NASA and other agencies are building a handful of telescopes to probe the universe’s most puzzling mysteries.
From vantage points on Earth and in space, the upcoming telescopes will rely on next-generation technologies in their attempts to answer some of scientists’ biggest questions about dark matter, the expansion of the universe, and alien life.
Some will provide 100 times more information than today’s most powerful tools for observing the skies.
The first of these telescopes, NASA’s highly anticipated James Webb Space Telescope, is slated to launch in 2021, then start scanning the atmospheres of distant worlds for clues about extraterrestrial life. As early as 2022, other new telescopes in space will take unprecedented observations of the skies, while observatories on Earth peer back into the ancient universe.
Here’s what’s in the pipeline and what these new tools could reveal.
A 21-foot-wide beryllium mirror will help the James Webb telescope observe faraway galaxies in detail and capture extremely faint signals within our own galaxy.
The farther it looks out into space, the more the telescope will look back in time, so it could even detect the first glows of the Big Bang.
JWST will also observe distant, young galaxies in detail we’ve never seen before.
An illustration of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) detecting infrared light in space.
Thanks to new infrared technology, the telescope could provide an unprecedented view of the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way’s center.
Such imaging could help answer questions about how the galaxy and its black hole formed.
“Does the black hole come first and stars form around it? Do stars gather together and collide to form the black hole? These are questions we want to answer,” Jay Anderson, a JWST scientist, said in an October press release.
The artist concept depicts Kepler-62e, a super-Earth in the habitable zone of a star smaller and cooler than the sun, located about 1,200 light-years away in the constellation Lyra.
If an exoplanet’s atmosphere contains both methane and carbon dioxide, for example, those are clues that there could be life there. JWST will look for signs like that.
Earth’s atmosphere has a lot of oxygen because life has been producing it for billions of years. Oxygen isn’t stable enough to last long on its own, so it must be constantly produced in order to be so abundant.
The combination of carbon dioxide and methane (like in Earth’s atmosphere) is even more telling, especially if there’s no carbon monoxide.
That’s because carbon dioxide and methane would normally react with each other to produce new compounds. So if they exist separately, something is probably constantly producing them. That something could be a volcano, but as far as we know, only a lifeform could release that much methane without also belching out carbon monoxide.
To pick up where Hubble left off, NASA is also building the Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST).
The agency plans to launch it into Earth’s orbit in the mid-2020s. Over its five-year lifetime, the space telescope will measure light from a billion galaxies and survey the inner Milky Way with the hope of finding about 2,600 new planets.
The field of view of the Hubble Space telescope compared to WFIRST.
“It will lead to a very robust and rich interpretation of the effects of dark energy and will allow us to make a definite statement about the nature of dark energy,” Olivier Doré, a NASA scientist working on WFIRST, said in a press release.
Both telescopes will attempt to resolve a growing dispute in cosmology: How fast is the universe expanding?
Modern-day measurements contradict the predictions scientists have made based on the ancient past. The mismatch indicates that something big is missing from the standard model of the universe, but nobody knows what.
But there’s something missing from this planned lineup of telescopes: A tool that can look for biosignatures on exoplanets that have the highest chance of hosting alien life.
That’s because the planets most likely to be habitable are usually Earth-sized, and that’s very small.
“We need to wait for the next generation of instruments — the next generation of space-based and ground-based instruments — to really start to do this for properly habitable Earth-like planets,” Jessie Christiansen, an exoplanet researcher at NASA, told Business Insider.
An artist’s concept of a planetary lineup shows habitable-zone planets with similarities to Earth: from left, Kepler-22b, Kepler-69c, the just announced Kepler-452b, Kepler-62f and Kepler-186f. Last in line is Earth itself.
The SS Meredith Victory might be the luckiest and most important ship of the entire Korean War. The Merchant Marine vessel carried men and materiel that saved US troops in the Pusan Perimeter, protected the supplies around Inchon harbor, and pulled off the “Christmas Miracle” – the largest single ship rescue evacuation of refugees in history.
Merchant Mariners might be history’s biggest unsung heroes. The Korean War in 1950 was not going well for the United Nations forces. American troops were relegated to a small corner of the Korean Peninsula, barely holding off the Communist onslaught as North Korea fought to push them into the sea and out of the war. In what came to be known as the Pusan Perimeter, American and South Korean forces held the line until the Americans could relieve them.
In true joint force action, the Army and Marines, supported by the Navy and Air Force, planned a landing at Inchon, behind the North Korean lines. The enemy around Pusan practically dissipated as the Army broke out of the Pusan Perimeter while Marines were landing at Inchon. Within two weeks, the UN forces had partially retaken Seoul and cut off the enemy’s supply and communications ability.
The unsung heroes of the Merchant Marine were part of the Inchon Landing force as well. If it weren’t for them, the whole thing might have fallen to the bottom of the ocean. The day before the landings at Inchon, a massive typhoon hit the coast of the Korean Peninsula, just off of which lay the United Nations invasion fleet. Hurricane-force winds slammed the boats supporting the invasion. Among them was the SS Meredith Victory, a merchant marine ship carrying men and supplies for the landing. Were it not for the ship’s crew’s skill at saving the ship, the entire invasion might never have happened.
The UN fleet off the coast of Inchon, Korea.
But that’s not the last time history called the Meredith Victory. By the end of 1950, the Chinese had intervened in the war and were pushing UN forces back to the south. Along with those retreating troops came thousands of North Korean refugees fleeing the repressive Communist regime. By the time the Meredith Victory arrived in Hungnam Harbor, the docks were packed with refugees and soldiers fleeing the Chinese.
“The Koreans on the dock, to me, that’s what we were there for, that was our job. The problem was how we [were] going to get them aboard,” remembered Burley Smith, a Merchant Mariner, the third mate aboard the Meredith Victory. “There were too many people and not enough time to get them all loaded. It looked like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.”
North Korean refugees crowd the harbor at Hungnam, December 1950.
By this time, the Army had already left, and the Chinese were being held back by Naval gunfire. The crew of the Meredith Victory began loading passengers aboard this ship meant to house 59 people. The crew worked around the clock, loading the masses of people on to her decks. They managed to get all 14,000 onto the ship and safely away from the harbor before the Army blew the port facilities.
The ship traversed the coast of Korea, on the lookout for mines, enemy submarines, and North Korean fighter planes. By the time the ship got to Geoje Island, every single refugee was alive – and five more were born along the way. It was a Christmas miracle.
Garlin Conner charged alone into the cold abyss, toward the massive silhouettes of German tanks in the distance.
Clutching a telephone, radio and wire, the first lieutenant carried himself through the frigid January air, toward 600 encroaching Germans and the enemy rounds he knew were coming.
Conner could not turn back if he wanted to.
