This is the 'greatest rifle ever made' according to R. Lee Ermey - We Are The Mighty
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This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly characterized the operating system and capacity of the M1. It is a gas operated rifle that has an eight-round capacity.


This is his rifle. There are many like it, but “Ginger Dinger” is his.

That was the name ‘Gunny’ R. Lee Ermey gave his beloved M1 Garand rifle. It’s been heralded by General George S. Patton as “the greatest battle implement ever devised.”

In an era of lever-action or bolt-action rifles, nothing can compare the speed and accuracy of a semi-automatic that uses the high-pressured gas from the cartridge being fired to do all the work for you. All troops had to do was just pull the trigger, the spent shell is ejected, the next round is chambered, and you’re ready to fire again. At the time of it’s creation in 1936, this was an absolute game changer.

Once you pop in a eight round en-bloc clip of .30-06, the M1 Garand becomes one of the most reliable weapons any service member has been issued. It was issued to the U.S. Army in 1938 and has seen service in World War II, Korean War, and selectively used in a sniper variation for the Vietnam War.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
Firearms designer John C. Garand and his M1 (Photo via Wikimedia)

Currently, it is still available for civilian ownership and is widely praised by collectors and marksmanship competitors.

The U.S. Military still uses the M1 Garand for ceremonial purposes by drill teams. It’s said that they are also very well balanced, spin easily, and present well.

Also, both pronunciations are widely accepted. As in it’s either “Gahr-rund,” as if it rhymed with ‘errand,’ or “gur-rand,” as if Tony the Tiger was trying to say ‘grand.’

Check out the video down below if you want to watch R. Lee Ermey sh*t talk during a shooting competition with British Rifle Expert Gary Archer in his show “Lock ‘N Load with R. Lee Ermey.”

Related: This is the military branch R. Lee Ermey says Marines made fun of the most

*Writer’s Note: At first I mistakenly attributed the M1 Garand as a recoil operated rifle with a five round clip. This is not the case and I own up to my mistakes. Thank you to everyone in the comment section.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w16pXWL2B2k

(YouTube| Epic History)

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The legendary rock band KISS has surprising roots from World War II

The legendary rock band Kiss is known for their makeup, over-the-top stage show, and hits like “Rock ‘n Roll All Night” and “Detroit Rock City.”


They aren’t known as historians, although two of the band’s members — Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer — have remarkable stories to tell about what their families went through during World War II. And equally remarkable is how these stories link the two members of Kiss to each other.

Backstage at a Kiss concert in northern Virginia in late July, lead guitarist Tommy Thayer talked about his father’s military service. James B. Thayer retired as a brigadier general in the mid-60s, but in 1945 he was an first lieutenant in charge of an anti-tank mine reconnaissance platoon that made its way across France into southern Germany. The unit saw a lot of action, including battles with Waffen SS troops – among the Third Reich’s most elite fighters – that involved bloody hand-to-hand combat.

As the platoon made its way farther south they stumbled upon the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. “The SS had just fled,” Tommy Thayer said. “They left behind 15,000 Hungarian-Jewish refugees who were in bad shape.”

Ironically enough, based on time and location, among the refugees that U.S. Army Lieutenant Thayer liberated was most likely a family from Budapest that included a teenage girl who would later give birth Gene Simmons, Kiss’ outspoken bassist and co-founder.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbocCi_OZ_U
“My mother was 14-years-old when they took her to the camps of Nazi Germany,” Simmons explained. “If it wasn’t for America, for those who served during World War Two like James Thayer, I wouldn’t be here.”

As a result of this connection, the band has thrown its clout behind the Oregon Military Museum, which will be named in honor of the now 93-year-old Brigadier General Thayer. Tommy Thayer is on the museum’s board, and the band recently played at a private residence in the greater Portland area to raise money and awareness for the effort.

“The idea that Americans enjoy the kind of life that the rest of the world is envious of is made possible – not by politicians – but by the brave men and women of our military,” Simmons said. “The least we could do is have a museum.”

“There is evil being done all over the world,” Simmons said. “And the only thing that keeps the world from falling into complete chaos is our military.”

Beyond supporting the Oregon Military Museum, in the years since 9-11, Simmons has worked as a military veteran advocate. Among some of his more high-profile efforts is the band’s hiring of veterans to work as roadies for Kiss on tour.

