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The United States has been very proud to call itself a constitutional republic that is led by citizen-elected representatives. America is and has been, historically, very much opposed to monarchies. That is, until 1859, when a legitimately crazy guy wrote into a newspaper, proclaiming himself the “Emperor of these United States.”
Of course, he had absolutely no legal authority and no one truly believed his claim. In fact, “Emperor” Joshua Norton was actually a homeless man dressed in nice clothes. He ended up being a major tourist attraction for the city, however, so the locals just gave him a collective, “sure, buddy. Whatever you say.”
And so, an empire was born.
That’s enough to drive anyone flippin’ crazy…
Before his nosedive straight into the deep-end of crazy town, Joshua Norton was a highly successful businessman. He bought real estate outside of goldmines just before the Gold Rush really boomed. He would sell all of his holdings to invest in rice in 1852. The Chinese rice industry had been struck with a famine that barred the export of rice, which drastically raised the price of rice in San Francisco to 25 cents per pound.
Norton, being the savvy businessman that he was, found a source for Peruvian rice, which was being sold for 12 cents per pound. His idea was to spend all of his money on rice from Peru and resell it in the U.S. at the swelled rate of Chinese rice. As soon as the sale was finalized, however, the per-pound price of Peruvian rice dropped to 3 cents and would be sold at near cost. In short, Norton blew everything he had on rice he couldn’t sell.
By 1858, the once-powerful businessman was bankrupt, penniless, forced into a boarding home, and forgotten by his elite former peers.
He would also declare himself a pope, but that was more or less for the funeral for a stray dog.
Not much is known about his downward spiral into insanity but it was during that transition that he decided he couldn’t have been the son of regular English parents, but was rather a child of the House of Bourbon (despite the beheading of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette twenty five years before he was born.) This was confirmed in his mind by the fact that his first name was ‘Joshua’ — his logic was that his parents gave him a common name to hide his royal lineage.
He took his ramblings to the San Francisco Bulletin on September 18th, 1859. It’s remains unclear why the newspaper allowed it to run, but the audiences found it hilarious. In his editorial, he declared himself Emperor of these United States, decreed that Congress be abolished, and called for his “subjects” to gather at the city’s Musical Hall the following February 1st.
Congress was not abolished due to the whims of some random homeless guy — obviously. He ordered General Winfield Scott, Commander of the Union Armies, to clear the halls, but didn’t — obviously. Readers of the Bulletin did gather in droves at his call — likely because they figured it’d be funny. The doors were locked, but the crowds embraced the joke nonetheless.
He even printed out worthless “Norton-bucks” that San Franciscans embraced and used because that’s exactly how fiat money works.
By 1861, the legend of “Emperor” Norton I had spread around the country and was fully embraced by San Franciscans. Among his many decrees, he demanded that…
…the unpopular California State Supreme Court would be abolished.
…anyone using the word ‘Frisco’ in reference to San Francisco would be exiled.
…and that Governor Henry Wise of Virginia be fired for hanging the abolitionist John Brown of Harper’s Ferry fame.
These were all things locals agreed with before the Civil War.
“Emperor” Norton I became so popular that even politicians and business owners would placate him in order to not upset the townsfolk. Officers at the U.S. Army post at the Presidio of San Francisco offered him an elaborate blue uniform with gold epaulets to keep the joke going, because you know, it was still kind of funny.
In 1876, the actual Emperor of Brazil, Don Pedro II, would visit San Francisco on an official trip — only to be greeted by Norton I. They met for an hour at the Palace Hotel and enjoyed what we can only assumed was an awkward conversation.
“Emperor” Norton I passed on January 8th, 1880. His funeral saw the attendance of 10,000 people who mourned their local celebrity. Many years after his death, the Oakland-San Francisco Bridge was completed and many called for it to be renamed “The Emperor’s Bridge” in honor of the goofy homeless guy who jokingly became an emperor.
Remember, if you fall on hard times and feel your sanity start slipping… lean hard into that crazy and you could just wind up becoming a legend.
“Any suggestion that U.S. or coalition forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and is utterly irresponsible,” the Pentagon responded at the time.
The Poseidon P-8A does have the capability to communicate with drones, but it’s entirely unclear if it can command a fleet of 13 drones. Russia initially displayed the drones after the attack, but did not produce any hard evidence that they communicated with the US Navy.
Russian Ministry of Defense display of the drones that allegedly took part in the attack.
Russia has some of the world’s best air defenses around its bases in Syria, which Igor Korotchenko, editor-in-chief of Russia’s National Defense journal, told Russian media contributed to the attack.