His company needed a guide to cut into the surging German infantry or risk getting overrun. The Kentucky marksman always fought in front of his men, and his fellow soldiers trusted him to lead. Conner often fired at the opposition standing while others ducked for cover.
Conner could see the enemy before they spotted him, fellow soldiers wrote.
The thunder of the German rifles didn’t rattle him. His father had raised him to be fearless while hunting wild game in the woods of southern Kentucky. A bullet wound in his left hip could not keep him from returning to the front lines, nor could orders to remain at a military field hospital. On a frigid winter morning in 1945, Conner would once more put himself between his fellow soldiers and the onslaught of enemy fire.
This time, in a snow-covered forest, 5-foot-6-inch Conner faced the full brunt of German forces. On Jan. 24, the Nazi-led German army mounted a desperate surge to split American units near the French-German border.
Conner headed toward the flurry of bullets until he ducked into a shallow, snowy ditch.
Here in the frozen French countryside, amid rampant automatic fire, Conner would make what could be his final stand, guiding American artillery toward the German infantry. Here, Conner would remain until American forces stopped the Germans, or until a bullet stopped him.
When locals in the rural farming town of Albany, Kentucky, would ask Garlin “Murl” Conner about his time in World War II, he’d hush them quickly.
“I’d done what I had to do,” Conner said in soldier accounts, “and that’s all there is to it.”
After returning to Clinton County following the war and starting a tobacco farm, the decorated Army veteran decided he had seen enough of the world and the horrors of armed combat. Conner had found peace plowing fields in the shadows of the Appalachians.
Conner never boasted about his acts of bravery.
For more than 53 years until his death in 1998, he rarely spoke about the war again — not to his wife, Pauline, or even to a fellow soldier.
During the two decades since Conner died of complications related to heart and kidney failure, others took up the cause the farmer so adamantly declined. Former Army Green Beret Richard Chilton, with the support of seven retired generals, presented Conner’s bid for the Medal of Honor to the Army’s personnel records office.
The curious case of Conner, who held a war record so compelling that it rivals the accolades of the more famous veteran Audie Murphy, baffled those who knew him. In all, Conner spent more than 800 days on the front lines in World War II. He suffered seven combat wounds while earning four Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star, the French military decoration Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Service Cross.
And yet, in an effort to get Conner recognized with a Medal of Honor, Chilton and his team endured a difficult quest that spanned decades. A federal district court rejected Conner’s initial bid for the award. In the 2014 ruling, a federal judge in Kentucky told a heartbroken Pauline that she had not filed her husband’s paperwork in time.
Conner had for decades shied away from talk of the award, much like he avoided any conversation of his four years in the Army. Still, his family continued to cling to hope that one day Conner would earn the U.S. military’s highest distinction.
Old Kentucky home
A curving paved road leads to Murl and Pauline Conner’s red brick farmhouse wedged near the foothills of the Appalachians in southern Kentucky, two miles north of the Tennessee state line.
Blue skies hang over Albany’s green rolling landscape, as plowed fields seem to shine under the midday sun. Cardinals outside the one-story house chirp as a light wind sweeps by. This farm, cradled in the hilly terrain of Clinton County, hid the story of a man whose steely courage withstood the gravest circumstances.
Just footsteps down the road from the farm, Murl’s son Paul, and his wife Kathy, live in a modular home that was built to replace their home that had been destroyed by a tornado. Paul took over the farm after his father suffered a heart attack on a spring day in 1979.
He spent long hours planting tobacco plants before the farm transitioned into raising cattle as its primary product.
Born nine years after Conner returned from the war, Paul contrasts his dad in appearance. Burly and stout, he sports a much larger frame than his father, who had been thin and wiry, at 5-foot-6-inches tall, and weighing only 120 pounds during active duty.
Paul shares his father’s love of animals. And Paul raised his four children with the same grounded morals he learned from his father. Paul said his father offered sound advice that Paul would later instill in his children. “Be a man of your word,” Paul recalled his dad saying. “Do what you say. If you can’t fulfill a promise, don’t make it. Be mindful of people around you because everyone has feelings.”
In the family’s living room, Paul sits next to a black and white portrait of Murl as a young soldier, flanked by faded portraits of Paul’s children and grandchildren. Decorated with beige ceramic lamps, rustic wooden chairs and shelves, the room has changed little since Pauline and her husband moved into the home more than 50 years ago.
For decades the photo loomed over the room. As a boy, Paul occasionally would stare at the black and white picture in awe.
When he asked his father about his time in the Army, he’d receive the same cold response: “We went over there, we did what we had to do,” Paul recalled his father saying. “And it needs to stay over there.”
Paul grew up without knowing the full extent of his father’s achievements on the battlefield. And for the most part, so did Pauline.
Generations have passed since the soldier with only an eighth-grade education used wit and intelligence to thwart enemy advances. But buried in eyewitness accounts and in the testimonials of fellow soldiers, Conner’s heroic deeds remained etched in history, unknown to his family and many of Albany’s residents.
“I just thought he was a farmer and he did a little something in the war,” said Walton Haddix, a family friend of the Conners. “But he never would talk about it. He never mentioned anything he did in the military.”
Outside of his war medals, this 200-acre farm on the lower east end of Clinton County is Conner’s lasting legacy. The family purchased the plot of land in 1949, after the government bought the family’s previous farm to make way for the Wolf Creek Dam and Lake Cumberland Reservoir. With his time in service long behind him, Conner turned his attention to his farm and raising Paul.
He never boasted about his wartime achievements, telling his wife he didn’t want to appear to be bragging. After all, Conner’s five brothers also served in the military: four in World War II and one in the Korean War.
As a farmer, he took pride in working on his farm, where he could often be found in his long-sleeved khaki shirt, farmer’s billed cap and overalls, riding a tractor or teaching Paul how to grow tobacco from the soil.
But the war never truly left him. Sometimes, at night, Conner would wake, gripped with tension and reliving moments from the battlefield, said his wife. Instead of returning to bed, Conner would retreat to the family’s wooden porch, where he lingered for hours smoking cigarettes.
The episodes at times became so traumatic, Pauline declines to talk in detail about them. Pauline said her husband suffered symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder, an illness that had not yet been widely identified until the Vietnam War.
“If anyone had PTSD, it was Murl,” Pauline said.
Conner carried the burden internally, never voicing his anguish to his family. The last time Conner had spoken publicly about the war, it happened to be the same day Pauline laid eyes on her future husband for the first time.
A hero’s welcome
On a bright spring day in May 1945, the Wells family heard that a war hero, a native of Clinton County, would be returning after four years overseas.
The local American Legion post organized a parade in the town square to welcome back a war veteran whose bravery had townspeople talking. They traveled from surrounding counties, some by wagon. Others drove in by car, while some came on foot.
