France's nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think - We Are The Mighty
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France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

You’ve heard the jokes about the French. Their surplus rifles have never been fired, just dropped once. Raise your right hand if you like the French, raise both hands if you are French.


But there is one thing that isn’t a joke: France’s “force de frappe.” No, this isn’t some fancy drink that McDonald’s or Starbuck’s is serving. The force de frappe – translated at strike force – is France’s nuclear deterrence force.

The French nuclear force is often ignored, though it did play a starring role in Larry Bond’s 1994 novel Cauldron, where an attempted nuclear strike on American carriers resulted in the U.S. taking it out.

France’s nuclear deterrence is a substantial force, though.

According to a 2013 CNN report, France has about 300 nukes. According to the Nuclear Weapons Archive, these are presently divided between M51 and M45 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and ASMP missiles launched from Super Etendard naval attack planes, Mirage 2000N bombers, and Rafale multi-role fighters.

When launching a nuke, the French have options.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
M51 submarine-launched ballistic missile used on French ballistic missile submarines. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The M51 ballistic missile is carried by the Le Triomphant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, three of these submarines carry 16 M45 ballistic missiles, which have a range of just over 3,100 miles and deliver six 150 kiloton warheads.

The fourth carries 16 M51 ballistic missiles with six 150-kiloton warheads and a range of almost 5,600 miles. The first three subs will be re-fitted to carry the M51.

The ASMP is a serious nuke, with a 300-kiloton warhead that is about 20 times as powerful as the one dropped on Hiroshima. It has a range of 186 miles and a top speed of Mach 3, according to Combat Fleets of the World.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, steams alongside the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle (R 91). One of these carriers could launch aircraft equipped with a long-range nuclear-tipped missile – and it isn’t the Big E. (US Navy photo)

Furthermore, the fact that it can be used on Super Etendard and Rafale fighters means that the French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle now serves as a potential strategic nuclear strike weapon.

While Globalsecurity.org notes that F/A-18s from American aircraft carriers can carry nuclear gravity bombs like the B61, the retirement of the AGM-69 Short-Range Attack Missile in 1990 and the cancellation of the AGM-131 SRAM II mean that the United States lacks a similar standoff nuclear strike capability from its carriers.

In other words, France’s carrier can do something that the carriers of the United States Navy can’t.

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Navy sends McCain to challenge Beijing in South China Sea

The US Navy challenged China’s vast claims to the South China Sea on August 10, Navy officials revealed.


The US Navy conducted the third freedom-of-navigation operation under President Donald Trump in the South China Sea on August 10. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John McCain (DDG-56) sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Island chain, according to Fox News.

A Navy P-8 reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft reportedly flew nearby.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
USS John McCain confronts Chinese ships in South China Sea. (Dept. of Defense photo)

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey sailed past Mischief Reef in late May. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem sailed near Triton Island, part of the Paracel Islands, in July.

Over the past year, China has been increasing its military presence in the South China Sea. China has been constructing military outposts in both the Paracels and the Spratlys and equipping them with armaments to protect its claims to the region, discredited by an international tribunal last year, through force.

China has constructed airstrips and hangars and protected harbors for the air and naval units in the Paracel Islands. The military has even deployed surface-to-air missiles. In the Spratly Islands, China has built airstrips and reinforced hangars, possible missile silos, and point defense systems.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
Paracel Islands, as seen from above. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Chinese military has actually armed all seven of its military outposts in the Spratlys, strengthening its stranglehold on the disputed territories.

While the Trump administration was initially hesitant to rile China, which the president believed was an essential ally in addressing the North Korean nuclear crisis, Beijing’s hesitancy to act on the Korean Peninsula has led the administration to target China’s strategic interests.

In addition to freedom-of-navigation operations, the US has also conducted bomber overflights in the South China Sea.

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Adam Driver: Why I Joined the Marine Corps After 9/11

Today, Adam Driver is one of the hottest actors in Hollywood with a career-defining role as Kylo Ren in the revived Star Wars series and a lead in the upcoming Martin Scorsese movie Silence. Plus he’s still playing Hannah’s weird ex-boyfriend Adam on Girls. Back in the summer of 2001, he was an aimless high school graduate wondering what to do next. September 11 inspired him to join the Marines.


In this clip from TED Talks: War Peace (airing Monday, May 30th on PBS stations nationwide) talks about why he joined the military. In his full talk, he shares how the world of theater recreated the camaraderie he missed after the military, and how drama can be used to help returning veterans transition to civilian life.

The complete program includes talks from:

  • Journalist Sebastian Junger, who believes that the prevalence of PTSD may have more to do with the angry and fractured America that vets come home to than their actual combat experiences.
  • Jamila Raqib, who promotes effective strategies of non-violent protest to people living under tyranny and shares encouraging examples of successful change around the world.
  • Humanitarian Samantha Nutt, who has been to some of the most war-torn places on earth and draws parallels between conflict zones in the world’s poorest nations and the proliferation of cheap automatic weapons and small arms; and
  • Parent Christianne Boudreau, who conveys the emotional story of her son’s conversion to radical Islam and subsequent death while fighting for ISIS in Syria.

