After creating successful inventions like the mouse trap and the curling iron, inventor Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim would construct a device so lethal, every country couldn’t wait to get their hands on it.
In 1883, Maxim was enjoying an afternoon of shooting his rifle with his friends in Savannah, Georgia, when an idea literally hit him. As Maxim was firing, the recoil was continuously jabbing into his shoulder causing him discomfort and fatigue.
Then it suddenly occurred to him, use one problem to fix the another.
Maxim went to his workshop and drew up plans that would allow the force of the rifle’s recoil to reload the weapon automatically. He discovered that when the round his fired, the bolt can be pushed backward by the recoil. When the barrel is then pushed forward by a spring, it will discharge the spent shell and chambering another round without assistance.
Thus the Maxim machine gun was born.
With his latest creation in hand, Maxim found himself in the machine gun business and on his way to London to released his newest invention.
After his arrival and a few widespread publicity stunts, his machine gun made a serious impact around the world with countries preparing to enter World War I.
Although many men were training with bolt action rifles and fixed bayonets, those who were in the company of the Maxim machine gun without a doubt had the upper hand.
Drug testing for all applicants for military service is expanding to include the same 26-drug panel used for active military members, the Defense Department’s director of drug testing and program policy said.
The change, effective April 3, 2017, is due to the level of illicit and prescription medication abuse among civilians, as well as the increase in heroin and synthetic drug use within the civilian population, Army Col. Tom Martin explained.
Currently, military applicants are tested for marijuana; cocaine; amphetamines, including methamphetamine; and designer amphetamines such as MDMA —also known as “Molly” or “Ecstasy” — and MDA, also known as “Adam,” he said.
The expanded testing will include those drugs as well as heroin, codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and a number of synthetic cannabinoids and benzodiazepine sedatives, Martin said.
The new standards apply to all military applicants, including recruits entering through military entrance processing stations, as well as appointees to the service academies, incoming members of the ROTC, and officer candidates undergoing initial training in an enlisted status.
Ensuring the Best Enter Military
With drug use incompatible with military service, the expanded testing is meant to ensure readiness by admitting only the most qualified people, Martin said. Incoming service members will be held to the same standards as current military members, who are subject to random drug testing up to three times a year, he added.
“Military applicants currently are tested on a small subset of drugs that military members are tested on,” Martin said. “Applicants need to be aware of the standard we hold our service members to when they join the service.”
About 279,400 applicants are processed for entry into military service each year, with roughly 2,400 of them testing positive for drugs, Martin said. Data indicates that about 450 additional people will test positive using the expanded testing, he said.
The updated policy allows applicants who test positive to reapply after 90 days, if the particular service allows it, Martin said. Any individual who tests positive on the second test is permanently disqualified from military service, he said, but he noted that the services have the discretion to apply stricter measures and can disqualify someone after one positive test.
Current policy allows for different standards for reapplication depending on the type of drug, Martin said. The updated policy is universal and allows only one opportunity to reapply for military service regardless of drug type, he said.
In 1952, an accident at Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories near Deep River, Ontario caused a partial meltdown in an experimental nuclear reactor. Hydrogen explosions followed and hundreds of thousands of gallons of radioactive water flooded the core, heavily damaging the reactor. When the Canadian government turned to U.S. nuclear experts for help, “Father of the Nuclear Navy” Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover sent his protégé – Lieutenant James Earl “Jimmy” Carter – to lead a team of maintainers into the reactor core to shut it down.
The admiral was famous for the demands he put on the people who worked for him. His unorthodox methods almost kept him from making flag rank, but President Truman intervened on his behalf. It was a good call: the Navy’s 300 nuclear warships have never had a single nuclear incident.
Rickover’s team had access to the latest in nuclear energy technology because they were developing nuclear-powered ships for the U.S. Navy (the first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, was completed in 1955). The Navy knew the technology the Canadians were using and how best to fix it.
Rickover volunteered Carter to the Canadians to take the failing reactor apart so it could be replaced, a testament to the extraordinary faith and training the U.S. Navy places in its sailors – and to the good judgment of Adm. Rickover. First, the reactor had to be shut down, then it could be disassembled and replaced.
Carter, then 28 years old, had been in the Navy for six years. He was assigned to the Naval Reactors Branch of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, D.C. Rickover’s demanding perfectionism was as instilled in Carter as it is today’s nuclear sailors.
Rickover (left) served 61 years on active duty and saw Carter get elected President.
In his book “Reflections at Ninety,” Carter recalls preparing for the task. The team built a replica of the reactor on a nearby tennis court to practice their next move and track the work they’d already finished. Every pipe, bolt, and nut was rebuilt exactly as it was in the damaged reactor area.
Lieutenant Carter divided himself and his 23 guys into teams of three. Each worked 90-second shifts cleaning and repairing the reactor as per what they practiced on the tennis court. A minute and a half was the maximum time the human body could handle the amount of radiation in the area.
By today’s standards, it was still way too much radiation – Carter and his men were exposed to levels a thousand times higher than what is now considered safe. He and his team absorbed a year’s worth of radiation in that 90 seconds. The basement where they helped replace the reactor was so contaminated, Carter’s urine was radioactive for six months after the incident.
It makes sense that the ship named after President Carter would be a Seawolf-class nuclear submarine, as Carter helped develop the nuclear Navy and was the only U.S. President to be qualified for submarine duty. The USS Jimmy Carter was commissioned in February 2005.