The US “pursued several goals,” with the alleged attack, said Korotchenko.
“There were three such goals: uncovering the Russian air defense system in Syria, carrying out radio-electronic reconnaissance and inflicting actual harm to our servicemen in Syria,” he said.
Without citing evidence or sources, Korotechenko alleged the US carried out the attack to uncover “the strong and weak points in our air defense system in Syria.”
In April 2018, the US would attack targets in Syria suspected of participating in chemical weapons attacks on civilians, but Russian air defenses stood down.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Troops are often told that there are a handful of people that they should always keep in their back pocket. The cooks, the medics, and the supply guys are the most obvious choices — but they shouldn’t count out support from the congressperson who serves their home of record.
That’s right, soldier. All of those people arguing in Washington are there to hear what you have to say. Holders of public office are obligated to answer letters sent by their constituents serving in the military. If you write them with a concern, best case scenario, they’ll come to the aid of the troops without having to navigate the necessary red tape.
Think of them as having the ultimate “open door” policy for the troops.
While there are many veterans serving in politics, most civilians — including politicians — can be intimidated by abject outrage. Be polite.
(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. April Campbell)
In the military, every problem should be addressed at the lowest possible level. Is your immediate superior abusing their power? The first step should be their superior. But if the problem is systemic in nature and you feel like you’ve got nowhere to turn, don’t worry, you’ve still got options.
One of the most effective ways of getting a situation resolved is by writing simple letter to your congressperson. It might feel like using a sledgehammer to do a flyswatter’s job, but it’ll get things done.
The best way to get the attention of your congressperson is through a short, to the point, and professionally worded letter that offers possible solutions. That last bit in important; simply writing, “this is bullsh*t” on a piece of paper and sending it out will land your concerns in the trash.
Aiding the troops is, thankfully, a nonpartisan issue. It may not feel like it at times, but they, for the most part, have the well-being of troops in mind.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Clayton Lenhardt)
Congressmen can help with a wide variety of topics, ranging from pay or tax issues, immigration concerns, social security problems, terrible accommodations, or trouble with a toxic chain of command. In the past, this has lead to many great outcomes, such as troops receiving better tents while deployed or having an unjust court-martial investigated.
When the 2013 federal government shutdown was looming overhead, an unprecedented amount of troops and veterans wrote their respective members of Congress with concerns about their military pay being affected. Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado, a retired Major of the Marine Corps who spent his enlisted years in the Army, sponsored the aptly-named “Pay Our Military Act,” which ensured that Congress’ fighting over federal spending will never affect the pay of all members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Following the suicides of Private Danny Chen and Lance Corporal Harry Lew, the “Harry Lew Military Hazing Accountability and Prevention Act” was put into place by Congresswoman Judy Chu of California. Both men were the subjects of extreme, racially-motivated hazing and mistreatment by their units and were pushed into suicide. The situation was awful; but the concerns of service members and veterans reached lawmakers directly and had an impact.
If you can manage to bring them out to your installation, prepare for the impending dog and pony show.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael B. Keller)
But if you write, know that it may not help immediately — a typical response takes around six weeks. Members of Congress receive hundreds of letters and emails every single day, but they’ll take special notice if you mention that you are serving (or have served) in the military.
Keep the letter polite — you don’t want any reason for their aides to avoid putting your letter on their desk. If you don’t feel like your voice is being heard, you can always write to one of your two senators, though their offices are considerably more busy.
Regardless of how you personally feel about their politics, they are still beheld to their constituents — troops included.
In the six months since its activation, the Navy’s 2nd Fleet has bulked up and is embracing its mission in the North Atlantic and the Arctic, where the US and its partners are focused on countering a sophisticated and wily Russian navy.
Second Fleet was deactivated in 2011 for budget reasons — 65 years after being set up to deter the Soviet Union in the Atlantic and around Europe. Most of its assets were shifted to Fleet Forces Command.
The fleet returns amid a shift toward a potential great-power conflict, but the new version will differ from its predecessor by being “leaner, agile, and more expeditionary,” Rear Adm. John Mustin, the fleet’s deputy commander, said Jan. 16, 2019, at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium.
Rear Adm. John Mustin at Naval Base San Diego, Feb. 24, 2017.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Craig Z. Rodarte)
“When I say lean, what does that mean? The staff complement is organized and billeted to be operational. The majority of staff will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training,” Mustin said.