The program also features three original short films:

  • Talk of War, by Geeta Gandbhir and Perri Peltz, featuring parents and their children talking about the strain that deployment takes on military families;
  • All Roads Point Home, by Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster, about Major General Linda Singh, Maryland’s highest-ranking soldier, who served in Afghanistan and Kosovo and was called upon to use her skills in the Baltimore riots of 2015; and
  • Bionic Soldier, by Anna Bowers, Mark Mannucci and Jonathan Halperin, about new advances in biotechnology that allow severely wounded vets to once again lead active lives.

Finally, there’s a musical performance by singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright.

As with all PBS programs, check with your local station for an exact time and date when they’re airing the program.

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Here’s how Hollywood legend Dale Dye earned the Bronze Star for heroism in Vietnam

Dale Dye is a veteran of the Vietnam war, accomplished actor, author, and entrepreneur, but most of the filmmaking world knows him as Hollywood’s drill sergeant.


After serving in Vietnam as an infantryman and a combat correspondent, Dye served for a number of years before he retired from the Marine Corps and moved to Los Angeles with the idea of bringing more realism to Hollywood films. Despite the door being shut in his face plenty of times, his persistence paid off when Oliver Stone took him on as a military technical advisor for “Platoon.”

That film jumpstarted Dye’s Hollywood career. But before he became the legendary technical advisor who helped shape everything from “Born on the Fourth of July” to “Saving Private Ryan,” Dye, 70, served three tours as a Marine on the ground in Vietnam; a three-time recipient of the Purple Heart and recipient of the Bronze Star (with combat “V”) award for heroism, in fact.

I tried to Google my way to how he earned the Bronze Star award with little results. As far as I know, the story is not known to the general public. So I decided to ask him in an interview at his home, north of Hollywood. This is what he told me.

“I had made it through Hue, in Tet of ’68, and I’d been hit in the hand. Just about blew my thumb off here and I got a piece of shrapnel up under my chin, and I was in the rear. And a unit that I had been traveling with — 2nd Battalion 3rd Marines — they called it rent-a-battalion because it was constantly OPCON/ADCON to various things, and they were really hot, hot grunts. I mean these were good guys. And so I heard that they were going on this operation, and I knew all the guys, you know the 3rd Platoon of Echo Co. was my home. And so, I said I well I’m going. They said ‘ah you’re not ready for field yet.’ I said ‘yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m going.’

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

So I packed my shit and off I went. And I joined up with Echo Co. 2/3 … and we were involved in a thing called Operation Ford and it was either March, I guess March, of ’68 and the idea was that there had been a bunch of [North Vietnamese Army] that had escaped south of Hue, or been cut off when they were trying to reinforce Hue. They had moved south of Hue along this long spit of sand — I think it was battalion-strength — and they had dug in there according to reconnaissance guys who had been in the area, and they were waiting for ships or boats to come down from North Vietnam and pick them up and evacuate them and get them out of there.

So the idea was that 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines was going to be sent in and we were going to sweep, I think north to south along the perimeter along that peninsula. And then there were guys who were gonna block in the south — another battalion, I think. And so we started walking — spread out as you usually are — and hadn’t really run into much. We were running through a few [villages] and sweeping them and taking a look, and then we started hitting boobytraps. And these were pretty bad because they were standard frag in a can — fragmentation hand grenade inside a C-ration can tied to a tree, pin-pulled, fishing line attached across the trail — you hit the fishing line, it pulls the frag out, spoon pops and the frag goes. Or we were hitting 105mm Howitzer rounds that were buried. So we got a few guys chewed up pretty bad.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

And there was this one guy named Wilson who was walking maybe two or three ahead of me, and he should have known better than to go through this hedgerow. But I guess squad leaders were pushing us on or something like that, [and] Wilson went through the hedgerow and he hit a frag. Frag dropped right below his feet and blew up. So everybody was down and I could see what happened, so I ran up to see if I could help Wilson out. He had multiple frag all over him. It blew his crotch out, blew his chest out, and he had holes all over his face where the shrapnel had come up this way so I got a Corpsman up and we went to work on trying to save him. You had to play him like a flute. We tried to close his chest — and in those days we didn’t have all the medical gear, the QuikClot and all that sort of thing — we just did it with an old radio battery [and] piece of cellophane we got off it and closed his chest.

And we tried to breathe into him, but you had to play him like a piccolo, because the sinuses had shrapnel holes and you had to stick your fingers in there to make sure he didn’t leak air. Anyway, we kept him alive until they got a helicopter to come in and we got him out. He died on the way back to Danang. But they had noticed me go up and see what I could do for this guy.