The effects of this exposure eventually caught up to him. Carter developed cancerous tumors on his liver and brain at age 91 but was screened as cancer-free a year later.
The upcoming OA-X fly-off features the Textron Scorpion as one of the major contenders. This plane has been the subject of some hype since it first flew in 2013. However, if it wins the OA-X flyoff, it won’t be the first Scorpion to have flown for the United States.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States was looking to acquire interceptors to stop a horde of Soviet bombers. The big problem — the guns were just not packing enough punch. One answer to this was the F-89 Scorpion from Northrop.
The first definitive version of the Scorpion to achieve widespread service, the F-89D, addressed that problem by using air-to-air “Mighty Mouse” rockets. The Scorpions carried 104 of them, and had the option of firing all of them at once, or in up to three salvos. The F-89 Scorpion also had a lethal ground-attack capability, being able to carry 16 five-inch rockets and up to 3,200 pounds of bombs.
But the “Mighty Mouse” rockets proved to be more mouse than mighty, and the Scorpion’s armament was soon the subject of an upgrade. The F-89J was a F-89D modified to carry the AIR-2 Genie rocket — which carried a small nuclear warhead. The plane could also carry four AIM-4 Falcon missiles. The Genie had a warhead equivalent to 250 tons of TNT, and it had a range of six miles and a top speed of Mach 3. Early versions of the AIM-4 had a range of six miles, but later versions could go 7 miles. Most Falcons were heat-seekers, but some were radar-guided missiles.
The F-89 was eventually retired in favor of faster interceptors with more modern radars and missiles, but for most of two decades, it helped guard America’s airspace from Soviet aggression. Below is a video put out by the Air Force’s Air Defense Command about this plane.
When it comes to self-defense, what do SEALs recommend? Well, Jocko Willink – a former Navy SEAL who served alongside Chris Kyle and Michael Monsoor in Task Unit Bruiser, earning the Silver Star and Bronze Star for heroism – has some answers. And they are surprising.
When it comes to self-defense, Willink’s top recommendation isn’t a martial art in the strictest sense. It’s a gun and concealed carry.
“If you are in a situation where you need to protect yourself, that is how you protect yourself,” he said, noting that potential adversaries will have weapons, they will be on drugs or suffer from some psychotic condition. “If you want to protect yourself, that is how you do it.”
Okay, great. That works in the states that have “constitutional carry” or “shall issue” carry laws. But suppose you are in California, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, or Delaware which the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action notes are “Rights Restricted – Very Limited Issue” states where obtaining a concealed carry permit is very difficult?
Willink then recommends Brazilian jujitsu, followed by Western boxing, Muay Thai, and wrestling (the type you see in the Olympics, not the WWE – no disrespect to the WWE). Willinck is a proponent of jujitsu in particular – recounting how he used it to beat a fellow SEAL in a sparring match who had 20 years of experience in a different martial art.
He noted that people should not buy into the notion of a “magical instructor” who can help them defeat multiple attackers. He said martial arts like Krav Maga can augment jujitsu and other arts.
He also noted that you have more time than you think. The attack isn’t likely to happen next week – it could be a lot longer, and one can learn a lot by training in a martial art two or three times a week for six months.
Willick notes, though, that martial arts have a purpose beyond self-defense. They can teach discipline and humility. He notes that few who start jujitsu get a black belt – because it takes discipline to go out there on the mat constantly, especially when you are a beginner.
The most-produced tank in World War II was fast, powerful, and well protected by sloped armor, and it was made by a candy maker who got tired of confections and decided to make a revolutionary tank instead.
Willy Wonka, eat your heart out.
The Christie tank designs were ultimately a failure in the U.S., but elements of the company’s designs would become part of dozens of tank designs across Western and Russian militaries.
Mikhail Koshkin was working in a candy factory until he decided that he wanted to study engineering. Thanks to a series of Josef Stalin’s purges, Koshkin quickly found himself at the top of a program to improve the BT tank. The BT tank series was based on the U.S. Christie design and patents that were sold overseas after the Army turned the Christie down.
Stalin, wanting to see whether his armored forces were worth the price tag, wanted to test the new tanks in combat and got his chance in the Spanish Civil War. The BT tanks proved themselves useful but far, far from perfect. Despite thick armor, anti-tank infantry still often held an advantage against them, and the vehicle engines would burst into flame from light hits or, sometimes, simply from the strain of propelling the tank.
The BT tanks were sent back to Russia by rail for analysis and Koshkin and his team quickly found the flaws in design. The improvements program quickly became a replacement program, and Koshkin started working on a new design in 1934 which he would name for that year, the T-34.
It incorporated a number of design changes being flirted with around the world. It wasn’t the first tank with sloped armor or the first with a diesel engine or the first with a large cannon in a rotating turret, but it was a solid design that incorporated all of these evolutions in design. At the same time that he was working on the T-34, Koshkin had to work on a new BT tank design: the A20.
Mikhail Koshkin worked in a candy factory but then decided to become an engineer before World War II. His inspired T-34 tank design would become the most-produced tank of World War II.
(Kharkiv Morozov Machine Building Design Bureau)
The A20 would later become the BT-20. It, too, sported a number of improvements, including sloped armor and an improved engine, but it still had relatively little armor for the crew or engine — as little as 20mm in some places.
Both designs, the T-34 and the BT-20, reached Soviet leaders in 1939. There, the officers sidelined the T-34 in favor of the BT-20, partially because the proposed T-34 design would’ve required much more steel for manufacture and much more fuel to run. A prototype BT-20 was created.