Questions have been raised about how 2nd Fleet will integrate with other numbered fleets — particularly 6th Fleet, which oversees waters around Europe, and 4th Fleet, which is responsible for the Caribbean Sea and waters around Central and South America — but Navy officials have said the goal is not to draw stark lines in the sea.
Second fleet’s primary focus will be working with 6th Fleet and 4th Fleet “to ensure a seamless command and control for force employment — ensuring there is no vulnerability, no seam in the Atlantic,” Lt. Marycate Walsh, a spokesperson for 2nd Fleet, told Business Insider in December 2018.
US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham hits heavy seas in the Atlantic Ocean, deployed in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 18, 2018.
(Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)
Prior to its deactivation, 2nd Fleet was mostly a training command for units getting ready to deploy.
Now, however, the focus is “to develop and dynamically employ maritime forces ready to fight across multiple domains in the Atlantic and Arctic,” Mustin said at the symposium.
“Previously, forces reported to 2nd Fleet when they entered the fleet’s geographic area of operations. Under the new model forces will be assigned once in the final stage of the training cycle and through the end of the period in which forces are available for operational tasking, unless the unit transitions to the control of another numbered fleet,” Walsh told Business Insider in December 2018.
“This allows 2nd Fleet to focus its attention on the development and employment of forces at the highest level of warfare,” Walsh added.
An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter crewman watches simulated fast-attack craft approach the USS Kearsarge during a Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training exercise, June 24, 2018.
(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Ryre Arciaga)
Like the stand-up of 2nd Fleet, the Navy’s first East Coast use of Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training — a Top Gun-like exercise meant to impart advanced knowledge of weapons and tactics to surface crews — is part of the effort to train for warfare against an enemy fleet.
Mustin said during his remarks that he was the 18th staff member to report to 2nd Fleet and that by March the command will have 85 people assigned — a “number that will continue on a glide slope that is increasing rapidly,” he said.
To avoid bloat and redundancy, the 2nd Fleet will work with Fleet Forces whenever possible, Mustin said. Both commands are based in Norfolk, Virginia. Ships will be under Fleet Forces’ operational command, while 2nd Fleet will have tactical control.
A fire controlman trains sailors on firefighting tactics in an engine room l aboard Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 17, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)
But the fleet is growing to be fit for purpose and fit for its time, Walsh told Business Insider.
“It makes sense to describe 2nd Fleet in terms of capability rather than in terms of the number of personnel assigned,” Walsh said. Most of the personnel assigned to it will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training, “with only a few staff members focused on higher headquarters administrative functions.”
Mustin also told attendees at the symposium that they could expect 2nd Fleet personnel to be roaming their area of operations — working from forward posts on command ships or from austere locations ashore — while keeping in touch with home base in Norfolk.
Guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham approaches fleet-replenishment oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys, right, for replenishment-at-sea in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 19, 2018.
(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)
Those personnel will include staffers from allied countries and other partners who are fully integrated rather than assigned as liaisons, said Mustin, who added that surface warfare officers interested in 2nd Fleet had been approaching him at the symposium.
Moreover, plans are to rotate Navy reservists through the fleet to work alongside active-duty sailors, with the goal of keeping those reservists up-to-date. “This is not your grandfather’s 2nd Fleet, or, as my staff likes to point out, my father’s 2nd Fleet,” Mustin said.
Second Fleet will also work on development in other aspects of naval warfare.
Lt. Gen. Robert Hedelund, commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, and Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of 2nd Fleet, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 27, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nicholas Guevara)
Working with the Naval War College and the Warfare Development Centers, the fleet “will be a hub for the Navy’s concept development and implementation, ensuring that when the Navy operates around the world, it is prepared to compete, fight, and win in great-power competition,” Walsh told Business Insider in December 2018.
In September 2018, the Center for Executive Education at the Naval Postgraduate School led 2nd Fleet staff in a seminar to develop the fleet’s mission set, and in coming months the 2nd Fleet will work with the Naval War College on staff training to “ensure the fleet is equipped to command and control naval forces at the highest level of warfare,” Walsh said, adding that most 2nd Fleet staff will attend the school’s College of Maritime Operational Warfare.
“Going forward, this same kind of integration applies to the employment of the naval forces [that] 2nd Fleet commands,” Walsh added.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In 2013, Lone Survivor hit the big screen with Mark Wahlberg at the helm, earning just over $158 million. The story of the daring rescue mission for the Navy SEAL and his team, however, remained untold — until now.
The 75th Ranger Regiment is America’s large-scale Special Operations Force (SOF) and is made up of the most elite soldiers in the world. Dr. Tony Brooks was one of them, but first, he was a college kid forever changed by the attacks on 9/11.