Garlin Murl Conner, a farmer’s son who voluntarily joined the Army in 1941, had come home from the war.
Pauline Wells, still in her teenage years, climbed into the back of the family’s horse-drawn wagon along with her two brothers, two sisters and her parents at the family’s farm in northern Clinton County. They drove the wagon along a dirt trail, 10 miles to the town square. The county’s schools dismissed classes early so students could attend the parade.
Pauline’s family learned that following the parade, Conner would be speaking to the crowd about the war. So townspeople crowded into the second floor of the old courthouse. Sergeant Alvin C. York, the most decorated soldier of the First World War, also attended, beginning what became a lifelong friendship with Conner. Pauline leaned onto the wooden bench in the back row to hear Conner speak.
“I was expecting a giant of a man,” Pauline said.
When Conner finally emerged before the crowd, his appearance stunned Pauline. Wearing his olive-colored military dress uniform, the lieutenant’s small stature underwhelmed the young Pauline. With narrow shoulders, and a slender frame, Conner hardly appeared like heroes in storybooks.
“That little wharf rat,” Pauline said to her mother, Tressie. “He couldn’t have done all the things they said he’d done.”
But unbeknownst to Pauline and her family, Conner had long proved his mettle to U.S. forces, the Allies, and fellow soldiers, his commanding officer would say.
Conner was a quiet man of few words. The native of nearby Aaron, Kentucky, stood before the crowded courtroom and said what would be his last public statements about his time in the war.
“It gives me great pleasure,” Conner began, “to be able to come out here today. I am not a speaker, and did not come here to make a speech.”
“But,” Conner continued, “I will try to explain to you a small part of the war in Europe and some of the things I saw.”
Conner didn’t mince words. He talked first about the early November morning in 1942 when his unit first landed on the shore of Fedala, Morocco, in support of Operation Torch. American and Allied forces wrested control of North Africa from the Axis powers in only three days.
He moved onto the invasion of Licata, Sicily, a war-ravaged city that lay in tatters after 38 days of continuous fighting. Through his 10-minute testimony, Conner didn’t talk about his medals, or the times he fought on the front lines ahead of his men. Instead he spoke of his unit’s achievements, and how they survived the changing elements and terrain.
Finally, Conner touched on his unit’s trek into southern France and a difficult battle in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. But he didn’t say a word about any of his selfless, valorous acts. Nor did he mention a fateful January morning near a small French village during the aftermath of the Battle of the Bulge, when for three hours in the winter of 1945, he risked his life so his unit could survive.
At any cost
On the morning of Jan. 24, 1945, the men of the K Company, 7th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division entered the Brunwald Woods near Houssen, France.
As U.S. troops scrambled to reinforce their position in the small village near the German-French border, a bitter cold swept over eastern France, creating a stinging chill.
As the frigid wind stung their faces, K Company’s soldiers marched into the snow to take on a Battalion of desperate German soldiers.
Conner had rejoined his unit in the French countryside while still recovering from a sniper bullet wound in his left hip. Conner, knowing a crucial battle loomed, had earlier slipped out of the field hospital in northern France and returned to the front lines.
Upon his return, Conner learned that his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Lloyd Ramsey, had made arrangements to send him home. Conner had earned eligibility to return to Kentucky based on his time served and accolades earned. Ramsey removed Conner from the front lines and reassigned him to serve as his intelligence officer in battalion headquarters for his own safety.
Hitler’s army, facing looming defeat, countered American forces with desperate barrage after barrage, attacking U.S. forces with ruthless resolve. The German assaults gravely concerned Ramsey. The day before, the Germans had rallied for a fierce offensive against another company, costing the Americans 25 men.
Ramsey needed a patrol team to scout the enemy’s position, but resources ran thin.
Conner, still ailing from his hip injury, once again volunteered to take a patrol and said he would attempt to use direct artillery to halt the German offensive. Ramsey, knowing the weight of Conner’s previous contributions and his pending return home, reluctantly agreed.
“No words can express the outstanding leadership qualities that Lt. Conner had,” the late Ramsey wrote. “(He was) always willing to do more than his part.”
Conner had built a reputation as an expert scout and marksman. The soldier from the Bluegrass State had earned the respect of his fellow soldiers by fearlessly confronting the enemy and taking dangerous missions. Maurice Williams, a soldier who served under Conner, said Conner’s background as a Kentucky outdoorsman helped prepare him to go undetected in combat. Raised on a farm during the Depression era, Conner learned to become a skilled marksman and hunter.
“He could go through the woods unnoticed,” Haddix, the family friend, said. “And if a squirrel (was) in a tree somewhere and move its tail, he could see it.”
While other soldiers would go on night scouting missions with team members, Conner operated alone.
Conner had fostered such a respect from his fellow soldiers, and had performed with such distinction, that he earned a battlefield commission at Anzio. Conner, along with the highly-decorated Murphy, both served in the 3rd Infantry Division, which suffered more casualties than any other during World War II.
“He always led from the front,” wrote Williams, who fought alongside Conner earlier in the war. “And his platoon felt safe following him.”
At about 8 a.m. on Jan. 24, a sudden barrage of light artillery swept on the American troops. Six German Panzer tanks emerged from the frigid air, flanked by a battalion of 600 German soldiers descending on K Company. The powerful, 9-foot tall tanks nearly spanned 27 feet across and 12 feet wide.
“The Americans, the Allies, had nothing like it,” said Luther Conner, President of Clinton County’s historical society. “It was the most potent war weapon at that time. It was just a monster. It caused fear just for a soldier to see the size of it.”
Two thirds of the battalion pushed toward K Company, attempting to split and divide the Americans. A week earlier, a German Panzer division attacked Second Battalion’s 600 soldiers. About 100 returned to their units. Germans killed or took the remainder as prisoners.
Near Houssen, K Company faced similar odds. Conner knew his unit’s only chance in the wintry conditions rested in his hands. He needed to guide artillery fire on the Germans.
Conner saw the towering frames of German Panzers barrelling through the forest. Without a moment’s hesitation, the soldier sprinted straight toward tanks, carrying a telephone, radio, and wire reel.
Conner uncoiled the wire as exploding shells and wood splinters from the surrounding woods showered upon him. Conner ran nearly 400 yards toward the enemy, ignoring warnings from his unit, said Chilton.
He did not stop until he had advanced 30 yards past the American Infantry front line.
There, in a shallow ditch beneath the January snow, Conner planted himself before the oncoming German fire. And for three hours, Conner laid like immovable rock under a violent wave, directing artillery rounds onto the German infantry. As swarm after swarm of German soldiers came like an avalanche upon him, Conner, barked directions and coordinates to battalion headquarters.
“Although he was in a prone position, the ditch only covered part of his body,” wrote 1st Lt. Harold Wigetman, who served as the S-3 in 3rd Battalion. “He was wedged in there so tight, that it was almost impossible for him to move or shift his position.”