But instead of accepting the defeat of his design, Koshkin wrote a letter to Stalin and continued making tweaks before creating a full prototype. Stalin requested to see the tank, and Koshkin drove it 800 miles to Moscow to show it off. The tank proved itself fast, effective, and well-protected, and so Stalin sent it into production instead of the BT-20.
Koshkin died of pneumonia soon after, but his tank design would go on to become the most-produced tank of World War II. Russia took part in the invasion of Poland, but later found itself attacked by Nazi Germany in June, 1941.
As history shows, the Soviet Union soon found itself in a fight for its very survival during World War II. Tanks and other weapons would be imported from America, but the best homegrown option the Soviet Union had was still, easily, the T-34.
The final design pressed into production featured a 76mm gun capable of taking out anything Germany had to offer, its thick and sloped armor could survive hits from most German tanks at the time, and it was easy to maintain in the field, meaning the T-34s were nearly all available for the fight.
A T-34 tank during battle re-enactments.
(Cezary Piwowarski CC BY-SA 4.0)
When a clash first came between German tanks and the T-34, the Soviet crew surprised the Germans by piercing the German tank in a single shot. German tank crews had convinced themselves that they were nearly invincible until they faced the T-34.
But the Germans had prepared well for the invasion, and they charged east, deep into Russia, overrunning the original T-34 factory and nearly breaching Moscow’s defenses before they were stopped at the final defensive line as the true Russian winter set in.
The relocated T-34 production lines were able to crank out hundreds of copies before the spring thaw, and those tanks were key parts of battles for the coming years. But German tank designs were evolving as well, and the arms race necessitated upgrades to the T-34.
Over 35,000 T-34s were built during the war, with later models featuring upgraded 85mm guns as space for an additional crew member, allowing the tank commander to give up their gunner duties to keep a better eye on what was happening around the vehicle.
A German soldier inspects a Russian T-34 knocked out during combat. T-34s were super powerful upon their debut, but German bombers and artillery were always a threat to them, and later German tank designs like the Tiger could shred the T-34.
The Soviet Union was, eventually, successful in driving the Germans out of Russia and back into Berlin. This success was partially due to America sending so much equipment east as part of lend-lease, partially thanks to the U.S., Britain, and Canada opening a new front with the D-Day invasions, and partially thanks to a candy man who decided to make a world-class weapon of war instead of sweets.
Admit it: You’d watch a Willy Wonka sequel like that.
(Some of the information in this article came from the second episode of Age of Tanks on Netflix. If you have a subscription, you can watch the episode here.)
It is 100 years to the day, June 26, 1918, since an obscure wood 50 miles from Paris, the Bois de Belleau, was captured by U.S. forces in a protracted battle of World War I. During those weeks the wood had become a focal point of American military hopes, an early and vital display of the American Expeditionary Force’s capability on the battlefield. The bloody encounter occupies a special place in the annals of U.S. military history. Patrick Gregory looks at what happened there and asks why the battle still stands out.
In late April 2018, a photo opportunity featuring the presidents of the United States and France and their wives planting a tree was beamed across the world. What seemed to attract as much publicity at the time was the fact that the young tree in question was removed soon after the ceremony, taken into temporary quarantine. What achieved less attention was where the sapling had come from or why — Belleau Wood.
As with most such scenes of slaughter of the First World War, the Bois de Belleau is as quiet now as it doubtless was before the fighting which erupted there in June 1918. And that fighting was brutal. What happened there was an important moment in the contribution of the United States in the First World War. It was also an important moment in the development of the U.S. Marine Corps.
(Library of Congress photo )
By May 1918 the U.S. had been a combatant in Europe for over a year; yet American troops, still arriving in France, had to date only played a supporting role. That was all going to change. American Expeditionary Force commander John Pershing had stubbornly resisted Allied efforts to co-opt his men — a regiment here, a regiment there — to add to their own ranks, remaining determined to train and assemble a fully-fledged army of his own.
The moment of truth now arrived to test those men in battle: May 28, 1918, the first full U.S.-led offensive of the war. Led by Pershing’s trusted First Division, the ‘Big Red One’ under Robert Bullard attacked at Cantigny in northern France, 20 miles from Amiens. Of limited strategic value, perhaps, but the three-day battle was a success, demonstrating that the Americans could fight. It was a shot in the arm for the AEF, a much needed psychological boost after all the months’ waiting.
However, of more immediate concern to the Allies was a new and deadly enemy offensive which had been unleashed during this time 50 miles south-east: one cutting easily through Allied lines and driving further south towards the river Marne, leaving German forces within striking distance of Paris.
On May 30 two separate American divisions, the 2nd & 3rd, were ordered into the Marne area, arriving from different directions east and west. A machine gun battalion of the latter secured the south bank of the river at the key bridgehead of Château-Thierry, as other of their number began to take up position.
But the main action of the weeks ahead would lie north-west of the town, involving men of the 2nd Division; in particular, two of their regiments, a brigade of Marines led by Pershing’s old chief of staff James Harbord. It would be their efforts to secure a woodland there that would capture headlines, helped in part by the purple prose of journalist Floyd Gibbons.
(Library of Congress photo )
Belleau Wood was barely more than a mile long and half a mile wide, yet it would cost many lives to capture and would be reported across the world. “It was perhaps a small battle in terms of World War I,” says Professor Andrew Wiest of the University of Southern Mississippi, “but it was outsized in historic importance. It was the battle that meant that the U.S. had arrived.”