So we continued to march and then we got hit really, really hard in the flank. And for some reason, I was out on the flank that got hit. And I was walking around by a machine gunner, name of Beebe, Darryl Beebe, Lance Corporal, and he had the M-60. And so they hit us really hard.

The third platoon commander, Lt. “Wild” Bill Tehan, ordered the platoon to pull back to this line of sand dunes where we had some cover from the fire. Beebe and I couldn’t get back. We were just trapped out there. And they started hitting us with grenades and 60mm mortars, and we couldn’t move. We couldn’t get back and we couldn’t go forward. And Beebe’s [assistant] gunner got killed, and he had ammo, maybe 20 meters up to the side. And I crawled over and got all his ammo and then crawled back to Beebe and started loading the gun. Off we went, and we just ripped them up. We tore into these bunkers that were taking us under fire. And Hell, I even pulled out my pistol and went to work. I mean we fired everything we had, threw every grenade we had.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

We must have hurt them. I know we hurt them because I killed two or three that I saw get up and go and I shot at them and down they went. So I guess we suppressed enough fire where we could pull back and we pulled back. And at that point, I think it was mortars or 81s or the 105 battery that was supporting us, I don’t remember what. Anyway, they hit the bunker complex. And Tehan went up and he looked and we killed a bunch of them. The machine gun, the single machine gun had just killed a bunch of them. And so I guess they marked me down as number two guy, having done two good things.

And then we got hit again, I think it was the next day. We had moved on, and we got hit again, and a corpsman and a couple of other people got hit. And I went up and pulled them out of the line of fire, and treated the corpsman. It was a very embarrassing thing because the corpsman was a guy by the name of Doc Fred Geise and I knew him real well. But he’d taken one in through the chest and I saw him go down, so I dropped my pack and went running up to him and they were firing all over me and one NVA that I didn’t even see, dumped a frag that hit right behind me. And boom it went off, and the next thing I knew, I was airborne. And I could feel stuff running down my legs. And I said, ‘ah, shit, I’m hurt.’ But I didn’t feel anything in particular, just dazed, you know the bell rung. And it was my canteen. That frag had blown out the bottom of both of my canteens, so I had water all over me.

Anyway, so I got up to Fred, and he had one through and through. And so, he was working on a guy who had taken one in the upper arm, broke the bone and I fixed him up the best I could then I got to Geise but there wasn’t much I could do. I stuffed the gauze in the entry wound, and wrapped it up the best I could — I was just winging it — what I could remember from first aid.

And he carried morphine syrettes. They look like those little tubes of toothpaste you get in a travel kit. And they have a plastic — they look like a little tube of Colgate — cover on the needle. And the needle has a loop in it, so you bite or pull the plastic off and break the seal with that little loop, throw that away, then you hit them in a muscle and inject that amount of morphine. I knew that.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

But there was fire coming at me. I was working literally on my belly because the crap was just cutting right through us. And rounds were hitting so close they were just blowing dirt all over us. Mud and water and all that sort of thing. But I tried to stay focused and get Doc Geise injected with morphine.

Well I pulled the plastic off the morphine syrette and I hit him three or four times in the thigh, you know trying to

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
squeeze this morphine in. It wouldn’t go. And I couldn’t figure out — you know the poor guy’s thigh is worse than the gunshot wound — like a pin cushion. And I finally figured it out, ‘oh shit, I forgot to break the seal,’ so I break the seal and finally get morphine in him. But oh, God.

He was saying, ‘Dye, you asshole, you idiot,’ you know. And I’m just, ‘sorry, Doc.’

So anyway, we had a bad night that night because they had moved out of their fortified positions and they were trying to break through us. And we had a pretty serious fight that night.

I think that was the first and only time I burned through every round of ammunition I had and then also borrowed a bunch of ammunition. And in fact, we had a bunch of medevacs that had been taken out on amtracs, and the company gunny had kept their weapons. And so we were over there scavenging all night, getting loaded magazines. We only had the 20-round magazines at that point for the M-16, and a lot of 16s were going down. You know, they were not the best piece of gear we ever had.

So anyway, then we went on ahead and we had another three or four days with four or five sharp fights but nothing as spectacular. And we got to the rear, and I said well okay, I’ve got to go here. I’m going to go somewhere where I can go through my notebooks, and I had a little story about the corpsman, and I had a little story about this guy, and a little story about Beebe and the machine gun, and so on and I realized, a lot of that involved me, which I wasn’t real happy about, you know, mentioning my part in it.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

But Lt. Tehan and the company commander really decided that I had done something spectacular, or out of the ordinary, let me put it that way.

And so they got Simmons and Beebe and Lt. Tehan and three or four other guys to write a statement that said this is what Sgt. Dye did. And the next thing I knew, my captain called me in and said ‘I hope you got a clean uniform and some boots that aren’t completely white,’ and I said, ‘oh no sir, I don’t.’ He said ‘well we’re getting you some because the general is going to pin a Bronze Star on you and that’s the first thing I ever heard about it. First time I ever heard that, you know. But that’s the story.”