The Germans soon grew aware of the lone figure in the snow guiding the American artillery. German soldiers began to swarm and surround Conner and the Americans. The German army mounted a final surge to overwhelm the American forces.
Conner, seeing the enemy close, made a lasting, drastic choice to defeat the German infantry.
Conner directed American artillery rounds toward his position, and the surrounding Germans. As the enemy attack continued to unfurl, Conner put himself in peril so that his unit could achieve victory.
“He cared about his men more than he cared about himself,” Chilton said.
With bullets flying toward him from both directions, Conner never wavered. At one point, a German soldier ran within five yards of Conner clutching a grenade before an American stopped him. Haddix said Conner dispatched German soldiers with his submachine gun.
“With icy self-control, he kept telephoning his directions,” Wigetman wrote, “although he must have seen that the (Germans) would have killed him before he could get on his feet.”
The American onslaught led by Conner overwhelmed the German attack. By the time the final rounds fell, Conner’s actions had resulted in killing 50 German soldiers and leaving more than 150 wounded. American munitions destroyed the six German tanks.
“I saw elements waver … their fighting spirit broken by the deadly concentration of (American) fire,” Wigetman wrote.
Conner paid a heavy toll for his valor during the war. The injury to his left hip would hamper his mobility for the rest of his life. Like many veterans of his generation, Conner did not think highly of anything he had achieved in Europe, his wife said.
“He was always very humble,” Pauline said. “He did what he felt like he had to do to protect our freedom to vote and our freedom of speech, which we have truly earned from what he did and others like him.”
Ramsey called Conner the greatest combat soldier he had ever seen. Troops who remembered him noted Conner’s cool resolve under the most difficult conditions.
Wrote Williams in his journal, “I had such confidence in (Lt.) Conner. I would have followed him anywhere he wanted to go.”
In the years after Conner’s heart attack in 1979, he found a new calling. He listened with concern to stories of soldiers who had not received their veteran’s affairs benefits. Some servicemen struggled with living expenses after they left the service.
Conner and his wife would drive across Clinton County’s 196 square miles of rolling hills and farmland to meet with vets. They extended their travels to 10 neighboring counties. Once a month they would place their paperwork and a suitcase in their Buick sedan and travel to veterans’ homes or meet them at their office in the courthouses. Pauline acted as his secretary, fielding phone calls and helping her husband coordinate his appointments with the veterans in need.
The night episodes continued through the years, Pauline said. And Conner still struggled to sleep on some nights. But helping other veterans, she said, helped him find peace.
“(Assisting veterans) became his life,” Paul said.
But listening to the tales of other soldiers and hearing about their struggles awakened a longing in Conner he thought that he had long buried.
Throughout his four years in the Army, Conner’s concerns rested with his soldiers, never seeking personal glory, but always on the lookout for how he could help, whether scouting the enemy position, or finding ways to help retired vets file their military records. But hearing their stories, Pauline said, she noticed for the first time regret.
That regret became clear in 1996, his wife said.
Chilton, a former Army Green Beret from Wisconsin, wrote a letter to Conner in search of information on his late uncle, Pfc. Gordon Roberts, who was killed after landing at Anzio. Conner, no longer able to speak or write, invited Chilton to his Albany home.
Chilton visited Conner on a fall day in 1996. He sat with Conner in the family living room, and asked him questions about his uncle and the war, while Conner nodded his answers from his wheelchair.
Chilton learned that Conner had indeed served with his uncle, and that Conner had carried his uncle in his last moments to a medical aid station. Conner, reliving a moment from 50 years prior, began to weep.
Pauline suggested that she could sort through her husband’s old war records to search for documentation of Roberts’ service. She carried her husband’s weathered, military green duffel bag out of the living room closet and pulled out old paperwork, records and medals contained inside a cardboard box.
As Chilton skimmed through the pages, his eyes widened. Chilton saw the decorations: the Purple Hearts and Bronze Star and Silver Stars. The Kentucky native had participated in eight major campaigns and had been wounded in each of the countries he toured.
“My God,” a stunned Chilton said to Pauline. “This man should have been awarded the Medal of Honor.”
Chilton, feeling sudden inspiration, asked Pauline and Garlin if he could pursue an application for the medal on Murl’s behalf. Pauline turned to her husband.
“I looked at [Garlin],” she said. “And he was looking at me so straight with tears in his eyes.”
Conner nodded his head yes. After 50 years, he was finally ready to apply for the honor that he had for so long been reluctant to seek.
“He’s my hero,” Pauline said, sitting in the Conner family’s living room, clutching the brown picture frame holding her husband’s black and white service photo. “He always has been.”
Wearing a black blazer and rose-colored blouse, her once-blonde locks have faded into gray. Now 89 years old, her voice wavers when she talks about the life of her late husband. She fondly recalls his humility and his quiet way of voicing his approval.
Finally, she talks about that spring night in 1945, when she and Garlin slipped away from Clinton County in his convertible with nothing but a homemade dress to get married at a courthouse in Rossville, Georgia. They would stop at a neighboring town on the way to Georgia to purchase clothing for Pauline. Pauline said Garlin’s patience and understanding swayed her to marry him after two weeks of dating.
Though their early marriage suffered the occasional bumps, Pauline stood by her husband’s side for more than five decades. Conner suffered a heart attack in 1979, after falling ill riding on the tractor. He underwent open heart surgery later that year, and a second surgery 11 years later.
In the years before his death, Garlin had battled numerous illnesses, including kidney failure, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. He suffered a stroke that left him bedridden and no longer able to speak. Pauline took on the role of caretaker, cooking his meals and driving him to his medical appointments. She took a part-time job for additional income.
Conner passed mercifully on a November day in 1998. He was 79.
“The last few years my dad was alive, he wasn’t really alive,” Paul said. “It progressively got worse. I wish I hadn’t have had to see that part of it. But we can’t choose how we’re going to live and how the last days are going to be.”
At the Weldon Haddix Funeral home along Business Route 127 in Albany, hundreds waited in line to view Conner’s remains. In the rectangular, brick building nestled between local businesses on the north side of Albany, farmers, neighbors and veterans paid their respects. Veterans whom Conner had helped approached Pauline to express their gratitude for Conner’s assistance years ago. Neighboring farmers whom Conner helped as president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau also attended. To this day, Pauline said, veterans still greet her.
“They come up and hug me for what I’ve done, for what [Garlin] has done,” Pauline said. “And I always hug them and tell them I love every one of them.”
Conner’s acts left a lasting impression on Ramsey. The two remained in touch for decades through letters and phone calls. Ramsey later retired as a major general and suffered five combat wounds during his time in service. He encouraged Conner to apply for the medal over the years, Pauline said. But each time, Conner declined and the medals and decorations remained mostly untouched inside the duffel bag, in the living room closet.