Yet as operations go — as brave and resolute as the troops were throughout — it was poorly planned and badly commanded, certainly in its opening phases. After adjacent areas were captured on the morning of June 6, the decision was taken to advance on the wood that afternoon from two directions, west and south. The former was led by a battalion of 5th Marines under Benjamin Berry; the southern attack undertaken by Berton Sibley’s battalion of 6th Marines, supported on their right by 23rd Infantry from the division’s other regular army brigade.
But little reconnaissance had been carried out in advance as to what to expect when they got there and only scant artillery fire was laid down beforehand. Inside, German machine gunners had taken up positions in defensive holes, behind rocky outcrops and shielded by dense undergrowth. Worse, the Marines now advanced towards them in rank formation over the exposed ground outside, with Berry’s western advance particularly exposed. They were slaughtered. By nightfall 222 were dead and over 850 wounded.
Bloodied but remaining focused on the task, the men went again the next day. And the one after that. Yet little headway was made. An intense 24-hour artillery barrage was belatedly ordered, followed by yet another assault. Headway was finally made but casualties continued to mount as the German troops clung on in the farthermost reaches of the wood. The 7th Infantry from the neighboring 3rd Division was called in for some days to help lighten the load.
The fighting labored on for three weeks and in its final stages, foot by foot, hand to hand, it intensified in savagery. Artillery shells and guns now gave way to bayonets and “toad-stickers,” 8-inch triangular blades set on knuckle-handles, as the Marines slashed their way through the last of their enemy. But finally word came through on the morning of June 26 from Major Maurice Shearer: “Belleau Wood now US Marine Corps entirely.”
(Library of Congress photo )
As the story goes, German officers, in their battle reports, referred to the Marines as Teufelshunde “Devil Dogs”; and journalist Floyd Gibbons also helped, singling out one gunnery sergeant in dispatches as “Devil Dog Dan.” Either way, the name and image stuck and went on to become a celebrated symbol of the Marines.
“It was the day the U.S. Marines went from being a small force few people knew about to personifying elite status in the US. military,” says Andrew Wiest. The corps had roots dating back to the American War of Independence, but from Belleau developed much of the corps’ modern lore and myth.
More significantly, and of strategic importance, their intervention at Belleau and that of their 2nd and 3rd Division colleagues in the surrounding area on the Marne put paid to the German advance, at what was a dangerous moment in the war for the Allies.
The commander of the U.S. First Division Robert Lee Bullard subsequently declared: “The Marines didn’t win the war here. But they saved the Allies from defeat. Had they arrived a few hours later I think that would have been the beginning of the end. France could not have stood the loss of Paris.”
The Air Force is moving quickly to engineer new bombs across a wide range of “adjustable” blast effects to include smaller, more targeted explosions as well as larger-impact 2,000-pound bomb attacks for a “high-end” fight.
The principle concept informing the argument, according to Air Force weapons experts, is that variable yield munitions, and certain high-yield bombs in particular, are greatly needed to address an emerging sphere of threats, to include rival major powers such as Russia and China.
Developers make the point that fast-changeable effects are needed to present Air Force attackers with a “sniper-like” precision air strikes as well as massive attacks with expanded “energetics” and more destructive power.
Dialable Effects Munitions
The technical foundation for this need for more “variable yield” effects is lodged within the widely-discussed fact that bomb-body advances have not kept pace with targeting technology or large platform modernization.
“The bomb body, a steel shell filled with explosive material, is relatively unchanged across the past 100 years. But some elements of modern munitions have significantly evolved — particularly guidance elements. Munition effects — the destructive envelope of heat, blast, and fragmentation — remain essentially unchanged” a recent Mitchell Institute. study, called “The Munitions Effects Revolution,” writes.
The study, co-authored by By Maj Gen Lawrence A. Stutzriem, (Ret.) and Col Matthew M. Hurley, (Ret.) explains that attack platforms such as a Reaper drone or fighter jet are all too often greatly limited by “fixed explosion” settings and weapons effects planned too far in advance to allow for rapid, in-flight adjustments.
To reinforce this point, Dr. John S. Wilcox, Director of Munitions for the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), said that counterterrorism, counterinsurgency or pinpointed attack requirements — and “high-yield” warzone weapons — will all be essential moving forward.
An excerpt from the report:
Investment in munition bomb bodies, key components that govern the nature of an actual explosion, has yielded limited incremental improvements in concept, design, and manufacturing. However, the essential kinetic force — the “boom” — is relatively unchanged. Given a rise in real-world demand for more varied explosive effects, it is time for the Air Force to consider new technologies that can afford enhanced options.
Time-sensitive targeting driven by a need for fast-moving ISR is also emphasized in the Mitchell Institute study, according to Wilcox.
Wilcox explained that emerging weapons need to quicken the kill chain by enabling attack pilots to make decisions faster and during attack missions to a greater extent.
“The bomb body, minus the guidance unit is relatively unchanged. A 500-pound bomb body flown in 1918 is now being dropped by the F-35 — with a fixed explosive envelope,” Stutzriem writes. “Once weapons are uploaded and aircraft are airborne, fuse flexibility is usually limited and sometimes fixed.”
For instance, the report cites a statistic potentially surprising to some, namely that Air Force F-15s during periods of time in Operation Inherent Resolve, were unable to attack as much as 70-percent of their desired targets due to a lack of bomb-effect flexibility.
Air Force weapons developers are accelerating technology designed to build substantial attack flexibility within an individual warhead by adjusting timing, blast effect and detonation.