“I was actually on my way to the gym and was just getting warmed up and that’s when it was on the screen. I just saw this little speck flying down and had no clue what it was until they zoomed in. It was a person jumping from the towers,” he explained.
Brooks shared he was ready to enlist immediately after the terrorist attacks but his father cautioned him to wait until after finishing school. Not long after, he saw Pat Tillman leave the NFL to become a Ranger, which sealed the deal for him, he said. He enlisted in 2003 and after a year of grueling training, he was a Ranger. Assigned to Fort Lewis in Washington, there was a casualty on his first day. He was sent to Afghanistan almost immediately.
“My first mission and deployment involved Operation Red Wings which was the Lone Survivor mission,” he explained.
Through some laughter, he referenced being “thrown in the fire” and admitted it was absolutely the start of his military life. The mission took place in 2005 and Brooks left the Army when his enlistment was over. When asked why he decided to write a book now, he said it was for his children.
“I looked at them and thought, am I ever going to tell them about my service or what happened? And I came to the conclusion that I wouldn’t. That isn’t a conversation anyone wants to have,” Brooks shared. “I really felt like writing was the best way to explain it and allowed me to really take the time to tell the story.”
Not only did he want to write it for his children but also for the Rangers who completed the mission alongside him. “No one has told the story of the 75th Ranger Regiment’s role in this mission — all the guys I served with have been forgotten over the years. I felt like they were in the shadows,” he added.
The response to the new book has been overwhelmingly positive.
“Leave No Man Behind: The Untold Story of the Rangers’ Unrelenting Search for Marcus Luttrell, the Navy Seal Lone Survivor in Afghanistan” not only has rave reviews but the men he served with continually tell him how grateful they are for it. They, too, are giving the book to their family members to share their story.
“It’s a huge motivator for me to have people tell their stories. Veterans are struggling emotionally and physically also because we don’t talk about these things. A book gives people the opportunity to have conversations,” Brooks said.
It also gives the civilian population a way to understand the true meaning of service, he said. “Everyone is a volunteer. It’s great for our nation, right? But it also makes it easy for the press to ignore it because people are volunteering to serve. If they had to pick people it would be news,” Brooks explained.
During the summer of 2005, Operation Red Wings was launched by the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines utilizing their SOF units and assets. Three out of the four Navy SEAL operators were ambushed and killed hours after beginning their team recon mission. Two quick reaction force helicopters were sent in.
One was shot down with an RPG-7.
The prologue and initial chapters of the book poignantly hit on the “Why?” behind the rescue and eventual recovery mission for the 75th Ranger Regiment team — and Brooks.
The helicopter crash killed all eight Navy SEALs and the eight U.S. Army Special Operations aviators on board. As the sun rose the morning after his boots landed in Afghanistan, his team was informed of the losses. The new mission, dubbed Operation Red Wings II, was to recover the fallen heroes and the lone survivor — Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell.
“Leave No Man Behind” begins with Brooks’ decision to enlist and his life as a young Ranger, the good and the bad. You’ll follow him through his rigorous training which was met with tragic loss and his eventual deployment to Afghanistan. He paints a heartbreaking picture of the 75th Ranger Regiment’s fight to reach their comrades. Through steep and treacherous mountain climbing, the team finally reached the crash site 36 hours after the helicopter had been shot down. They weren’t prepared for what waited for them.
Brooks and his team began the horrible task of recovering the 16 lost heroes. Readers won’t be able to avoid the pain and hardship of the mission etched in the chapter or the rush of emotions when they find Luttrell. Brooks deployed again after Operation Red Wings, this time to Iraq. There were more of those emotions when it finished. The wear and tear of the service left its mark. He made the decision to separate from the Army in 2007, enrolling in school with the goal of becoming a chiropractor.
And he did.
There are zero regrets for enlisting and if anything, he said he figured out who he was when he became a Ranger.
“Looking back, I’ve always sometimes questioned the decision to leave but even now I am still helping people, just in different ways. It’s powerful and I take it very seriously because I can change someone’s life by getting them out of pain,” he said.
His final message to readers and war commentators was simple and very direct.
“Love the warriors and hate the war. A lot of time we have trouble separating the two…it wasn’t our choice to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. That’s political,” Brooks said adamantly. “People need to understand that the reason we go to war is for the person to our right, to our left and the people back home we love.”
“Leave No Man Behind” is a powerful reminder of the cost of war and the importance of acknowledging it every single day.
To learn more about the book or snag your copy, click here.