While other celebrity vet charities could rightly be criticized as something between Boomer guilt and vanity projects, the bass guitarist’s desire to help vets is fueled by what his mother’s side of the family went through to make it to America a generation ago.

Simmons has a few things to say about national pride, something he thinks the country has lost a measure of.

“When I first came to America as an eight-year-old boy people were quiet when the flag was raised,” Simmons said. “We all stood still.”

To Simmons’ eye that respect is lacking in too many Americans now, particularly younger Americans who are surrounded by information and media but may not appreciate the relationship between history and their daily lives.

“Just stop yakking for at least one minute,” he said. “The rest of the day is all yours to enjoy all the benefits that the American flag gives you.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Libyan MiG shootdown by F-14s was both heroic and gooned up


Back in the ’80s – before 9/11 when the U.S. military’s focus shifted completely to the Middle East – aircraft carriers used to spend entire deployments in the Mediterranean Sea playing cat-and-mouse with the Soviet Navy, doing bi-lateral exercises with NATO allies, and pulling great liberty in ports like Cannes and Malta. During that time there was also a persistent pain-in-the-ass named Muammar Gaddafi who was the Libyan dictator.

Muammar Gaddafi, Former Leader of the Revolution of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, at the 12th African Union Summit Feb. 2, 2009.
Muammar Gaddafi, Former Leader of the Revolution of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, at the 12th African Union Summit Feb. 2, 2009. 

A few decades before Gaddafi met his untimely demise at the hands of rebels, he made a sport out of provoking the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet assets, primarily by claiming that the entire Gulf of Sidra was territorial Libyan water. He called the line along the northernmost part of the gulf the “Line of Death” and warned that any American ships or airplanes that crossed it would be met with the full force of the Libyan military.

Fighters from the aircraft carrier’s air wing would routinely fly inside the “Line of Death” as part of the American Navy’s “freedom of navigation” operations (aka “FON ops”) designed to prove a commitment to the conventions of international admiralty law that said that the Gulf of Sidra was, in fact, a gulf so therefore the only territorial waters that Libya could claim were those that extended 12 miles off the coastline.

FON ops were generally boring in that the Libyan military didn’t respond at all in spite of Gaddafi’s bluster.  Fighters would spend hours on combat air patrol stations drilling holes in the sky without a single vector from the controllers in the early warning aircraft whose radar screens remained blip-free.

But that wasn’t the case on January 4, 1989 when two F-14A Tomcats assigned to “The Swordsmen” of VF-32 got the call to investigate two contacts that had launched out of Tobruk – a dream scenario for Cold War-era aviators, but one that also had a few dubious moments, particularly for the pilot and his radar intercept officer (RIO) in the lead aircraft.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
An F/A-18 Super Hornet assigned to “The Swordsmen” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 approaches the catapult during flight operations aboard the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75). (US Navy Photo)

The rules of engagement at that time were more lenient than previous Sixth Fleet rules had been in that a Libyan aircraft didn’t have to fire at an American to be declared hostile but simply if it had turned toward an American aircraft that had attempted to turn away three times.

Analysis of the lead Tomcat’s mission recorder reveals the following (with video time stamp in parenthesis):

(0:11) – The lead RIO transmits “Bogeys have jinked back at me for the fifth time . . .” (Contacts on the F-14’s AWG-9 radar system had a tendency to “windshield wiper” when the aircraft maneuvered, showing erroneous heading changes, but at this point the RIO believes the ROE has been met to declare the Libyans “hostile.”)

(0:19) – Lead RIO transmits “Inside of 20 miles, master arm on,” telling the pilot to flip the switch in the front cockpit. The pilot responds with “good light,” which means the missiles are now ready to fire.

(0:41) – After an exchange between the lead RIO and the wing pilot regarding the bogey’s “angels” (altitude) the lead pilot is less convinced than his RIO that the ROE has been met. He transmits “Alpha Bravo from 207” – an attempt to speak to the admiral on the carrier to get a ruling – but gets no response.