Ramsey, whose 34-year career spanned three wars, wrote in 2006: “One of the most disappointing regrets of my career is not having the Medal of Honor awarded to the most outstanding soldier I’ve had the privilege of commanding.” The Army medically retired Ramsey in 1974.
A final plea
Chilton continued to press on Conner’s application for the Medal of Honor, writing letters and contacting politicians.
New evidence had been uncovered by Congressman Ed Whitfield’s office in the National Archives in Washington, including three eyewitness accounts written by fellow soldiers who fought on the front lines with Conner. The three affidavits painted in vivid detail accounts of Conner’s acts in January 1945. But even the affidavits would not be enough.
The Army Board for Correction of Military Records rejected Chilton’s original application for Conner’s eligibility for the medal. Haddix assembled a legal team, headed by Dennis Shepherd of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs as lead trial counsel, and included Luther Conner, who also serves as the Conner family’s lawyer, to begin work on a lawsuit which was filed in federal court. That lawsuit would obtain a ruling ordering the Board to grant Pauline a new hearing and to consider the new evidence.
In 2014, U.S. District Judge Thomas Russell ruled that the statute of limitations to correct Conner’s military record had expired and that the family could no longer continue to seek the award.
After the judge dismissed Pauline’s case in 2014, she said she had lost hope. She returned to Albany and resigned herself to the idea that her husband’s decorated service record would remain as it was, without the addition of the honor that Conner’s family and friends felt he deserved. Despite the backing of the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs, several generals and Congressman Ed Whitfield, Conner’s chances for the Medal dimmed.
But then, on March 2, 2015, Conner’s case reached a turning point at the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. During the appeal for Conner’s Medal of Honor bid, Assistant U.S. Attorney Candace Hill was assigned to represent the government’s stance against Conner’s case. For 15 minutes, Hill defended the Army’s previous stance during the proceedings, saying the case should be left alone.
But then, in a closing moment of abject candor, Hill revealed her true feelings.
Hill broke into tears, as she discussed her father’s service as an officer in the same unit as Conner during World War II. She said her father suffered a severe leg injury on Jan. 25, 1945, one day after Conner’s heroic acts.
“For all I know,” she said. “Garlin Conner may have … helped save his life.”
Hill’s words, according to an Associated Press report, convinced the panel to submit Conner’s case to a federal mediator. The mediator then directed the ABCMR to grant a new hearing and to consider all evidence, including the recently discovered eyewitness accounts. The following October, the Board granted “full relief” to Pauline’s request to upgrade Conner’s Distinguished Service Cross to the Medal of Honor.
Still, Conner’s bid for the medal needed further approval from the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of Defense, and the president.
Last March, Pauline received a call from a military officer at the Pentagon who told her to expect an important phone call from a high-ranking DOD official regarding her husband. Could this be the phone call she had been waiting for? It must be a trick, Pauline thought, and she called Luther Conner, the family’s attorney, to confirm its validity. When Luther gave his assurances, Pauline still asked Luther, and his wife Susan, to sit with her for the important call.
The following Monday the phone rang.
“Is this Lyda Conner?” asked a man with a gruff, New York accent.
“I go by Pauline,” she said.
“You sound just like an old country gal,” the man said.
“I am,” Pauline said, soon realizing the caller was the president.
“It’s a beautiful place down there where you live,” President Trump said.
“Yes it is,” Pauline said, as she sat in the family’s tidy living room, amid family photos of Conner, her son, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Outside, redbirds chirped in the cool spring air.
“You are the widow of Lieutenant Garlin Conner?” Trump asked.
“I am,” she confirmed.
After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Trump said, “Well I’ve got some good news for you. He has a wonderful military record — one of the best I’ve ever seen. I am going to award him the Medal of Honor.”
The news soon spread to the rest of the Conner family, Conner’s legal team and Clinton County’s residents. Chilton, who spent much of his own time and money on Conner’s journey, could breathe a sigh of relief. Chilton traveled across the country in his quest to bring the Medal of Honor to the Conner family. He’d conducted dozens of interviews with former veterans who knew Conner. Nearly all have since passed. Chilton also penned what he said could be hundreds of hand-written letters to congressmen and to the Army.
A 22-year quest for a man who left everything on the battlefield had finally ended. Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a White House ceremony June 26.
“It gets you kind of numb, you know?” Chilton said. “It sinks in and you understand it. You realize how long you’ve been after it and how long you’ve been doing it. I was just kind of numb … I felt good for him. I felt good for his wife; she suffered through all this stuff. I felt good for (Paul). They’ll all know this forever: (he’s) a hero.”
Pauline was asked what she thought her husband would say if he was still alive. Pauline thought for a moment. And she recalled how her husband might not want the honor, and might brush it aside once more. He might defer credit to the men he fought alongside. But Pauline said she sensed her husband’s attitude toward the honor had changed during his waning years. She remembered his regret in the 1996 meeting with Chilton.
Maybe, Conner might just tip his cap, and smile.
“More than anything I miss him,” Pauline said wistfully. “And I wish he was here so he could go get the Medal himself. Because I think he would have been proud of it. I know he would have.”
“I always kept thinking he didn’t want it in his younger days. And he didn’t really. … When he got older, he wished he had.”
The story of Garlin Conner doesn’t lie in his heroic acts or in his courage under the grimmest of odds. His family says it lies in his unending desire to help others, whether guiding soldiers on the battlefields of Western Europe, or helping veterans in the rolling hills of Clinton County, Kentucky.
Chilton, a military veteran of 20 years, traveled the world with both the U.S. Army and the Israeli Army during Desert Storm. Perhaps the Wisconsin resident put it best.
“I’ve traveled a lot and I’ve seen a lot,” Chilton said. “But I’ve never met anyone like Garlin Conner.”
Editor’s note: Garlin Murl Conner will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony at the White House June 26, 2018. President Trump will present the Medal to Conner’s widow, Pauline, at the ceremony.
Erwin Rommel entered France in 1940 in command of a panzer division, moving around the Maginot Line with the bulk of German attackers and slamming into the French defenses from behind. He would go on to lead troops in North Africa as Hitler’s favored general.
But the bloom was off the rose in 1944 when Hitler made Rommel kill himself.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and senior officers in France.
(German Bundesarchiv Bild)
The Desert Fox made his legend in France, and then fought in the African desert in 1941. His troops there loved him, and he fought tooth and nail to hold the oil fields and ports in that part of the world. With limited numbers and supplies, he bloodied the nose of British forces and their French and American allies over and over again.
The British tried to kidnap him. They tried to kill him. But mostly, they tried to beat him. And, eventually, with the crushing weight of American armor at their back, they did.