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

Here is the full citation for the award, which Dye received on Sep. 9, 1968:

For heroic achievement in connection with operations against insurgent communist (Viet Cong) forces in the Republic of Vietnam while serving as a Combat Correspondent with the Informational Services Office, First Marine Division. On 14 March 1968, during Operation Ford, Sergeant Dye was attached to Company E, Second Battalion, Third Marines when an enemy explosive device was detonated, seriously wounding a Marine. Reacting instantly, he moved forward through the hazardous area and skillfully administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the injured man. A short time later, the unit came under intense hostile fire which wounded two Marines. Disregarding his own safety, Sergeant Dye fearlessly ran across the fire-swept terrain and rendered first aid to the injured men while assisting them to covered positions. On 18 March 1968, Sergeant Dye again boldly exposed himself to intense enemy fire as he maneuvered forward to replace an assistant machine-gunner who had been wounded. Undaunted by the hostile fire impacting around him, he skillfully assisted in delivering a heavy volume of effective fire upon the enemy emplacements. Ignoring his painful injury, he steadfastly refused medical treatment, continuing to assist the machine gunner throughout the night.
His heroic and timely actions were an inspiration to all who observed him and contributed significantly to the accomplishment of his unit’s mission. Sergeant Dye’s courage, sincere concern for the welfare of his comrades and steadfast devotion to duty in the face of great personal danger were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.
Sergeant Dye is authorized to wear the Combat “V”.
For The President,
H.W. Buse, Jr.
Lieutenant General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific

NOW: 11 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About ‘Saving Private Ryan’

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J.R.R. Tolkien started building his ‘Lord of the Rings’ universe as a soldier in WWI

For five months in 1916, German artillery shells rained down on British trenches, contributing to the more than 1 million casualties incurred at the Somme. Futile attempts to seize ground were traded back and forth until England finally claimed one of the deadliest battles in history — a Pyrrhic victory. During the battle, a young J.R.R. Tolkien penned the foundation for Middle-earth.

“You might scribble something on the back of an envelope and shove it in your back pocket,” Tolkien wrote 50 years after the battle.

In the introduction for Unfinished Tales, his son Christopher Tolkien said one of those first scribbles was on Tolkien’s official orders while serving as a lieutenant in the 11th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. These small notes were the beginning of “The Fall of Gondolin”: Tolkien’s first story of Middle-earth. 

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
Soldiers of the Lancashire Fusiliers fix bayonets in July 1916. Photo by Ernest Brooks, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Tolkien turned those early scribbles into a full story once he was evacuated from the front lines due to trench fever. Anything beyond scribbles was all but impossible while living in the trenches. Dispelling the common misconception that he wrote The Lord of the Rings while fighting, Tolkien once said the claims are “all spoof.” But the notes and scribbles he wrote on the backs of his orders marked the first descriptions of gnomes (later dwarves), elves, and epic battles between good and evil: essential elements to the rest of his work. 

Just like the myth of his writing The Lord of the Rings while in the trenches, Tolkien fervently denied the suggestion that his time under fire inspired him to create Middle-earth as an allegory for World War II.

“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. […] An author cannot of course remain wholly unaffected by his experience, but the ways in which a story-germ uses the soil of experience are extremely complex,” Tolkien wrote in the foreword to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings. 

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
Tolkien famously modeled the Shire after rural England. Photo by Nikhil Prasad, courtesy of Unsplash.

His experiences in World War I provided the seed for most of his work. In “The Fall of Gondolin,” the heroic unit of the House of the Hammer of Wrath is completely annihilated, a fate shared by Tolkien’s own company, the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers, who were destroyed at the Somme after his evacuation to Birmingham.

While Tolkien typically shied away from pointing out direct connections between his work and the war, he admitted in a letter that “The Dead Marshes and the approaches to the Morannon owe something to northern France after the Battle of the Somme.” 

The Fellowship of the Rings, the first volume of The Lord of the Rings, was published July 29, 1954. The Two Towers followed on Nov. 11, 1954, and The Return of the King on Oct. 20, 1955. Since its release, Tolkien’s definitive trilogy has sold over 150 million copies, but the sapling of his “vast tree of tales” sprouted in the trenches of World War I over 100 years ago, scribbled on the back of his orders.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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That time President Jackson threw a rager at the White House

On March 4, 1829, newly inaugurated President Andrew Jackson threw a party at the White House that grew so epically out of control there were washtubs full of what can only be described as 19th-century jungle juice and an odor in the carpets that made the place smell like cheese for months.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

Andrew Jackson, the current face of the twenty-dollar bill, was born in poverty in 1767. He became a lawyer and quickly rose to wealth and political popularity by the time the War of 1812 broke out, during which he also made a name for himself as a military hero. The next few decades, however, would mark him as a polarizing character in our nation’s history.