For anyone who’s been in the military, it goes without saying that being in the Air Force and being in the Marine Corps are two very different ways of life. This extends from enlisted troops all the way to the pilots flying in the skies above any active battlespace.
And it goes well beyond physical fitness standards.
In the Air Force, once a pilot is finished training, he or she is a full-fledged pilot, who still might train in other areas outside of their chosen aircraft, be it helicopters, fighters, bombers, etc. The investment the Air Force puts into training its officers to fly means those pilots are going to be flying as much as the USAF can safely force them to. As company-grade officers, they’re pretty much going to live in the wild blue yonder. As they advance in rank and skill, however, they will slowly be moved to more administrative and management positions, staff jobs, or even instructors. If they want, they might even get a chance to chew some dirt as an air liaison officer.
The life of a Marine Corps officer is much, much different.
Anyone reading this site probably knows the saying “every Marine is a rifleman.” That goes for Marine Corps officers, too. But USMC pilots must also graduate from the Marine Corps Basic Officers Course so they can learn to command platoons of Marine Corps riflemen – and that’s before they ever become naval aviators.
It’s important to know that Marine pilots are trained as all Marine Corps officers are trained and that they’re also trained as all naval aviators are trained. They take the same training as infantry officers and as naval aviators. As if that wasn’t enough work, the Marine Corps doesn’t wait for officers of Marines to grow in rank before assigning them extra duties around the unit or a duty outside of flying altogether. This means the Marine directing close air support on the ground with you one day might be providing that top cover for you another day.
All that and they have to land on aircraft carriers too. Probably in the dark.
In football, fullbacks are used to bring hurt to the opposing team. They provide lead-blocking for the running backs and, at times, serve as offensive threats, running the ball or catching short passes. But one fullback can bring the hurt on the battlefield — both to threats in the air and on the ground.
Well, to be honest, this ‘fullback’ is an airplane. To be precise, it’s the Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback. The plane is intended to replace the Su-24 Fencer, an all-weather strike aircraft comparable to the General Dynamics F-111 Aardvark. The Fullback is, in essence, a heavily modified Su-27 Flanker. Here’s what’s changed:
A Russian Air Force Su-34 Fullback intercepted by Royal Air Force Typhoons over the Baltic Sea.
(Royal Air Force)
The Su-34 has a top speed of 1,134 miles per hour and a maximum range of 2,485 miles. It can carry over 17,000 pounds of bombs, maintains wingtip rails for the AA-11 Archer, and packs a 30mm cannon. The plane can also carry the AA-12 Adder, a medium-range, radar-guided, air-to-air missile.
Like its predecessor, the Su-24, the Fullback has a tandem seating arrangement that comfortably fits both the pilot and a weapons operator.
The Fullback had an unusually lengthy time between its first flight in 1990 and its entry into service. The Russians introduced the Su-34 in 2014 – a full 24 years after its first flight. The collapse of the Soviet Union made it extremely difficult to find funding for this project. As cash slowly started to flow once more, so, too, did progress on this airframe’s production.
On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper released a memo to the troops reminding them that it’s against the Uniform Code of Military Justice for active-duty troops to participate in anything political while in uniform. Obviously, it’s not saying that troops can’t hold political opinions or that they can’t participate in anything while in civilian clothes.
It’s just saying while in uniform as it gives the impression all troops support one candidate/policy/movement. Why? I’m so glad you asked my rhetorical question. Because civilians (and I’m taking the politically neutral stance by mocking both sides of the aisle on this one) tend not to know any better. They look at Private Snuffy in his dress blues, and they just see his uniform and assume he’s some official envoy from the military because that’s apparently the Pentagon giving their seal of approval – which they’re obviously not.
It’s like how civilians all assume every troop knows every aspect of how WWIII is going to play out. Private Snuffy is clearly fifty levels too low on the totem pole for that kind of stuff, but the civilians wouldn’t know. I’m just saying. Even top generals appointed by a sitting president can’t even clap during their State of the Union because of this rule, so even they are obviously not going to officially back any politician.
But who am I kidding? We all know troops aren’t going to listen, and there’s going to be at least one ASVAB-waiver this political cycle who’d rather be the poster boy for social media likes than follow the rules. Here are some memes.
If you mess up just one glorious time in the U.S. military, your friends and peers will never let you forget it. It’s always been this way, even in World War II. From November 1943 until she was lost in 1945, the destroyer USS William D. Porter was greeted by home ports and other U.S. Navy ships with: “Don’t shoot, we’re Republicans!” That’s what happens when you almost assassinate the President.