This, naturally, brings a wide range of options to include enabling air assets to conduct missions with a large variation of attack possibilities, while traveling with fewer bombs.
“We want to have options and flexibility so we can take out this one person with a hit to kill munition crank it up and take out a truck or a wide area,” Col. Gary Haase, Air Force Research Laboratory weapons developer, told Warrior Maven and a reporter from Breaking Defense in an interview at AFA.
Hasse explained “multi-mode energetics” as a need to engineer a single warhead to leverage advanced “smart fuse” technology to adjust the blast effect.
A dozen 2,000-pound joint direct attack munitions.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Hodgman)
He described this in several respects, with one of them being having an ability to use a targeted kinetic energy “hit-to-kill” weapon to attack one person at a table without hurting others in the room.
Additionally, both Stutzriem and Hasse said building weapons with specific shapes, vectors and sizes can help vary the scope of an explosive envelope. This can mean setting the fuse to detonate the weapon beneath the ground in the event that an earth penetrating weapon is needed — or building new fuses into the warhead itself designed to tailor the blast effect. These kinds of quick changes may be needed “in-flight” to address pop-up targets, Hasse explained.
“We are looking at novel or unique designs from an additive manufacturing perspective, as to how we might build the energetics with the warhead from a combination of inert and explosive material depending upon how we detonate it,” Hasse told Warrior Maven.
The emerging technology, now being fast-tracked by the AFRL, is referred to as both Dialable Effects Munitions and Selectable Effects Munitions.
A high-impulse design allows a single round to have the same effect against a structure as four to five Mk-82s, the Mitchell Institute report says.
“We are talking about the explosive envelope itself — which is a combination of heat, blast and fragmentation,” Stutzhiem said.
Russian and Chinese threats
Air Force experts and researchers now argue that, when it comes to the prospect of major power warfare, the service will need higher-tech, more flexible and more powerful bombs to destroy well fortified Russian and Chinese facilities.
“There is now a shift in emphasis away from minimizing to maximizing effects in a high-end fight — requirements from our missions directorate say we continue to have to deal with the whole spectrum of threats as we shift to more of a near-peer threat focus. We are looking at larger munitions — with bigger effects,”
While Wilcox did not specify a particular country presenting advanced threats, as is often the case with Air Force weapons developers, several senior former service officers cited particular Russian and Chinese concerns in a recent study from The Mitchell Institute.
“The Russians and Chinese, in particular, have observed American warfighting strategies over the last several decades and have sought to make their valued military facilities especially difficult to destroy. US commanders involved in future scenarios with these two potential adversaries may find themselves requiring exceedingly powerful munitions to eliminate these types of targets,” the study writes.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
At the outbreak of the Korean War, Hector Cafferata, Jr. was a semi-professional football player serving in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. He received just two weeks of additional training before being shipped overseas.
Assigned to Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines just days before landing at Inchon, he, along with the rest of the 1st Marine Division, battled his way into North Korea. By November 1950, Cafferata and the Marines were preparing for an offensive in the vicinity of the Chosin Reservoir.
As the Battle of Chosin Reservoir began, the Marines of Fox Company were defending the Toktong pass. On the night of Nov. 28, the Chinese attacked to dislodge them.
What happened next is a legendary story in the Marine Corps — and Cafferata had a large role to play in that.
Due to an intelligence failure, the Marines were unaware that the entire Chinese 9th Army was advancing on their position. That night they crawled into their sleeping bags with minimal security on watch.
At around 0130, the Marines of Fox Company were awoken to a terrible surprise as all hell broke loose around their position. An entire Chinese division, the 59th, were attacking into the Toktong pass to cut off the 1st Marine Division.
The only things standing in their way were Cafferata and the rest of Fox Company.
He was joined by another Marine, Kenneth Benson, who was temporarily blinded after a grenade explosion had ripped his glasses right off his face. Together they made their way to a small depression and set up to make their stand against the Chinese onslaught.
As the Chinese pressed forward, Cafferata, a crack shot with his M-1 Garand, would empty his clip into the advancing infantry — eight shots, eight communists down.
He would then hand the weapon to Benson to reload while he threw grenades. When the Chinese attacked with their own grenades, he threw them back.
At one point he picked up his entrenching tool and batted the enemy’s grenades right back at them. According to a 2001 interview, Cafferata said he “must have whacked a dozen grenades that night.”
As the Chinese continued to advance, threatening to breakthrough his thinly held portion of the line, he gave them everything he had. He fired his weapon so much he had to pack snow on it to cool it off.
Eventually, Cafferata’s luck began to run out. As he hurled back yet another Chinese grenade, it went off just after leaving his hand. The explosion severed part of his finger and severely damaged his right hand and arm.
Though he was injured, Cafferata’s quick reaction saved several of his comrades.
Despite his wounds, he fought on. The Chinese couldn’t get past him.
Finally, just after daybreak, Cafferata was wounded by a sniper’s bullet and evacuated from the line. When the medics brought him to the aid station, they realized he was suffering from frostbite after fighting in subzero temperatures in his socks all night.
Despite Cafferata being out of action, the rest of Fox Company and the Marines at Chosin Reservoir still had quite a fight on their hands.
According to the Medal of Honor citation for Capt. William Barber, Fox Company’s commander, his 220 Marines held out “5 days and 6 nights against repeated onslaughts by fanatical aggressors.”
