete understanding of how to perform funeral rites in accordance with that troop’s faith, no matter what that faith may be.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

“Oh father, who art in Heaven, have mercy on this F-16’s enemies, for it shall not.”

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Eugene Crist)

Given that there are so few chaplains deployed, and even fewer of any single denomination, they will travel the battlefield — sometimes an entire region command will be under the care of a single chaplain.

It’d be far too costly to send each and every troop around theater each week for a single religious service, so chaplains will come to them. It’s not uncommon for a chaplain to travel to a remote location to give a sermon to just three or four troops. And since there’s only one chaplain performing the ceremonies across the theater, this often means that Easter Mass won’t be given exactly on Easter Sunday, but sometime around then.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

Being named as a Servant of God by the Pope means he’s on the first step to sainthood. If the church canonizes the miracles done in his name or designates him as a martyr, he could become the Patron Saint of the Soldier.

(Father Emil Kapaun celebrating Mass using the hood of a Jeep as his altar, Oct 7, 1950, Col. Raymond Skeehan)

A chaplain and their escort never go out looking for trouble, but trouble often finds them. They’re constantly on the move and, as a result, many chaplains have been tragically wounded or killed in action over the years. To date, 419 American chaplains have lost their lives while on active duty.

Captain Emil Kapaun, an Army chaplain, was said to be one of the few Catholic chaplains in his area during the Korean War. He personally drove around the countryside to administer last rites to the dead and dying, performed baptisms, heard confessions, offered Holy Communion, and conducted Mass — all from an altar that rested on the hood of his jeep. He’d often dodge bullet fire and artillery just to make it to a dying soldier in time to give them their final rites.

He was captured and taken prisoner by the Chinese during the Battle of Unsan in November, 1950. While prisoner, he often defied orders from his captors to lift the fighting spirits of the troops in the prison with him. Even while captive, he’d perform ceremonies — but was also said to have swiped coffee, tea, and life-saving medicines from guards to give to his wounded and sickly troops.

Father Emil would die in that prison, but not before giving one last Easter sunrise service in 1951. For his actions that saved the lives of countless troops in captivity, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He became the ninth military chaplain to be bestowed the Medal of Honor, along with being named a Servant of God by Pope John Paul II.

For more in the dangerous, righteous life of an Army chaplain, be sure to catch Indivisible when it hits theaters on October 26, 2018.

hauntedbattlefields

4 Veteran ghosts still on duty

Counting down the last days of a deployment while standing post is a feeling universally felt by service members past and present. However, not all are able to move onto greener pastures. Unlucky souls that are caught in the gears of war repeat their last moments on an infinite loop; no changing of the guard, no end to the task at hand, no relief.

Their names have been lost, but their actions continue to ripple through the fabric of time. These fallen souls share a fate I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy — eternal enlistment.


Top 10 creepiest military stories

www.youtube.com

The crew of the USS Hornet

USS Hornet CV-12 is an aircraft carrier that participated in naval combat during World War II. While she was deployed with Task Force 58, she participated in the battles for New Guinea, Palau, Truk, and other engagements in the Pacific theater. The ship also saw service in the Vietnam War, and the Apollo program by recovering Apollo 11 and 12 astronauts when they returned from the moon. The Hornet was retired and decommissioned in 1970.

This ship has seen a lot of combat, accidents, and suicides during her time at sea. So much so that sightings of the paranormal are commonly reported by the staff caretakers and guests.

Sailors in dress whites are reported to have been seen walking down passageways into empty rooms. The mess hall dishwashing area has dents on the bulkhead belonging to an angry cook. It is said that a poltergeist phenomenon involving the throwing of objects is experienced here. Panicked voices can be heard saying ‘run’ in the lower decks, and it is speculated that they’re the souls who did not manage to escape impacts from combat.

The ship was opened to the public as the USS Hornet Museum in Alameda, California, in 1998. Ghost tours can be booked on their website.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

This is exactly how stupid I imagine this ghost to look.

(Warner Bros.)

The Jody of Warren Air Force Base

Established in 1867, F.E. Warren Air Force Base was originally named Fort D. A. Russell in Wyoming. It’s named after Civil War Brigadier General David A. Russell. The base was erected to protect the workers constructing the transcontinental railroad and has had a gloomy history ever since.