Yes, that President.
In 1943, the USS Iowa was ferrying President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull, along with the top brass of the entire United States military in the middle of the biggest, most dangerous war ever. It was a very special, important mission. They were on their way to meet their Allied counterparts in Cairo and Tehran, including British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.
The whole thing was almost derailed by one torpedo fired at the Iowa, by a destroyer in the Iowa’s own convoy, the William D. Porter. And it was a fast-running, powerful 500-pound torpedo.
The Porter was a hard-luck ship that hadn’t even seen combat yet. As she left Norfolk, she scraped the side of her sister ship, almost tearing her apart. While on convoy duty crossing the Atlantic, one of her depth charges slipped out of its hold and detonated, sending the convoy into a tizzy. Later, a large wave washed everything on the destroyer’s deck into the ocean, including a sailor that was never found. Once things calmed down a bit, the crews settled in for some target practice as the President watched on.
The Iowa launched target balloons, which the ships fired at in turn, including the Porter. Next, the skipper of the Porter ordered torpedo practice with Iowa as the target. But when the simulated order to fire a torpedo accidentally launched an armed torpedo, the bridge understandably flipped out.
Yes, that USS Iowa.
Under strict radio silence to avoid attracting German u-boats, the crew of the Porter began to furiously signal Iowa. Unfortunately, in their haste, they mentioned nothing about a torpedo, instead telling the battleship that the destroyer was backing up at full speed. Eventually, they radioed the Iowa anyway. After a brief disagreement about radio procedures, the huge battleship moved out of the way of the oncoming torpedo, which exploded in the wake of the battleship, with President Roosevelt aware of the torpedo and watching it come.
The guns of the battleship turned on the William D. Porter. The ship was ordered to make its way to Bermuda, its entire ship’s company under arrest. It was surrounded by U.S. Marines when it arrived in Bermuda. The crew was dismissed to landward assignments, and its skipper was sentenced to 14 years in prison – a sentence President Roosevelt commuted to no punishment because he considered it an averted accident.
The “WIllie Dee” sinks in the Pacific, June 1945.
The destroyer itself would go on fighting the war while continuing its hard luck, accidentally shooting down American planes and strafing her sister ship with gunfire. In June 1945, a Japanese kamikaze pilot who missed his initial target sank into the sea next to the Porter. It exploded directly underneath the ship, however, and sent her to the bottom.
A military kid is learning about her dad’s life and experiences through the eyes of her mom.
Ever since Britt Harris first met her husband, Army Spc. Christopher Michael Harris, eyes have played an important part of her story.
Chris and Britt Harris. Courtesy photo.
From the beginning, she couldn’t help but notice his baby blues, so different from her own hazel eyes. The North Carolina natives fell in love and married in October 2016. A paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division, Chris deployed to Afghanistan the next summer.
Then came the eyes of the nation on her when her 25-year-old husband was killed in a vehicle explosion on August 2, 2017, making her a Gold Star wife. Just one week earlier, Britt thrilled him with the news that they were expecting their first child.
Britt’s grief felt all-encompassing, but she still wanted to feel connected to her husband’s unit. She included them in her gender reveal, shipping confetti poppers with the appropriate color to Afghanistan. The men and women celebrated amidst a shower of pink in a now-viral video.
When her daughter, Christian Michelle, arrived on March 17, 2018 — the day Chris’ unit returned — Britt knew the story wasn’t over. So she arranged for a photoshoot featuring Christian, herself and Chris’ fellow soldiers.
With the same otherworldly blue eyes as her father, Christian quickly captivated millions. The moment wasn’t just for show, however; the men and women who served alongside Chris (he and Britt are only children) are viewed as family.
“We still see each other. We get lunch, or send texts, or social media,” says Britt, 28. “It makes me feel like I’m still part of the group even though I don’t have Chris anymore.”
Yet thanks to Christian’s uncanny resemblance to Chris — especially his eyes — Britt still does, in a way. Christian loves doing handstands now, the result of toddler gymnastics classes.
“She does them everywhere we go,” Britt laughs. “She dances all day, every day.”
Living as a single mom in Moore County, North Carolina, was never Britt’s original plan. But she has plenty of new accomplishments to list since her world came crashing down in 2017, including hiking Kilimanjaro in Africa and starting a PhD program in psychology at Liberty University.
“My husband was really adventurous and he was always the person to push me to do something new,” Britt says. “When he passed away, I didn’t have anyone to push me anymore, so I started pushing myself to try new things.”