And of those 220 Marines, only 82 “were able to walk away from the position so valiantly defended against insuperable odds.” They carried their wounded out with them, including Cafferata and Barber who were both wounded on the first day of fighting.
Cafferata’s wounds earned him 18 months of recovery in various hospitals. His actions earned him the Medal of Honor.
The day after Cafferata’s amazing stand, the Marines “counted approximately one hundred Chinese dead around the ditch where he fought that night,” but according to one source, they “decided not to put that figure in their report because they thought no one would believe it.”
Cafferata was officially credited with fifteen enemy kills.
Cafferata, always humble, would later state, “I did my duty. I protected my fellow Marines. They protected me. And I’m prouder of that than the fact that the government decided to give me the Medal of Honor.”
Hector Cafferata, Jr. passed away on April 12, 2016 at the age of 86.
Coming from the relatively flat state of New Jersey, Capt. Matthew Munoz recently learned for the first time how to land a UH-60 Black Hawk above 12,000 feet.
As a National Guard pilot, Munoz normally does flight training with sling loads and hoists, or he transports soldiers in air assault courses.
For the most part, those missions allow a large power margin for his helicopter, meaning there is less stress on the aircraft.
But here surrounded by the Rocky Mountains in western Colorado along Interstate 70, it’s a whole new ballgame. The mountainous terrain tests helicopter pilots with risky landing zones on limited, uneven space often strewn with large rocks and trees.
Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
“There definitely is that pucker factor,” Munoz said. “You have that caution and fear in that confined space. And there’s that potential for the rotors of the aircraft to strike an obstacle.”
A student at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site, Munoz recently took the site’s weeklong course to hone his power management techniques that may one day help him out of a bad situation.
The only aviation school of its kind in the Defense Department, HAATS teaches about 350 students per year across the U.S. military as well as from foreign militaries, which account for about 20 percent of its enrollment.
The school is one of four Army National Guard aviation training sites in the country. Given its access to over 1 million acres of rugged forest with landing zones from 6,500 to 12,200 feet, HAATS mainly focuses on power management that teaches pilots how to maximize the utility of their helicopters.
The training sharpens pilots heading into combat or to perform missions back home, where they may find themselves flying in high altitudes, hot weather or carrying heavy loads, all of which can sap power from an aircraft.
“It’s important for us to give them the tools they need to make sure that they can complete their mission successfully and not bend or break aircraft in the process,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.
Operated by a small 30-member cadre of full-time Colorado Guardsmen, federal employees and an instructor pilot from the Coast Guard, the school relies on pilots to bring their own helicopters that can range from Black Hawks, CH-47 Chinooks and UH-72 Lakotas.
Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
What they lack in numbers, the staff makes up with experience. Many of the instructors have thousands of hours of flight experience and multiple combat tours from when they served in line units, Reed said.
Instructors also have a dual role of conducting search and rescue missions when emergencies pop up across the state.
Once they arrive, students head to the classroom to learn about approaches and takeoff sequences, weather and environmental considerations, and then power management.Afterward, pilots typically fly twice a day out in the rugged terrain, practicing the skills they just learned.
Reed considers the training to be “graduate level,” intended for more experienced pilots.
“It would be difficult to take a student fresh out of flight school and put them through this training,” he said, “while they’re trying to learn their aircraft and how to maneuver it.”
With only two years of experience as a Lakota pilot, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Matthew Ferguson said he was lucky to be chosen for the recent course.
The Virginia Guardsman plans to use the skills when he is next called upon for drug interdiction operations in the state. High above the ground, Ferguson helps conduct surveillance for law enforcement as they search for suspects or illegal marijuana fields hidden in the forest.
An instructor pilot from the Coast Guard teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Many times the job requires him to hover at high altitudes so as not to spook suspects and for safety reasons.
“If you get too low, the helicopter hovering over the house becomes pretty obvious, pretty quick,” he said. “So, you got to know how to maintain standoff, how to read the wind, [and] position the helicopter where you need it to be positioned.”
The techniques and finesse he picked up at the HAATS course, he said, gave him a better control touch of the aircraft when it’s using a lot of power.
Since they manage the aircraft, crew chiefs frequently join the pilots in the training to hone their skills, too.
By being together, aircrews can improve their teamwork, especially in dangerous landing zones where a crew chief is needed to spot dangers on the ground.
“Having good aircrew coordination between everybody in the aircraft is pinnacle because if you’re not talking to each other, then something is going to get missed,” said Sgt. Robert Black, a Black Hawk crew chief.
One time while deployed to Iraq, Black said he was on a helicopter that landed roughly on the side of a mountain as his crew went to check out a new landing zone during a training event.
“When we came in, we kind of browned out and then touched down a little bit harder than usual,” said Black, who is assigned to the Virginia National Guard.
While no one was injured, Black still saw it as a wake-up call. “If we would have had the training we had here, that probably wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
Students practice landing on mountainous terrain during the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 27, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
During the course, instructors will show videos that simulate previous helicopter crashes and discuss how to avoid the issues faced by those crews.
While somber, since some of the crashes have led to deaths, the videos are valuable learning aids.
“They’re all lessons learned,” Black said. “Being able to recognize somebody else’s mistakes and being able to learn from them is a key part of any kind of training.”
Seasoned crew chiefs also share their personal stories with their students.
Instructor Staff Sgt. Greg Yost often draws upon lessons from his time in Afghanistan where he served as a crew chief on a medical evacuation helicopter, which had to fly quickly in hot weather that sometimes took a toll on its power supply.