Troops stationed here report seeing cavalrymen in full dress uniforms walking around the base. Others report screaming from unknown sources thought to be of a Native American woman who was sexually assaulted and murdered by two cavalrymen at White Crow Creek. Some apparitions are less jarring like a lone soldier standing at attention next to buildings in the same dated uniform.

The most famous ghost is “Gus.”

During the early days of the fort, Quarters 80 was home to a young officer. He was away a lot of the time on military maneuvers. One day he came home early, only to find a soldier entertaining his wife in an upstairs bedroom. With his escape route blocked by the angry husband, the soldier took an alternate route by leaping out of the second story window and accidentally hanging himself on the clothesline. Since then, Gus has been notorious for moving objects around in the house, opening cabinets and re-arranging furniture. Maybe it’s true what some say he is doing: looking for his trousers. – Airman Alex Martinez, 90th Space Wing Public Affairs
Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

This wasn’t even my shift.

(National Museum of Civil War Medicine)

The sentry forever on firewatch at the Jefferson Barracks

The base was operational for over 100 years and had many sightings of Civil War era troops still guarding the base. The Jefferson Barracks Military Post is located in Lemay, Missouri. It was active from 1826 through 1946, and it is currently used by the Army and Air National Guard.

One recurring phantom is of a guard standing duty with a bullet hole in his head. He was allegedly shot during an enemy raid attempting to steal munitions. It is said that he appears to confront troops standing duty as well. If I was standing duty for the rest of my undeath, I might also be in a permanent foul mood too.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar

To be honest, all squad bays look creepy

(Greg Vincent)

Suicide recruits at the Parris Island rifle range barracks

As a recruit who trained at Parris Island with platoon 1064 Alpha Company, I confirm the eerie ambiance of the barracks at the rifle range. Now, I didn’t see anything there, at least I don’t think so. Once I thought I saw a shadow move, but I just chalked that up to sleep deprivation and some hazing physical training. Besides, I wouldn’t have told anyone if I did see something paranormal, not because I didn’t want people to think I was crazy, but because they would assume I was trying to get intentionally kicked out of boot camp like a coward.

However, some of my friends did say that they heard footsteps outside, but when they checked, there was no one there. Others said they heard voices or crying from the bathrooms. We did know suicides have happened in the barracks and that is the reason why drill instructors ease up on you while you’re there — another reason might be the fact that you get handed live rounds and it’s not the right moment to haze train you.

I heard someone mention that they saw a ghost on fire watch with blotch cammies (camouflage). We were issued digital cammies, and that’s what immediately stood out. When approached, he vanished. I was more concerned with finishing my food at the time.

The strangest thing that happened to me at the rifle range was not paranormal at all. We had a cease-fire one day because a bald eagle decided to land in the middle of the range. One PMI suggested throwing a rock to motivate it to move and was passionately reminded by a very loud PA system that it is a felony to throw anything at the national bird.

Articles

Who would win a dogfight between a Flogger and a Phantom?

Sure, we all know about the F-16 Falcon, the F-15 Eagle, the Su-27 Flanker, the MiG-29 Fulcrum… all those modern planes.


But in the 1970s and the early 1980s, the mainstays of the tactical air forces on both sides of the Iron Curtain were the Phantom in the west and the Flogger in the east.

The F-4 Phantom was arguably a “Joint Strike Fighter” before JSFs were cool. The United States Air Force, United States Navy, United States Marine Corps, Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm, West German Air Force, and numerous other countries bought the F-4.

According to Globalsecurity.org, the F-4 could carry four AIM-7 Sparrows, four AIM-9 Sidewinders, and the F-4E had an internal cannon. The plane could carry over 12,000 pounds of ordnance.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
Photo: Wikimedia

Like the F-4, the MiG-23 was widely exported — and not just to Warsaw Pact militaries. It was also sold to Soviet allies across the world — from Cuba to North Korea. It could carry two AA-7 radar-guided missiles, four AA-8 infra-red guided missiles, and had a twin 23mm cannon.

Globalsecurity.org notes that the Flogger can carry up to 4,400 pounds of ordnance (other sources credit the Flogger with up to 6,600 pounds of ordnance).