And in going after those firsts, Britt now holds the title of Mrs. North Carolina Universal 2020. Though this year’s national pageant fell victim to quarantine, she still plans to compete in 2021. Her platform will be bringing awareness to families of the fallen.
“A lot of people don’t even know what Gold Star means,” Britt said. “I’ve met veterans who don’t know what Gold Star is.”
The publicity that pageants offer could majorly change that, giving Britt a wider audience to educate on the definition and needs of Gold Star families, perhaps even affecting future related legislation.
“The pageant world isn’t really a place where widows go,” she said. “I’m hoping out of curiosity people will read up on Gold Star or ask when I give my interviews so I can speak more about it.”
Besides getting ready to eventually compete in a national pageant, 2020 has held another rookie experience for Britt and Christian: being the recipients of a Gold Star canine training program.
Ridgeside K9 Carolinas recently boarded Atlas, the Harris’ one-year-old Blue Heeler, and professionally trained him to be a well-behaved family dog. The Harrises were the first selected for this free service for families of the fallen.
“Atlas is a very high-energy dog that was by no means a ‘bad dog,’ but I certainly needed help teaching him obedience,” Britt said. “He’s very patient and well-behaved now. He listens and the stress of chasing him and him avoiding and ignoring my calls and demands is long gone!”
Now, Atlas could happily join Britt and Christian on their road trips to places where Chris visited. Britt documents each trip in photos.
“I want to show the re-creations of her in the places Chris went, to walk where he walked, to feel close to him,” she says. “I want her to feel connected to him and the things he enjoyed.”
As a Gold Star wife, Britt understands that Chris is physically absent. But he — and those blue eyes he passed on to the daughter he never met — will always be a part of their lives.
The Marine Corps wants to overhaul its force to prepare to be more dispersed and more flexible to deter and, if need be, take on China’s growing military in the Pacific.
“China has moved out to sea, and they have long-range weapons and a lot of them,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said on February 11 at an Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition event on Capitol Hill.
“Those two things have changed the game,” Berger added. “Take those away, in other words, we could keep operating with dominance everywhere we wanted to, as we have. We cannot do that. We can’t get stuck in old things. We are being challenged everywhere.”
Since taking over last summer, Berger has called for a shift from a force suited for fighting insurgencies to one that can square off with China across the Pacific.
What Berger has outlined is a lighter, more mobile force that can operate in small units on Pacific islands. But the amphibious force that will support those units is not where it needs to be, Berger said last week.
That may mean the Corps needs new ships in the future, but he said it also needed to make better use of its current assets, which is where the “Lightning carrier” — an amphibious assault ship decked out with 16 to 20 F-35B stealth fighters — comes in.
“I’m in favor of things like the Lightning-carrier concept because I believe we need to tactically and operationally be … unpredictable,” Berger said. “We’ve been sending out every [Amphibious Ready Group] and [Marine Expeditionary Unit] looking mirror-image for 20 years. We need to change that.”
“You would like to see one of those big decks one time go out with two squadrons of F-35s and next time fully loaded with MV-22s and another MEU with a 50-50 combo. Now that’s how you become unpredictable. How do you defend against that?” Berger added.
The Lightning carrier’s nontraditional configuration is “a force multiplier,” the Corps said in its 2017 aviation plan.
In his commandant’s planning guidance issued in July, Berger said the Corps would “consider employment models of the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG)/MEU other than the traditional three-ship model” and that he saw “potential in the ‘Lightning Carrier’ concept” based on Wasp-class landing-helicopter-dock ships and the newer America-class amphibious assault ships.
The USS Wasp exercised in the South China Sea in spring with 10 F-35Bs aboard, more than it would normally carry.
In October, the USS America sailed into the eastern Pacific with 13 F-35Bs embarked — a first for the America that “signaled the birth of the most lethal, aviation-capable amphibious assault ship to date,” the Corps said.
The Lightning-carrier configuration gives the Marine Air-Ground Task Force aviation element “more of a strike mindset with 12 or more jets that give the fleet or MAGTF commander the ability to better influence the enemy at range,” Lt. Col. John Dirk, a Marine attack-squadron commander aboard the America, said at the time.
Even with the Lightning carrier, more needs to be done, Berger said on Capitol Hill.
“I think our … amphibious fleet has great capability. It is not enough for 2030. It’s not enough for 2025,” he said.
“We need the big decks, absolutely. We need the LPD-17. That is the mothership, the quarterback in the middle,” Berger said, referring to the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, the “functional replacement” for more than 41 other amphibious ships. Eleven are in active service, and the Navy plans to buy one in 2021.