Rommel evacuated north with his surviving forces, and he was put in command of the Atlantic Wall, the bulwark of Fortress Europe. He was brilliant in the role, predicting that the Allies would try to land somewhere other than a deepwater port, and suspecting portions of Normandy beaches in particular. He pushed his men to build defenses, and he pushed the government to send him more supplies.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his staff in North Africa.
(German Bundesarchiv Bild)
But all the while, from North Africa to the Atlantic Coast, he was lamenting the clear resource advantage that America had given the Allies. He worried that the war was lost and that further fighting would just cost German blood and weaken its place at the bargaining table.
In 1943, while preparing those defenses in Normandy, he began to see signs that the anti-war movement was right, that Germany was conducting heinous acts besides just prosecuting the war. He could stomach battles, but he was unsettled when he ran into evidence of the rumored death camps, especially when was given an apartment that had, until that very morning, been the property of a Jewish family.
And so he whispered more and more about how Hitler wasn’t to be trusted, about how the war was bad for Germany, and about how the Third Reich couldn’t possibly survive what was coming. When the Allies hit the beaches in June 1944, Rommel’s pessimism became too much to bear.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s command tank in World War II.
(German Bundesarchiv Bild)
And so, when an attempt to assassinate Hitler in July 1944 failed, it didn’t matter that there was no strong evidence linking him to the plot. The perpetrators had all been senior military officers, so it was easy to pin a little blame on Rommel, especially since both his chief of staff and his commanding officer were implicated and executed.
Rommel was popular, though. So, he couldn’t just be dragged out back and shot like many of the Valkyrie plotters. Instead, Third Reich officers were sent to Rommel’s home on October 14, 1944. He was there, healing from wounds sustained in a July 17 attack by a British aircraft.
‘At twelve o’clock to-day two Generals are coming to discuss my future employment,’ my father started the conversation. ‘So today will decide what is planned for me; whether a People’s Court or a new command in the East.’
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
(German Bundesarchiv Bild)
Despite Rommel’s worries about Germany’s aggression, he believed that a Soviet conquest of Europe would be devastating for all the rest of Europe, worse than any outcome under Germany. And so he told his son that he would take a command in the Eastern Front, if it was offered.
But that was not what the officers were coming to offer him. And they were not going to put him in front of the People’s Courts either. Instead, after Rommel met with the men for a short time, he went upstairs, and Manfred Rommel, his 15-year-old son, followed him upstairs.
‘I have just had to tell your mother,’ he began slowly, ‘that I shall be dead in a quarter of an hour.’ He was calm as he continued: ‘To die by the hand of one’s own people is hard. But the house is surrounded and Hitler is charging me with high treason. ‘ “In view of my services in Africa,” ‘ he quoted sarcastically, ‘I am to have the chance of dying by poison. The two generals have brought it with them. It’s fatal in three seconds. If I accept, none of the usual steps will be taken against my family, that is against you. They will also leave my staff alone.’
And so that was the deal that Rommel accepted. His family would be made safe. His staff would be made safe. But he would have to drink a fast-acting poison. Manfred briefly pitched the idea of fighting free, but his father was certain they lacked the numbers or ammunition to be successful.
So Rommel left. He carried his field marshal’s baton to the car, shook the hands of his son and his aide, and got in the car of the two generals. They drove a few hundred yards into an open space in the woods and Rommel drank.
He was given a state funeral just four days later. Hitler would follow him into death the following May. But where Rommel committed suicide to save his family, Hitler did it to escape judgment for that and thousand of other actions.
A few days ago reading the news that Lt. Col. Ralph Featherstone, Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 225 squadron commander since last April, had been fired on Jan. 24 after performing a flyover during a “sundown” ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, “due to concerns about poor judgment” I immediately thought his F/A-18 had performed some kind of insane low passage or buzzed the Tower as done in the famous Top Gun scene.
Then, I found the video obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune that shows the actual flyover. According to the media outlet, an air wing official confirmed the removal was linked to the flight shown in the following video:
What is more, “Featherstone was in the rear seat of the jet when it flew lower and faster than was approved in the day’s flight plan.”
In about 30 years attending airshows and events and 25 years reporting about military aviation I’ve seen many many “stunts” (i.e. aggressive maneuvers at low altitude) far worse than the one in the video above. Maybe we miss some detail about the whole story here, but that flyover is far from being “low”! No matter you are an expert or not, I think you won’t find it dangerous from any point of view.
Let’s not forget that the sundown ceremony celebrated the squadron’s transition from the “Legacy Hornet” to the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II aircraft. It’s an event aimed at boosting the morale of the squadron as it moves to another chapter of its history. Do you see anything “unsafe” in that passage?
In this episode of the Mandatory Fun podcast, we speak with standup comedian turned actor Tone Bell.
Tone isn’t a veteran, but on the Netflix show Disjointed he plays a soldier with multiple combat deployments under his belt who deals with everyday veteran issues like trauma and transitioning out of the military.
You may remember Tone from a few other shows he’s been on like 9JKL, The Flash, Truth Be Told, and Bad Judge with Kate Walsh.
Disjointed’ s producers and creative minds went to great lengths to develop his character and to get the veteran portion right. One of his character advisors on the show is WATM’s resident Green Beret Chase Millsap.
Tone Bell as Carter in Disjointed doing what he does best — create comedy.
In the show, “Carter” works as a security guard in a marijuana dispensary at Ruth’s Alternative Caring owned by Ruth Feldman (played by Kathy Bates).
To play the role, Tone spent countless hours prepping the character by talking with veterans throughout his creative process and combing through the script with Chase.
In the event, Tone reads a portion of the script where he felt the “Carter” character felt synthetic — he’d immediately voice his concerns with the producers.
Tone receives several direct messages daily on social media from veterans who respect how he has portrayed the veterans on the screen. This notion promotes that aspect that showcasing veteran issues in a witty and comedic way is possible without the actor going too over-the-top with their performance.
This unique process of prepping for a military role with the help of veterans will hopefully create a shift throughout the entertainment space that departs from Hollywood’s version of the armed forces.
All of Disjointed episodes are currently streaming on Netflix — so check it out. It’s freakin’ hilarious.
Marine infantrymen thrive on hardship. Whether it’s training and deploying to austere environments, learning to do more with less, or figuring out how to catch Z’s anywhere, grunt life in the infantry is very different from the rest of the Marine Corps.
There are also some problems specific to the infantry community. We came up with five, but if you can think of some more, leave a comment.
1. Physical training often consists of “death runs” and they feel just like it sounds.
Physical training is a part of being a Marine, but it’s much more demanding as an infantryman. Life in the grunts usually means waking up early to go on a “death run,” which isn’t that far off the mark. While the Marine physical fitness test (PFT) has a timed three-mile run, grunts can expect to go way beyond that.