Both planes have seen a lot of combat over their careers. That said, the MiG-23’s record has been a bit more spotty.

According to the Air Combat Information Group, at least 33 MiG-23s of the Syrian Air Force were shot down by the Israeli Air Force since the end of 1973. Of that total, 25 took place in the five-day air battle known as the Bekaa Valley Turkey Shoot. The total number of confirmed kills for the MiG-23s in service with the Syrian Air Force against the Israelis in that time period is five.

ACIG tallied six air-to-air kills by Israeli F-4s in that same timeframe (Joe Baugher noted 116 total air-to-air kills by the Israelis in the Phantom), with four confirmed air-to-air losses to the Syrians. That said, it should be noted that by the late 1970s, the F-4 had been shifted to ground-attack missions, as Israel had acquired F-15s and F-16s.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
An air-to-air right side view of a Soviet MiG-23 Flogger-G aircraft with an AA-7 Apex air-to-air missile attached to the outer wing pylon and an AA-8 Aphid air-to-air missile on the inner wing pylon. (From Soviet Military Power 1985)

There is one other measure to judge the relative merits of the F-4 versus the MiG-23. The F-4 beats the MiG-23 in versatility. The MiG-23 primarily specialized in air-to-air combat. They had to create another version — the MiG-23BN and later the MiG-27 — to handle ground-attack missions.

In sharp contrast to the specialization of various Flogger designs, the F-4 handled air-to-air and ground-attack missions – often on the same sortie. To give one example, acepilots.com notes that before  Randy “Duke” Cunningham engaged in the aerial action that resulted in three kills on May 10, 1972 – and for which he was awarded the Navy Cross – he dropped six Rockeye cluster bombs on warehouses near the Hai Dong rail yards.

In short, if the Cold War had turned hot during the 1970s, the F-4 Phantom would have probably proven itself to be the better airplane than the MiG-23 Flogger. If anything shows, it is the fact that hundreds of Phantoms still flew in front-line service in the early 21st Century.

Even though the F-4 had retired in 1996, it still flew unmanned missions until this month.

The MiG-23 just can’t match the Phantom.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This Russian tank was packing anti-aircraft turrets

Russia’s T-15 Armata infantry fighting vehicle may be grabbing headlines as a possible Bradley-killer due to its use of the Vietnam War-era S-60 anti-aircraft gun, but it is not the first Russian armored vehicle to pack 57mm firepower.


The first was the ZSU-57-2 Sparka. The ZSU stands for “zenitnaya samokhodnaya ustanovka,” which is Russian for “anti-aircraft self-propelled mount.” The nomenclature is quite easy to understand. The number immediately after “ZSU” reflects the size of the guns on the vehicle and the number after that shows how many barrels. So, the ZSU-57-2, for example, is equipped with two 57mm anti-aircraft guns.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
The heart of the ZSU-57-2 is a pair of 57mm S-60 anti-aircraft guns. The T-15 Armata has this same gun. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Bukvoed)

The ZSU-57-2 first entered Soviet service in 1958. It was based on the T-54 tank chassis and was intended to help protect Russian ground forces from enemy aircraft. The 57mm guns packed a solid punch, but it wasn’t long before advances in aircraft quickly rendered the ZSU-57-2 obsolete.

The ZSU-57-2 was widely exported to the Soviet Union’s allies and puppet states, showing up everywhere from East Germany to North Korea. The North Vietnamese acquired a number of these vehicles and, just as the United States Army found with the M163 Vulcan Air Defense System and the M45 “Meat Chopper,” the ZSU-57-2 proved to be very devastating against ground targets as well.

Why US troops wear ceramic plates instead of just kevlar
A Serbian self-propelled, 40mm Anti-Aircraft gun at a Serbian cantonment area in Zvornik during Operation Joint Endeavor. (DOD photo)

The vehicle saw a lot of action in the Arab-Israeli wars and, as a result, a number of those vehicles fell into Israeli hands. The vehicles also saw action in the Sino-Vietnamese conflict of 1979, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Today, it still hangs around and has been consistently upgraded to make it more capable. Kim Jong Un’s regime is perhaps the largest operator today.

Learn more about this vehicle in the video below.

 

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