(0:50) – Lead RIO transmits “13 miles . . . Fox-1!” as he pushes the launch button in the rear cockpit and fires an AIM-7M Sparrow missile. His pilot responds by muttering “ah, Jesus” over the intercom, an indication that he’s not entirely comfortable with his backseater’s zeal.

(1:00) – Lead RIO’s excitement gets the best of him, and he shoots a second Sparrow before the first one has time to make it to the target, which prevents either missile from guiding accurately.

(1:13) – Lead RIO calls “six miles” as the wing pilot transmits “tally two” and then says “turning into me.”  The crews now know for sure that they’re engaged with MiG-23 “Floggers.”

(1:25) – Lead pilot says, “Okay, he’s got a missile off” over the intercom, referring to the fact his wingman just shot a Sparrow (a forward quarter shot from about 5 miles away).

(1:33) – Lead pilot transmits, “Good hit, good hit on one,” as the wingman’s Sparrow hits one of the MiGs.

(1:39) – Lead pilot says, “I’ve got the other one” as they merge and start a hard turn to get behind the second Flogger. His RIO directs him to “select Fox-2,” meaning he needs to switch the weapons firing control from the radar-guided Sparrow missile to the heat-seeking Sidewinder missile.

(1:48) – Lead RIO says, “shoot ’em!” over the intercom, and the pilot responds with “I don’t got a tone,” which refers to the aural cue that a Sidewinder missile gives the pilot when the seeker senses a heat source. But at this point the pilot doesn’t have a tone because he still has “Sparrow” selected (not “Sidewinder”) on his control stick.

(2:01) – Lead pilot requests that his RIO “lock him up” with the radar – an unnecessary step in Sidewinder firing logic, and the RIO responds with “I can’t. Shoot him, Fox-2!” The pilot, in turn, says, “I can’t. I don’t have a fucking tone.”

(2:04) – RIO starts to command pilot to select the right missile once again, but now the pilot has figured it out. (Fortunately for the American crew the Libyan pilot wasn’t skilled enough to use the American pilot’s “switchology” mistake to his advantage.) The pilot selects “Sidewinder” and the aural tone blares in his headset, indicating the missile is ready to be launched.

(2:06) – Lead pilot transmits “Fox-2” as he fires a Sidewinder missile from about two miles behind the MiG.

(2:09) – Lead pilot transmits “Good kill! Good kill!” as the heads up display shows the second MiG exploding.

While the crews earned the title of “MiG killers,” which makes them part of a rare breed in modern warfare, instructors at the Navy Fighter Weapons School summarized the lead aircraft’s performance as “professionally embarrassing.” (One senior member of the Top Gun staff characterized the shoot down as “punching kids coming off the short bus.”)

It’s also telltale that Fighter Pilot of the Year honors that year did not go to the lead pilot – who also happened to be the squadron’s commanding officer – but instead went to the wingman, who was only a first-tour lieutenant at the time.

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6 Star Wars techs the Empire should execute defense contractors for designing

It’s actually amazing the Galactic Empire managed to control as much of the galaxy as they did. Logistically, they had the funds and the manpower of a giant imperial power but there were serious issues with the Imperial Defense Contractors.


Frankly, the Empire seemed to buy anything and everything.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
A hand-thrown nuclear device for grunts! What could go wrong?

Like the United States and Russia during the Cold War, the Galactic Empire obviously bought technology and weapon designs with little consideration for anything other than their ongoing effort to have the latest and greatest.

Some are just cumbersome and inefficient, like a moon-sized space station. Others were egregiously flawed from the start, reckless enough to be considered treasonous.

1. The Emperor’s Royal Guards’ Armor

With what armor do you equip the guys who guard the most powerful person in the universe? Bright red robes, of course. Then give them a giant, long, plastic helmet which restricts their neck movement and you’ve got a winner.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
Also, spears. Let’s give them spears for fighting laser battles.

It’s a good thing the Emperor moves like a senior citizen walking out of a Golden Corral, because his Royal Guardsmen only have a six inch slit in those helmets for what looks like a 60-degree range of vision. But that hardly matters anyway, because even if they had to defend the Emperor for any reason, they’ve been issued what looks like pikes to fight with in a world full of lightsabers and blaster rifles. Their unit patches should probably just say “cannon fodder.”