On “death runs” that I’ve personally been on — also known jokingly as “fun runs” — our platoon commander or platoon sergeant would take us on runs over the seven-mile mark at an insane pace. And for extra fun, sometimes we wore gas masks. Gotta love it.
2. Your platoon commander is guaranteed to get you completely lost at some point.
When he’s not running you into the dirt, your platoon commander is supposed to be planning missions and leading. But sometimes that means leading you into who-knows-where. It’s a running joke that second lieutenants are terrible at land navigation, but it’s not that far off. He’s guaranteed to get you lost at least once. Let’s just hope it only happens in training.
3. I hope you’re ready for the non-grunt company First Sergeant who wants to “get back to the basics.”
Infantry Marines hold the 0300 military occupational specialty, as do their officers with 0302. But since company first sergeants perform mostly administrative duty (compared to Master Sergeants who remain in their field), they aren’t required to hold the infantry MOS. Although plenty of them do come up from the infantry ranks, some come from completely unrelated fields.
Grunt first sergeants are usually focused on the mission of the infantry (locating, closing with, and destroying the enemy), but first sergeants outside of the MOS sometimes focus on “getting back to the basics” — aka cleaning the barracks, holding uniform inspections, and marching properly. These are all good things for junior Marines to be exposed to in their careers. Just don’t expect them to like it.
4. Excuse me sir, do you have a moment to talk about prickly heat?
Training in the field can lead to some weird physical problems for grunts. In humid places, Marines can expect something called “prickly heat” — a very annoying rash that develops after sweating profusely. When you’re out in the field for days or weeks and not able to take a shower, that tends to happen quite a bit.
Then of course, there’s that terrible smell you develop. But luckily, you’re around a bunch of other people who smell terrible so you don’t even notice. Great success!
5. Range 400.
This legendary training range is a rite of passage for infantry Marines. With machine guns firing over their heads and mortars dropping down in support, grunts rush forward to attack a fortified “enemy” position in 29 Palms, California. It sounds awesome, and it is. It’s also an ass kicker.
“It’s the only range in the Marine Corps where overhead fire is authorized,” Capt. Andy S. Watson explained in a Marine Corps news release. “We are also granted a waiver to close within 250 meters of 81mm mortar fire. Normally, it is only 400 meters. Therefore, Range 400 gives Marines a realistic training experience of closing close into fires. They can’t get that anywhere else in the Marine Corps.”
By far, the most coveted and “forgotten to return” item that’s ever been issued to members of the military is the woobie. Maybe you’ve forgotten that your most cherished bit of military memorabilia is actually a poncho liner … since so few people ever actually used it for its intended purpose. The woobie designers intended for you to use the little holes on the sides to tie it together, but let’s be serious – no one has ever done that. It’s probably a really excellent poncho liner, but chances are you’re never going to use it for its manufactured purpose. Instead, let’s take a look at some great ways to use your woobie besides using it as a blanket.
History of the woobie
But first, do you even know why it’s called a woobie? The real origin story is likely lost to history, but most people tend to think it’s because of the phrase, “Because you would be cold without it.” “Would be” eventually evolved into woobie, and a military star was born.
The truth is that the woobie history stretches back even further to the 1850s when ponchos were first in use by the American military. Forces assigned to patrol the Western Plains were issued ponchos to keep them warm. These ponchos were made from “gutta-percha muslin,” which was muslin fabric coated with rubber. The rubber coating made the poncho waterproof but also made it hard to fold.
During the Civil War, these rubber coated ponchos were standard issue. Ponchos were used as both waterproof groundsheets and to keep dry.
By 1900, ponchos were made from rubberized canvas, which was great for weatherproofing, but really freaking heavy.
During WWI and WWII, service members used ponchos because they could protect both the pack and the wearer as well as serving as a makeshift shelter in the field.
The 1950s saw ponchos made from synthetic fabrics, and this is when the earliest predecessor of what we know as the woobie began to emerge. During the Vietnam War, the standard-issue Army wool blanket was unsuited for the terrain and climate, since it got really heavy when wet. The woobie made its first field appearance sometime between 1962 and 1964.
Okay, enough history. Here are three fun things you can do with your woobie.
1. Repurpose as a robe
Find a seamstress and make your woobie into the coziest robe ever. Trust us when we say you’ll never want to take it off. If you’re not the robe-wearing type, what about making it into the warmest hoodie ever? Or you could go all out and have it repurposed into a light jacket, thereby getting pretty darn close to the woobie’s intended original use.
Use it as a tent divider if you’re still keen on camping. That is if being in the field wasn’t enough camping to last a lifetime. Woobies make perfect tent dividers to section out space inside a large tent or to create rooms if you’re camping with your family.
Let your cat or dog appropriate it and use it as their new favorite bed. It smells like you, it’s soft, warm, and it makes for the perfect traveling pet bed because it’s so compact. It’s especially useful for the inside of kennels if you have to move since the woobie is waterproof and dustproof.
A few years back, the Marine Corps unveiled the Woobie 2.0, and four years on, we’re still smiling about its enhanced benefits. This upgrade includes the things service members have been asking for – better insulation, a way to keep various tie-down points in place, and the addition of parachute cord loops. The latest version also includes a heavy-duty reversible zipper to make the woobie into the ultimate cozy cocoon. Woobie 2.0 doesn’t have as much stitching as the older version because the insulation is so much better. But to prevent rips, some stitches run down the length of the woobie.
We’re obsessed with the new zipper function and like all the old times always said, these new kids don’t know how good they’ve got it. From its humble beginnings in the earliest days of the American military to the jungles of Vietnam, the woobie truly is the greatest military invention ever fielded.
One of Russia’s most advanced warships is sailing around in the Caribbean, but it’s not alone, as the US Navy has dispatched a destroyer to keep a close eye on it.
The Admiral Gorshkov, the first of a new class of Russian frigates built for power projection, arrived in Havana on June 24, 2019, accompanied by the multipurpose logistics vessel Elbrus, the sea tanker Kama, and the rescue tug Nikolai Chiker, The Associated Press reported.
The Russian warship made headlines earlier this year when Russia reported that it was arming the vessel with a new weapon — the electro-optic Filin 5P-42 — that emits an oscillating beam of high-intensity light designed to cause temporary blindness, disorientation, and even nausea.
The US military said on June 26, 2019, it was monitoring the Russian ship’s activities.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham was operating roughly 50 miles north of Havana as of June 25, 2019, USNI News reported, citing ship-tracking data. The Navy told the outlet that it was monitoring the situation.
The Admiral Gorshkov entered the Caribbean Sea via the Panama Canal on June 18, 2019. The ship departed its homeport of Severomorsk in February 2019 and has since traveled more than 28,000 nautical miles, making stops in China, Djibouti, Sri Lanka, Colombia, and now Cuba.