Jackson supported the expansion of slavery into new western territories, as well as the forced relocation of Native American tribes living in the Mississippi valley, otherwise known as the Trail of Tears.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
Historians refer to both as “the ultimate dick move.” (Painting by Thomas Sully/ public domain)

In 1824, he narrowly lost the Presidency to John Quincy Adams, but four years later, in a campaign that was characterized by an unusual degree of negative personal attacks, the Tennessee frontiersman became the seventh president of the United States.

To celebrate, he upheld an inaugural tradition begun by Thomas Jefferson and hosted an open house at the White House. 

And ohhhhhhh the people came. More than 20,000 of them.

The White House became a mob scene. Guests tracked mud and debris into the rooms, compacting food and broken glass into the carpets. White House staff reported a stench for months after the event. Servants tried to lure the crowds outside by placing washbins of juice and whiskey out on the once-dignified White House lawn.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

Senator James Hamilton of South Carolina, a Jackson supporter, struck a balance when he described the event as a “regular Saturnalia,” but with the qualification that most of the damage was trivial. Tell that to the people who had to clean up.

According to History.com, the White House open-house tradition continued until several assassination attempts heightened security concerns. Finally, in 1885, Grover Cleveland opted instead to host a parade, which he viewed in safety from a grandstand set up in front of the White House.

Featured Image: Painting of Andrew Jackson’s Rowdy Party. Louis S. Glanzman, image courtesy the White House Historical Association.

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In the ongoing fight between Delta Force and ISIS, Deltas win again

A 200-strong force of U.S. special operators, led by the U.S. Army’s elite Delta Force, recently arrived in Iraq. Until now, the bulk of U.S. efforts against the terror organization have been through aerial operations, bombing and air support for Kurdish and Iraqi forces on the ground. The United States now has this significant ground combat force in the country, the first combat troops on Iraqi soil since the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2011.


Taking a page from General Stanley McChrystal’s special operations playbook from the Iraq War circa 2004-2006, today’s operators established internal intelligence networks to tackle the ISIS networks working against Iraqi and American forces. This strategy led to the death of al-Qaeda in Iraq’s (what would become ISIS) most notorious leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006. Now, the strategy has led to the capture of a “significant” ISIS operative in Iraq and is currently questioning him for intelligence information.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
Is there anything more awesome than seeing US Special Forces inside a captured ISIS compound?

Related: SEAL Team 6’s plan to surrender and 7 other amazing JSOC tales

This isn’t the first time an ISIS (or Daesh, as the group loathes to be called) fighter has been captured but it is the first time a “significant” member of the terror group has been captured. It is also the first time the “network vs. network” strategy yielded such a result – just weeks after it was was raised. The high value detainee has not been identified. The “key operative” has been moved to Irbil, in the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq, where, eventually he will be handed over to Iraqi authorities.

The ground force is known as a “specialized expeditionary targeting force” at the Pentagon, and their missions will include intelligence gathering through raids on ISIS strongholds, grabbing papers, hard drives, and capturing operatives. The presence of the U.S. special operators also gives the United States the ability to conduct hostage rescue raids. These raids will continue and will look like the May 2015 raid that killed Abu Sayyaf, the ISIS oil minister, along with mobile phones, laptops, and other intel.

The exact timing of the latest raid was not disclosed.

U.S. Army Delta Force soldier Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was killed by enemy gunfire during a raid to rescue 70 hostages from an ISIS compound in Iraq in 2015. His death was the first American combat fatality since the U.S. returned to Iraq for Operation Inherent Resolve.

 

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Vietnamese farmers have been using US fuel tanks as boats for 50 years

Poor farmers and fishermen the world over need all the help they can get. Sometimes, buying a boat is just too costly, no matter how critical it is to their livelihood. So when the raw materials necessary to create exactly what is needed start raining from the sky, no one would think twice about using them. 

That’s exactly what the people of Vietnam began doing during the Vietnam War and the decades that followed. 

On Jan. 2, 1967, Col. Robin Olds was leading a flight of F-4 Phantom II fighters in a surprise raid over North Vietnam. The raid itself wasn’t a surprise; Olds wanted the enemy to see him coming and take off to intercept. The surprise was what the North Vietnamese would find once they were airborne. “Operation Bolo” was a go.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
F-4 Phantom on display in Maryland. Wikimedia Commons.

Olds and his Phantoms were outfitted with special gear that would make the enemy air base believe they would engage slower, less dangerous F-105 Thunderchief fighter bombers. By the time the communists realized they were going up against waves of nimble, faster F-4 Phantom fighters, it would be too late.

And it was. As soon as the North Vietnamese MiG-21s cleared the cloud cover, the Air Force another flight of Phantoms, led by Col. Daniel “Chappie” James were already in the area. Olds, like many other fighter pilots of his day, jettisoned his external fuel tanks and engaged the enemy MiGs. 