“If I can’t teach you something here in this course, then I have failed you,” Yost said of what he tells his students. “It is my goal, my duty to impart some kind of knowledge to every student that comes into my classroom.”
Training for combat
Earlier this year, Reed said the school was requested by the 10th and 82nd Combat Aviation Brigades to train up its younger crews ahead of deployments. The units flew several helicopters out to the site and for weeks the school cycled soldiers through.
HAATS even has mobile training teams that travel around the country to prepare aircrews.
At times, instructors hear back from crew members downrange they’ve helped train, who thank them and tell them they were able to apply the skills to real-world missions.
Staff Sgt. Greg Yost, a crew chief instructor, teaches a classroom portion of the weeklong training program at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum, Colo., Aug. 26, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Occasionally, crews will even share newly-found techniques with instructors that may help future students.
“More than anything, it validates what we’ve been doing,” Reed said.
While counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East may be waning, Yost believes skills in the course can still be used to mitigate risks in future operations.
For instance, helicopters may require heavier equipment, such as armor or technology, to offset anti-air threats posed by near-peer adversaries.
“As that stuff develops, it will be bolted onto the aircraft,” the senior crew chief said. “It will be adding weight, maybe increasing drag. All these contributing factors will reduce the aircraft’s performance.”
Whatever the mission, it’s no secret what they teach at the site, Reed said, who hopes every aircrew takes advantage of the course.
“We’re trying to spread the word and share it,” the commander said. “Often times we hear about a helicopter crash that’s power related. We want to do everything we can to make sure that all the aviators out there have these tools and make the right decisions.”
War stems from division. It happens when there are problems we just can’t seem to solve. War is seldom beautiful, but every now and then, a little light shines through. The Christmas Truce of 1914 was one of those rare moments.
It all started with one of the ugliest wars in history.
World War I began on July 28th, 1914, after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. It quickly escalated, pinning the Ottoman Empire, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria, known collectively as the Central Powers, against the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Romania and Japan, known as the Allied Powers. The two sides proceeded to engage in over three years of brutal trench warfare. The experience was hellish, with mass casualties on both sides. In total, over 16 million people lost their lives.
In the midst of utter carnage, the opposing side often seemed evil. Yet, it wasn’t. It was war itself that was inhuman, not the men across the trenches. On Christmas Eve, 1914, soldiers on both sides did the unthinkable; they laid down their arms and sang.
The renowned Christmas Truce that followed was unauthorized.
In the earliest weeks of the war, forces on both sides were aggressive and angry. By December, they had seen enough death and destruction for a lifetime. They had initially believed the war would be over by Christmas and many of them longed for an end to the fighting. While Pope Benedict XV called for a temporary ceasefire for the holiday, none of the countries involved settled on any official agreement, so the exhausted soldiers took matters into their own hands.
As Christmas approached, a sudden cold snap turned weeks of wet weather into an eerily beautiful winter landscape. On Christmas Eve at around 8:30 pm, the truce began. German soldiers began lighting their trenches and singing carols. Small Christmas trees dotted the trenches. Initially, the British were suspicious. One officer reported to headquarters that, “Compliments are being exchanged but am nevertheless taking all military precautions.”
Soon, it became apparent that it wasn’t a trap. The Germans sang “Silent Night”, and the British responded with “The First Noel”. A British soldier, Private Frederick Heath, reported that a Christmas greeting rang out through the darkness: “English soldier, English soldier, a merry Christmas, a merry Christmas!”
Between the trenches, the war-battered no man’s land transformed.
Cautious at first, scouts ventured out of the trenches and over the barbed wire that divided the two sides. There, they imparted a message: If you don’t fire at us, we won’t fire at you. Let us have peace, if just for a night. Spontaneous truces sprang up along the trench lines without anyone really knowing how they began. In addition to sharing songs and well-wishes, impromptu games ignited. The Germans claim to have won a soccer match against the British 3-2. Meals, drinks, and laughter were shared until dawn.
The truce was imperfect, but miraculous nevertheless.
Unsurprisingly, many officers were against any type of truce. Fraternizing with the enemy was frowned upon, and measures were taken to prevent it from ever happening again. It’s unclear how widespread the truce really was, but some evidence suggests the truce extended across much of the British-held trench line that extended across Belgium, but other reports suggest that the truce took place in sections, scattering pockets of peace and brotherhood throughout thickets of gunfire.
If anything, that makes the night’s events even more striking. The soldiers who chose to shake hands with their enemies must have been afraid, but they chose to do it all the same. The next day, the war continued with just as much hostility and destruction as it had before, but the opposing forces had been humanized. A grain of respect had settled in. The surprising events that took place on December 24th, 1914 along those dark and bloodied trenches didn’t bring any lasting resolution, but to those who were there, the truce brought the greatest Christmas gift of all: Hope.
The video below is just a reenactment (and an advertisement at that), but it’s a pretty moving reminder that Christmas spirit lives on, even in the darkest of places.
UPDATED: The Pentagon has named Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken, 38, of Falmouth, Maine, as the commando killed in a May 5 raid near Mogadishu, Somalia. The raid reportedly targeted a propaganda radio operation run by the terrorist al-Shabaab organization. The release said Milliken was a member of an East Coast-based Navy special warfare unit, and many sources report he was a member of SEAL Team 6.
The U.S. military said May 5 a service member has been killed in during an operation against the extremist group al-Shabab as the United States steps up its fight against the al-Qaida-linked organization.