The warship is preparing to make port calls at several locations across the Caribbean, the AP reported, citing the Russian Navy, which has not disclosed the purpose of the trip.
Over the past decade, Russia has occasionally sent warships into the Caribbean. While these deployments are typically perceived as power plays, Russia characterizes them as routine. Russia has also sent Tu-160 strategic bombers into the area, most recently in December 2018.
Russian Tupolev Tu-160.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
While Russian ships have made visits to the Caribbean in the past, this trip comes at a time when the US militaries are finding themselves in close proximity. For instance, earlier this month, a Russian destroyer nearly collided with a US cruiser in the Pacific, an incident that came just a few days after a Russian fighter jet aggressively buzzed a Navy aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea.
Russia also sent ships from its Baltic Fleet to monitor the NATO Baltops 2019 exercises held in mid-June 2019 near Russia. These exercises involved ships and aircraft from 16 NATO allies and two partner countries.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The 1986 movie “Heartbreak Ridge” took the Marine Corps community and audiences by storm as it showcased Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Highway’s rough and tumble personality. Clint Eastwood took on dual roles as he starred in and directed this iconic film role about a man who is on the tail-end of his military service.
Author’s note: The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the United States. In Iran, the media and the internet are closely monitored by the government. However, it’s impossible to keep track of everyone. And sometimes, despite the tremendous risk involved, an Iranian is eager to share their story and hit back at the pervasive propaganda that Iran’s government uses to control its people.
The vast military camp was on the outskirts of a small city. The soil was nearly frozen. There wasn’t a tree or any greenery in sight. Concrete buildings made up the complex where Farhad (a pseudonym for his real name) would receive his two months of mandatory military training. He wore light brown and dark green fatigues, a belt, and a pair of poorly manufactured combat boots.
First, Farhad marched for a while. After that, his picture was taken, along with the other conscripts. He then was shown to his barracks and bunk. While many training camps in Iran don’t permit leaving the base, he was allowed to go home every weekend.
Iranian soldier in basic training barracks.
(Screenshot of video posted on Youtube by Persian_boy.)
“Soldiers need food. Their food was shitty — rice with little pieces of meat — and this helped to lessen expenses,” he said.
The food may have been bad but remaining connected to his family was one of the benefits. He and the others there were allowed to call home anytime after 5 PM using the phone booths set up on the grounds of the camp.
As for the training he received, Farhad called it a “joke,” especially the shooting portion.
The firearm he was issued — a Heckler Koch G3 — has been around since 1959. If he would have been part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC, or Sepâh), he would have been issued an AK-47 instead. According to Farhad, you go out on the range one time and shoot a dozen bullets. Your results are written on a scorecard, and then it’s back to marching. “You march a lot,” he recalled.
Farhad further described what he learned about weapons: “Not much. Effective range. Pure fire range. Caliber. Rate of fire. Weight. How many bullets they take. How to discharge. How to aim. How to safely check a weapon. How to clean your weapon. How to carry it. How many ways there are to carry it. Different types of weapons in the military. Things like that.”
In addition, he didn’t receive any combatives or medical training. “They aren’t trying to make soldiers. They want a work force,” Farhad said.
More so than actually training in combat or tactics, the Islamic Republic of Iran is interested in creating soldiers submissive to its religious ideology. Farhad said that religious indoctrination was a major part of his training experience, but he and many others didn’t take the sermons seriously. In fact, they would question and mock the mullah’s lecture whenever they had the chance.
“The mullahs really got frustrated with us,” Farhad said. “No one cared about them and made fun of them when they could and laughed and argued with them and put holes in their arguments all the time.”
Iranian soldiers marching.
(Screenshot of video posted on Youtube by Persian_boy.)
When asked if this resulted in a consequence for him or anyone else involved, Farhad said no. “We didn’t get in trouble. Pretty much everyone was doing it.”
Even the non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in the camp didn’t follow the written rules that governed it.
One night on watch duty, Farhad smelled something weird. There was a little place outside of the chow hall that was mostly blocked from view, and when he looked out there, he saw two NCOs smoking. It didn’t take long to figure out they were smoking marijuana, which is a felony for a soldier in the Iranian military. He investigated further in the morning, finding remnants from dozens of marijuana cigars on the ground.
Farhad’s boots and the frigid cold gave him the biggest problems, though. In addition to the blisters all over his feet from marching, he also had an infection to keep at bay. And despite how cold it was, the military didn’t provide their conscripts with warm enough clothing. During a particularly cold watch duty assignment, he and the others on duty passed around a poncho, each using it for a few minutes to keep warm.
When training concluded, there was a ceremony where everyone dressed their best, but, unlike basic training graduation in America, family and friends were not permitted to attend. To his recollection, only one conscript failed to complete the training.
Farhad then spent two years in the Iranian military, which only solidified the negative impression he started with.
“It’s such a shitty, unreliable, broken system,” he said. “Whenever I see these websites talking about Iran’s military might, it makes laugh. They have no idea what they are talking about.”
The Russian navy is apparently outfitting its warships with a new naval weapon designed to blind and confuse enemies and, sometimes, make them want to hurl, Russian media said early February 2019.
Filin 5P-42, a non-lethal visual-optical inference device, has been deployed aboard Russian navy frigates Admiral Gorshkov and Admiral Kasatonov, state-run RIA Novosti reported, citing a press statement from Ruselectronics, the company that built the device.
Each frigate, both part of Russia’s Northern Sea Fleet, has been outfitted with two Filin stations. Two additional frigates currently under construction are expected to also carry the blinding weapon.
The new device is a dazzler-type weapon that works like a strobe light, emitting an oscillating beam of high-intensity light that negatively affects an enemy’s ability to aim at night.
A Russian Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate.
(Russian Defense Ministry)
Russia claims that the new naval weapon is capable of “effectively suppressing” sensors and night-vision technology, as well as range finders for anti-tank missiles, Russian media said.
The dazzling weapon was tested against volunteers firing assault weapons, sniper rifles, and machine guns at targets protected by Filin from two kilometers away. All of the participants experienced difficulties aiming, and 45% had complaints of dizziness, nausea, and disorientation. Twenty percent of volunteers experienced what Russian media has characterized as hallucinations. Participants described seeing floating balls of light.
The concept behind “dazzling” weapons has been around for decades in one form or another.
Blinding weapons, particularly lasers, that cause permanent blindness are prohibited by the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons. As Russia’s weapon reportedly only causes temporary blindness, there would be no legislative restrictions on its use, not that legal issues may be of any real concern.
US-Russian relations sank to a new low Feb. 1, 2019, when the Trump administration announced US withdrawal from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a Cold War-era nuclear arms pact, citing Russian violations of the agreement.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.