Air combat isn’t the only reason for pilots to jettison external tanks. Once they began to run empty, tanks were often dumped to lower the weight of the aircraft and extend the life of what fuel was remaining. Once dropped from the plane, the tanks simply fell into the countryside, landing wherever they landed.

The U.S. Air Force alone flew some 5.25 million sorties over North and South Vietnam during the American involvement there. While not all of those were fighter missions and not all of those required pilots to dump their external fuel tanks, a lot of tanks were dumped into Vietnam. 

In Vietnam, however, the tanks weren’t simply taken to some waste dump or discarded out of hand. In the 1960s, Vietnam’s rural population was comprised of mostly farmers and fishermen, many of which lived in the coastal areas of the South China Sea or near the Mekong River. When the F-4s dropped fuel tanks, they were dropping materials that could be repurposed.

F-4 Phantoms carried three external fuel tanks, a large 600-gallon tank in the center under the fuselage, along with two 370-gallon tanks under its wings. This means tens of thousands of drop tanks were potentially dropped into Vietnam’s jungles and farmlands throughout the war. 

While dropping empty aluminum from thousands of feet in the air would likely cause a lot of damage to them, enough survived to where Vietnam’s population was able to upcycle them for a new purpose: river canoes. 

Today, visitors to Vietnam’s rural areas along the rivers can see potentially dozens of  repurposed Air Force drop tanks being used as canoes by the locals. Many are cut in half, others have been refitted to look more like canoes, carry an onboard motor, or hold fish and other supplies.

Featured image: Guns.com

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8 awesome enlisted leaders depicted in war movies

Finding good leadership in the military can be difficult. Writing strong interesting characters for movies that audiences respect is a completely separate challenge. But after watching these iconic war films, we’d wager that most ground troops wouldn’t mind serving alongside these screen legends.

So here’s our list of enlisted leaders we’d follow into battle.

1. Gunny Highway (Heartbreak Ridge)

Played by Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood, this career Senior NCO took a bunch of misfits and turned them in hard-charging Reconnaissance Marines in just a few short movie hours. That’s badass and tough to pull off.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

“Be advised that I’m mean, nasty, and tired. I eat concertina wire and piss napalm and I can put a round through a flea’s ass at 200 meters” — Gunny Highway. (Source: WB/Screenshot)

2. Sgt. 1st Class Horvath (Saving Private Ryan)

Played by veteran actor Tom Sizemore, this loyal sergeant to his CO just wanted to keep the men in line, fight hard and finish the mission.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

Horvath didn’t get the respect he deserved in the film, but we know… we know. (Source: Dream Works/Screenshot)

3. Sgt. Elias (Platoon)

Played by long time actor Willem Dafoe, this seasoned soldier is the voice of his lower enlisted troops and brings a human element to an inhumane world.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

Source: Platoon

4. Sgt. Eversmann (Black Hawk Down)

Played by Josh Hartnett, this newly assigned chalk leader is put to the ultimate test as he spearheads into the legendary Somalia raid and thinks of his men over himself. That’s leadership.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
Leave no man behind. (Source: Sony/Screenshot)

5. Don Collier (Fury)

Played by Brad Pitt and known in the film as “War Daddy,” he strives to keep his men alive and kill as many Germans in the process while not allowing his men see his softer side during the grueling tank battles of WWII.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
He enjoys killin’ Nazis, but that was Pitt’s other movie. (Source: Sony/Screenshot)

6. Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley (We Were Soldiers)

Played by Sam Elliott, this hardcore infantryman isn’t into coddling his men but cares about their health and the importance of taking the fight to the enemy.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

7. Michael (The Deer Hunter)

Played by award-winning actor Robert De Niro, no emotional expense was spared when he brought to life this character who suffered great torment to keep his men from going insane while being held captive in a POW camp.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
A high-tension game of Russian roulette. (Source: Universal/Screenshot)

8. Gunny Hartman (Full Metal Jacket)

Played by R. Lee Ermy (retired Marine), Hartman took the audience by storm as he brutally trained his recruits to prepare for the dangers they’d soon face heading off to Vietnam.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

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The US seems to have ended its CIA program to arm anti-Assad militias in Syria

President Donald Trump appears to have confirmed ending a CIA program to arm and train rebels battling the government of President Bashar al-Assad.


In a post on Twitter criticizing a Washington Post report, the president said late July 14, ” The Amazon Washington Post fabricated the facts on my ending massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels fighting Assad.”

Trump didn’t specify what was wrong with report by the newspaper, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos.

The Washington Post had reported Trump decided to end the aid almost a month ago after meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster in the Oval Office. It was before the G20 Summit in Germany when met on July 7 with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr.

The Russian government, which backs the Assad regime, has opposed the program, which was begun by President Barack Obama in 2013.

Officials said the CIA program will likely be phased out “over a period of months.” US ally Jordan, which has hosted training sites for the Syrian rebels, backs the move, according to the newspaper report.