“We need a light amphibious force ship, a lot of them, that we don’t have today,” Berger added.
When asked by Military.com, Berger declined to say how many Marines and aircraft those light amphibious ships could carry or whether they would be in the Navy’s new force-structure assessment, which is still being finalized. The Corps is also conducting its own force redesign, which Berger said would be released within the next month.
Berger also said he thought there was a role for the littoral combat ship, four of which the Navy plans to decommission in 2021, and the Navy’s future frigate.
“We cannot put anything on the side right now, not with your adversary building to north of 400” ships, he said, referring to Chinese naval expansion.
“The ships that we have, we need to increase the survivability of them, increase the command-and-control capability of them, arm them where we need to,” Berger added.
Berger and Rep. Mike Gallagher, who also spoke at the Capitol Hill event, both emphasized deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region, and both said that would depend on forces that are stationed forward and dispersed.
The Pentagon is “struggling to figure out how do we do deterrence by denial in Indo-Pacom. How do we deny potential adversaries their objectives in the first place, rather than rolling them back after the fact? That hinges on having forward forces,” said Gallagher, a former Marine officer and a member of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee.
The challenge is “to develop an entirely new logistics footprint, which includes new ships to support, resupply, and maneuver Marines around the first island chain, littorals, and in a high-threat environment, where speed and mobility serves as the primary defense,” Gallagher said.
That may require new classes of ships, added Gallagher, who told industry representatives in the room that “new classes of ships do not have to mean less work, and in the case of the future amphibious fleet — because I believe we need more potentially smaller amphibious vessels — it might actually mean more work.”
In his remarks, Berger called deterrence “the underpinning of our strategy.”
“I believe that because whatever the cost of deterrence is,” Berger said, “is going to be lower than the cost of a fight, in terms of ships and planes and bodies. So we need to pay the price for deterrence. I’m 100% there.”
Kyiv says Russia has “partially” unblocked Ukrainian ports on the Sea of Azov, allowing Ukrainian ships to pass through the Kerch Strait for the first time since Nov. 25, 2018, when Russian forces seized three Ukrainian Navy vessels and detained 24 crewmen.
“Berdyansk and Mariupol are partially unlocked,” Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan said on Dec. 4, 2018, as NATO reiterated its call on Russia to allow “unhindered access” to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov.
“Vessels make their way to the entrance and exit through the Kerch Strait toward Ukrainian ports,” Omelyan said.
The minister said that ships navigating through the Kerch Strait to and from Ukrainian ports “are stopped and inspected by Russia as before, but the traffic has been partially restored.”
Ukraine’s Agriculture Ministry later said that the country had resumed grain shipments from the Sea of Azov.
“Passage of vessels with agricultural products through ports in the Sea of Azov has been unlocked,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The loading of grain to vessels through the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk is restored and carried out in regular mode,” it added.
Captured BK-02 Berdyansk with a hole in the pilothouse.
The naval confrontation between Russia and Ukraine topped the agenda of a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting with their Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, in Brussels.
After the talks, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the 29 members of the alliance called on Russia to “immediately release the Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized.”
“Russia must allow freedom of navigation and allow unhindered access to Ukrainian ports,” he added.
“In response to Russia’s aggressive actions, NATO has substantially increased its presence in the Black Sea region over the past few years — at sea, in the air, and on the ground,” Stoltenberg also noted.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Russia continues to hold 24 Ukrainian sailors detained in the Nov. 25, 2018 incident, despite demands from NATO for their release from detention centers in Moscow.
Moscow Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Potyayeva was scheduled on Dec. 4, 2018, to visit three Ukrainian sailors who were injured in the Nov. 25, 2018 incident, when Russian forces rammed a Ukrainian Navy tugboat and fired on two other ships before seizing the vessels.
The clash has added to tension over Crimea, which Russia occupied and illegally annexed from Ukraine in March 2014.
It also has raised concerns of a possible flare-up in a simmering war between Kyiv and Russia-backed separatists that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.
The Russia-backed separatists hold parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, including a piece of shoreline that lies between the Russian border and the Ukrainian Sea of Azov port city of Mariupol.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on Dec. 3, 2018, said concerns that Moscow could seek to create a “land corridor” linking Russia to Crimea were “absurd.”
At their Brussels meeting, the foreign ministers “restated NATO’s solidarity with Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
“We recognize Ukraine’s aspirations to join the alliance, and progress has already been made on reforms. But challenges remain, so we encourage Ukraine to continue on this path of reform. This is crucial for prosperity and peace in Ukraine,” the NATO chief said.