A statement from the U.S. Africa Command said the service member was killed Thursday during the operation near Barii, about 40 miles west of the capital, Mogadishu.
The statement said U.S. forces were conducting an advise-and-assist mission with military.
A CNN report said the service member was part of a special operations task force deployed to the African nation, adding two more U.S. troops were wounded by small arms fire.
“Senior Chief Kyle Milliken embodied the warrior spirit and toughness infused in our very best SEALs,” said Rear Adm. Timothy Szymanski, commander of the Special Warfare Command. “We grieve his death, but we celebrate his life and many accomplishments. He is irreplaceable as a husband, father, son, friend and teammate – and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and teammates.”
Both the United States and in recent weeks have declared new efforts against the extremist group. President Donald Trump has approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab, including more aggressive airstrikes and considering parts of southern areas of active hostilities.
A Somali intelligence official confirmed the U.S. military operation, saying U.S. forces in helicopters raided an al-Shabab hideout near the Somali capital on Thursday night and engaged with fighters.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the helicopters dropped soldiers near Dare Salaam village in an attempt to capture or kill extremists in the area.
The official said the fighters mounted a stiff resistance against the soldiers.
new Somali-American president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, last month declared a new offensive against al-Shabab, which is based in but has claimed responsibility for major attacks elsewhere in East Africa.
Also last month, the U.S. military announced it was sending dozens of regular troops to in the largest such deployment to the Horn of Africa country in roughly two decades. The U.S. Africa Command said the deployment was for logistics training of army.
The U.S. in recent years has sent a small number of special operations forces and counter-terror advisers to and has carried out a number of airstrikes, including drone strikes, against al-Shabab.
The extremist group, which was chased out of Mogadishu years ago but continues to carry out deadly attacks there, has vowed to step up the violence in response to the moves by Trump and Mohamed.
Pressure is growing on military to assume full security for the country as the 22,000-strong African Union multinational force that has been supporting the fragile central government plans to leave by the end of 2020.
The U.S. military has acknowledged the problem. The AU force will begin withdrawing in 2018, and head of the U.S. Africa Command, Commander General Thomas Waldhauser, has said that if it leaves before security forces are capable, “large portions of are at risk of returning to al-Shabab control or potentially allowing ISIS to gain a stronger foothold.”
Fighters linked to the Islamic State group are a relatively new and growing challenge in the north of the country, which has seen a quarter-century of chaos since dictator Siad Barre fell in 1991.
From the court-martial of Billy Mitchell to Robin Olds’ mustache, U.S. Air Force history is filled with examples of Airmen thumbing their nose at authority. So of course what started as a way to identify friendly units in mid-air in World War I quickly evolved into a way of thumbing one’s nose at military uniformity and authority. The unintended consequence of that effort is a gallery of beauty and style — a lasting legacy in the minds of generations to come.
This art form is as old as powered flight. In the context of war, crews created designs to immortalize their hometowns, their wives and sweethearts back home, to earn themselves a name in the minds of their enemies, or provide some kind of psychological protection from death, among other motifs.
Some things were universal. “Mors ab alto” is Latin for “Death from above.” And then some art was based entirely on the record of the plane. Like the B-29 Superfortress Bockscar, below, who dropped the atomic bomb dubbed Fat Man on Nagasaki, Japan, and whose nose art depicts a train boxcar nuking Nagasaki.
Nose art was also a great way to build esprit de corps with the crew and maintainers around a plane, as seen in this photo of the crew of Waddy’s Wagon recreating their own nose art.
Of course, a list of the best WWII nose art would not be complete without the pin-ups.
Nose art wasn’t all sexy women and bombs, though. Some crews used their nose to (deservedly) brag.
Don Gentile, World War II Eagle Squadron member and the first ace to beat Eddie Rickenbacker’s WWI dogfighting record, flew a P-51B famously called Shangri-La, which featured a bird wearing boxing gloves.
And sometimes, when your war record is long enough, it’s okay to let the world know you’re watching the clock.
Popular cartoons were also featured on World War II-era planes. Walt Disney famously looked the other way (in terms of copyright infringement) for much of the art done in the name of winning the war, notably on bomber jackets and nose art. The RAF’s Ian Gleed flew a Supermarine Spitfire featuring Geppetto’s cat Figaro.
American pilot and Doolittle Raider Ted Lawson flew a B-25 Mitchell Bomber over Tokyo called the Ruptured Duck, an image of an angry, sweating Donald Duck wearing pilot headphones in front of crossed crutches.
Next time you watch Dumbo with your kids, remember that Dumbo dropped ordnance on Japan and was said to be fairly accurate.
Bomb icons depicted the number of missions flown over the enemy. For some icons weren’t enough. Thumper here took the war personally and marked the name of each city it bombed.
Nose art was also used to complain (as all troops do) as a way to deal with the monotony of deployed life, the lack of supplies, and/or the frustrations of the crew to keep their bird flying, as seen by Malfunction Sired by Ford (below).
Or it was used to brag that they could keep their girl in the air, with whatever they had lying around.
Some crews definitely brought their A-game to the art form, like the crew of this B-29 Superfortress.
Others tried, but were ultimately (and obviously) better suited to fighting the war than designing the nose of their B-24 Liberator.
The award for all-around best nose-art in World War II has to go to the RAF’s James Archibald Findlay MacLachlan, who lost an arm to a combat injury early in the war and thus had to fly with a prosthetic limb. His fighter plane’s nose depicted the hand from his own amputated arm making the “V for Victory” sign.