The White House did not dispute the story last week.

A spokesman for the CIA declined to comment on Trump’s tweet.

On July 21, the leader of US special forces appeared to confirm the end of the program.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think

“At least from what I know about that program and the decision to end it, absolutely not a sop to the Russians,” Army Gen. Raymond Thomas said at a national security forum in Colorado. “It was, I think, based on an assessment of the nature of the program, what we’re trying to accomplish, the viability going forward.”

He said it was a “tough, tough decision.”

“It is so much more complex than even I can describe, that’s not necessarily an organization that I’ve been affiliated with but a sister, parallel activity that had a tough, and some would argue, impossible mission based on the approach we took.”

After his speech, he told reporters he hadn’t confirmed anything and was referring only to “public reporting.”

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This veteran refuses to leave his unemployed and debt-ridden comrades behind

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.


France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
Photo: Youtube

When Eli Williamson returned from two deployments to the Middle East, his hometown of Chicago felt at times like a foreign battleground, the memory of desert roads more familiar than Windy City central thoroughfares. As he relearned the city, Williamson noticed a strange similarity between veterans like himself and the young people growing up in tough parts of Chicago. Too many had witnessed violence, and they had little support to cope with the trauma.

Applying the timeworn principle of leaving no soldier, sailor, airman or marine behind, Williamson co-founded Leave No Veteran Behind (LNVB), a national nonprofit focused on securing education and employment for our warriors. Williamson formed the organization based on “just real stupid” and “crazy” idealism: “You know what?” he says. “I can make a difference.” Since work began in 2008, with a measly operating budget of $4,674 to help pay off student loans, LNVB has eliminated around $150,000 of school debt and provided 750 transitional jobs, Williamson says.

“Coming out of the military, every individual is going to have his or her challenges,” says Williamson, who served as a psychological operations specialist and an Arabic linguist in Iraq in 2004 and in Afghanistan in 2007. “We’ve seen veterans with substance abuse issues, homelessness issues.” Additionally, at least one in five veterans suffer from PTSD, and almost 50,000 are homeless and 573,000 are unemployed.

Williamson started the group with his childhood friend Roy Sartin. They first met in high school, when they joined choir and band together. “I think we’ve been arguing like old women every since,” Williamson says. Both joined the U.S. Army Reserves while at Iowa’s Luther College and were mobilized to active duty during their senior year after the Twin Towers fell. Williamson finished his education at the Special Warfare Training Center at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, while Sartin put his learning on hold.

Upon return, both struggled with crippling interest rates on their student loans. Sartin received a call from the loan company saying that he needed to make a $20,000 payment. “Although I had the funds, it was just enough to get myself back together. So, for me, the transition wasn’t as tough, but I was one of the lucky ones.” Williamson got a bill for $2,200 only 22 days before the balance was due. Desperate, he took to the streets playing music to cover the costs.

After talking with other vets, the two realized that many didn’t qualify for the military’s debt repayment programs. That’s when they started going out to financial sources for “retroactive scholarships” for our country’s defenders. And they sought employment opportunities for former military members to help cover the rest.

Jobs and debt relief for our nation’s warriors are the main focus of LNVB, but the group oversees several initiatives, including S.T.E.A.M. Corps, which pairs vets with science, technology, engineering, arts, and math experience with at-risk youth. More than 200 students have graduated from S.T.E.A.M., but Williamson, director of veteran affairs at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, points to a more intangible benefit of his non-profit’s work: the ability for veterans “to articulate a larger vision of themselves … is our advocacy mission,” he says.

“Veterans can paint a vision for where our country needs to be, and the only reason we can do that is because you realize that you are part of something larger than yourself,” Williamson adds. “That’s a fundamental value that veterans can share, as they leave military, with the communities that they come back to.” For those who’ve just returned home from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, in other words, service is just beginning.

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This article originally appeared at NationSwell Copyright 2015. Follow NationSwell on Twitter.

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VA Secretary about to sign draft master plan for West LA campus

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
(Photo: LA Times)


The Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald is traveling to Los Angeles to sign the draft master plan for the West LA VA campus on January 28 after months of advocacy by local veteran leaders to get their peers’ voices heard against a backdrop of wrangling between the city’s power brokers and politicians. The action comes nearly a year after the VA won a ruling to reassume control of the sprawling campus near Santa Monica that has suffered several decades worth of encroachment by non-VA organizations and inattention by the VA itself.

In 1888 John P. Jones and Arcadia B. de Baker signed a deed donating 300 Acres of West Los Angeles land to be used by the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (the precursor to the Department of Veterans Affairs) as their Pacific branch home. Over the next 127 years, the property lost it’s original focus and suffered at the hands of ineffectual government authorities who let the facility fall into disrepair and conniving interlopers from a host of organizations including a major university, an elite parochial school, and even other government agencies who wrangled large parcels for their own use (and nothing to do with veterans healthcare or well-being).