2. TIE Fighters

When you need a fleet of superfast fighter spacecraft to defend your giant, lumbering Star Destroyers and planet-sized space stations, what better way to pump out a bunch of placeholders than the TIE Fighter, the galaxy’s most elite floating targets?

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
No shields, no navigation, no torpedoes, no hope.

With only two chin-mounted cannons, dual ion engines, these pilots are expected to tackle fleets of superior X-Wing and A-Wing fighters head to head, with the only strategy employed in their use being the Empire’s ability to throw an overwhelming number of them at any given time. Also, there is not pilot ejection system.

On top of all that, they come fully equipped with a set of giant walls acting as blinders on either side of the craft, effectively restricting the pilot’s vision of roughly half of the battlespace.

3. Stormtroopers

This is another example of the Empire favoring numbers over combat ability. The Empire’s signature shock troops, the average Stormtrooper hasn’t successfully killed anything since the Clone Wars ended.

The only exception was the Snowtroopers at the Battle of Hoth but lets be honest – the Rebel Alliance depended completely on ONE giant ion cannon to protect the entire planet from an invasion.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
Standing out in the open during a firefight is a sign of excellent training.

You might defend the stormtroopers by blaming their rifles but that’s all the more reason to execute whomever procured the rifles and/or negotiated the clone trooper deal. The blasters would be a lot more effective if they didn’t come permanently set to “miss.”

Finally, the white PVC armor does nothing for them either. Why bother wearing bright white armor if it does nothing to protect you from the flaming death bolts the other side is shooting your way. Han Solo does just fine in combat and he’s wearing a vest.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
A snazzy vest.

4. AT-ST Walkers

The All Terrain Scout Transport, the two-legged version of The Empire Strikes Back’s famous four-legged snow invaders, are supposed to be an environment-adaptable version of the same. Except whomever convinced the Empire to deploy them on Endor didn’t tell the Imperial Army about the height of the trees being taller than that of the walkers. It doesn’t take a protocol droid to know how to bust into one of those from the treetops.

And if the AT-ST was the right tool for the job on Endor, it would have been able to navigate a series of rolling logs, the armor shouldn’t have crushed like an empty beer can between two trees, and the Empire wouldn’t have been beaten by an army of Care Bears.

5. Speeder Bikes for a Giant Forest World

While we’re on the Battle of Endor, who put it in the Empire’s mind that the ideal ground transport for scouts was a hyper-fast moving, one person bike in a world full of giant primeval trees? These bikes are begging to be wrecked left and right.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
This ends well for no one.

 

The Ewoks could have just set up random strings of rope all over the forest and taken out half these Imperial Scouts. Speeder Bikes on Endor are a safety brief waiting to happen. Even in Return of the Jedi, no one who drives a Speeder Bike ever lands one, they all just wreck or are punted off in some way.

6. Death Star Exhaust/Ventilation Systems

It’s actually difficult to blame an engineer for putting a thermal exhaust port on a giant, roving space station. The thing’s gotta have a tailpipe. Should it have led directly to the Death Star’s reactor core? Why isn’t there a few twists and turns leading up to the core?

They should have installed a few vents, maybe a more complex system would have worked better. Still, at only two meters, it’s hard for any engineer to predict the effects of what is essentially magic on the trajectory of a proton torpedo.

 

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey

Who we can blame are the engineers who designed the second Death Star’s  reactor core. Despite the lessons learned from the destruction of the first Death Star at the Battle of Yavin, the new team of engineers not only kept the big gaping hole design flaw, they made it so big it could fit the Millennium Falcon, two X-Wings, an A-Wing, and a few TIE fighters.

They didn’t need magic torpedoes the second time, the Rebels just flew right up to the reactor core and blew it to smithereens.

Update: The Star Wars film “Rogue One” covered #6 on the list. The design flaw was a purposeful attempt to give the rebels a chance against the space station.

The author stands by his assertion that the second Death Star didn’t need a hole leading directly to its core.

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The Petr Velikiy: One last battlecruiser to rule them all

For a number of centuries, the battleship and its predecessor, the ship of the line, ruled the oceans. They were big, heavily armed, and were able to take a lot of punishment. But battleships haven’t sailed on the high seas for nearly a quarter-century, since the 1992 retirement of USS Missouri (BB 63).