But in January 2015, VA Secretary Bob McDonald signed a settlement agreement in a class action lawsuit (Valentini v Shinseki) regarding encroachment on the campus of the facility. The agreement established a nonprofit, Vets Advocacy, to serve as a partner in the West LA VA master planning process. As the first step of that process, Vets Advocacy petitioned the veteran community for inputs on how they’d like to see VA services provided.

Vets Advocacy created a website, www.vatherightway.org, as the primary tool behind their mission.  The site allows veterans to find out about the history of the West LA VA campus, see the schedule of local town hall events, watch video testimonials of other vets, and — most importantly — take the survey regarding how the campus should be modified to better serve patients and the veteran community at large. In the period leading up to the creation of the draft master plan, more than 1,300 surveys were completed.

“The vets stepped up to the plate,” said Mike Dowling, We Are The Mighty’s director of outreach and a major force behind organizing veteran inputs on the master plan.

“The master plan is wholly informed by vet input,” said Vets Advocacy’s Dr. Jon Sherin, who ran mental health services for the West Los Angeles VA hospital. “Now Secretary McDonald is signing into law the guideposts by which all decisions regarding that land will be made.”

“The plan is not just historic for the amount of comments, but for what this represents,” Army vet Michael Cummings writes on his blog. “This plan represents the possibility to change the VA from being a hospital or housing shelter into a community that brings veterans together. The veteran leaders I’m working with don’t just want to make the VA function better, we want to build a community of veterans and work with the VA to improve the lives of the people who fought and sacrificed for our country.

“Even better, we know that we are creating a model for the whole country. Our efforts in Los Angeles are providing a blueprint for other VA campuses around the country for how to to turn from being simply a hospital into a community.”

Although getting Secretary McDonald’s signature on the draft master plan is an important milestone, the work towards realizing the promise of the document is far from over, and veteran input remains fundamental to the effort.

“The core theme among vets taking the survey was the need for a vet-driven governance structure for the community being developed on that land,” Dr. Sherin said. “We have to keep the vets’ voices alive and clear.”

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Why women should be allowed – and required – to register for the Selective Service

Women have been part of our all-volunteer service since the Revolutionary War when females worked as nurses in camps and dressed up as male soldiers. While nearly 2 million men were drafted to serve during Vietnam, more than 265,000 American women served during this time, and 11,000 served in Vietnam. Around 90% of women who served were volunteer nurses.

The role of women in the military has grown and evolved with new opportunities. Today, women have the ability to serve in all jobs within the U.S. military. Because of the increasing role of women in the military, there has been talk of requiring women to register for the Selective Service alongside men, as well. A U.S. Senate Committee has approved legislation that would accomplish exactly that, giving the potential for women to be drafted for the first time in the nation’s history.

Although women have been officially serving in the military for over 100 years, there are some who find this proposal as being a step too far.  As a veteran who advocates for young women considering military service, I believe this change is necessary. When I joined the military in 2007, although women were “welcomed” to join, there were still a number of limitations and an underlying culture that women didn’t belong.

While the military has a place for women, the culture of the U.S. still creates and provides for a gender bias toward women. As a woman veteran I regularly have to defend my service, even though I deployed to Afghanistan with the Army and received an Air Force Combat Action Medal. Women face an uphill battle while they serve and they often find more challenges than their male counterparts when they take off their uniform.

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
U.S. Army photo

It may seem that changing the Selective Service registration requirement for women is not related to how women are treated both in and out of the military. However, just as the underlying issue of sexism toward civilian male military spouses is having an effect on women rising to the top, so is the underlying stigma that women don’t belong because their military service is not regarded as equal to a male’s. If a draft was implemented, women would be perceived as being unaffected and kept out of harm’s way.

Allowing women to be part of the Selective Service registration changes everything — and changes nothing. We haven’t implemented the draft since Vietnam, but this change will have an increasing impact on women who serve in the next generation. Being a service woman won’t be something they won’t consider just because they do not have to register for the draft. It will help normalize the role of women and their place in the military, and it will surely have an impact on how women who are veterans are viewed in future generations.

The more we adapt to an equal role for women in the military and normalize within our culture, the more equal the playing field will be. For example, new legislation authored by the Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., suggests we remove any reference to “male” in current law. 

An equal playing field

France’s nuclear arsenal is a lot bigger than you might think
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan G. Wright

Without this change, women continue to be told their value is less than men’s. Our current system of a male-only draft tells women: You are not going to be relied on if the nation needs your service. It’s a system that discounts the value women provide and one that forgets that men sometimes are just as likely as women to not fit the mold of what military service requires.

President Biden said it best: “The United States does not need a larger military, and we don’t need a draft at this time…I would, however, ensure that women are also eligible to register for the Selective Service System so that men and women are treated equally in the event of future conflicts.” Opening the door to having women registering for the Selective Service is an open door to equality — something women have long since earned, but are still fighting for. 

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