In fact, the only capital ship in active service (outside of aircraft carriers), the Petr Velikiy (Peter the Great), is in the Russian Navy.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
Russian battlecruiser Petr Velikiy in all her glory. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

Officially, Russia refers to the Kirov-class battlecruisers as “heavy nuclear-powered guided missile cruisers.” But at 24,500 tons, and with a top speed of 32 knots, these ships are powerful. The Soviets started five of these vessels, and in the 1980s, completed three of them before the fall of the Soviet Union.

Those three were named Kirov, Frunze, and Kalinin. The fourth vessel under construction, Yuri Andropov, and the planned fifth, October Revolution, were placed on hold.

The ships were renamed by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1992 to Admiral Ushakov (ex-Kirov), Admiral Lazarev (ex-Frunze), Admiral Nakhimov (ex-Kalinin), Petr Yelikiy (ex-Yuri Andropov), and Admiral Kuznetsov (ex-October Revolution). The Admiral Kuznetsov was cancelled, and the name went to Russia’s troubled carrier. The Petr Velikiy was eventually put into service in 1998. But during that time, the Admiral Ushakov, the Admiral Lazarev, and the Admiral Nakhimov went into “operational reserve.”

So, let’s get to the good stuff: the firepower. Petr Velikiy can handle any threat in the wild blue yonder (that’s the sky, for those of you who don’t sing the Air Force song regularly). She carries 96 SA-N-6 “Grumble” surface-to-air missiles, 20 SS-N-19 “Shipwreck” anti-ship missiles, 16 eight-round launchers for the SA-N-9 “Gauntlet” point-defense surface-to-air missile, six CADS-N-1 point-defense systems (each with eight SA-N-11 “Grison” surface-to-air missiles and two 30mm Gatling guns), a twin 130mm gun mount, and two quintuple 533mm (21-inch) torpedo tube mounts. The ship can also carry two Ka-27 “Helix” helicopters.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
That’s a lotta weapons. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

Russia is planning to bring at least one of the non-operational ships back into service. Currently Admiral Nakhimov is being upgraded with plans to return her to service in 2018. The Petr Velikiy would then receive a four-year modernization. Whether the Admiral Ushakov or Admiral Lazarev follow suit remains to be seen, with conflicting reports among those who follow the Russian Navy. Admiral Ushakov reportedly suffered a reactor accident in 1990 that was never repaired. Both ships are said to be in bad condition.

Technically, the United States Navy is required to be able to reactivate two of its Iowa-class battleships. USS Iowa (BB 61 ) and USS Wisconsin (BB 64) were designated as such under Section 1014 of the National Defense Authorization Act 2006. But barring a major national emergency for the United States, it looks as if the Petr Velikiy and the Admiral Nakhimov will remain the last of their kind.

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Why Vietnam vet and Hollywood legend Dale Dye thinks ending the draft was a ‘terrible mistake’

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
Dale Dye is a veteran of the Vietnam war, accomplished actor, author, and entrepreneur, but most of the filmmaking world knows him as Hollywood’s drill sergeant. In a wide-ranging interview with Dye at his home, we spoke on a variety of topics, but one that really caught my interest were his thoughts on the military draft.


Before he became the legendary technical advisor that helped shape everything from “Born on the Fourth of July” to “Saving Private Ryan,” Dye served three tours as a Marine on the ground in Vietnam, and was a three-time recipient of the Purple Heart and recipient of the Bronze Star (with combat “V”) award for heroism. While conventional wisdom maintains the “all-volunteer force” of the modern U.S. military is the best approach, Dye thinks that ending the draft was a “terrible mistake.”

“There is a difference between a wartime draft and a peacetime draft,” Dye told WATM, in an interview at his home north of Hollywood. “Wartime draft, you take whatever shows up. Whatever comes, you know. Peacetime draft you can be more selective because of selective service pools in the neighborhoods and so on, so you get good guys. The reason I like it is this: with the all-volunteer force, and with the advent of social media and a number of other things, what’s happened is that we have become a ‘Me Generation.’ Its me, me, me. Its all about the sun rises and sets on my ass.”

The 70-year-old combat veteran — who volunteered to join the Marine Corps in 1964 and retired in 1984 — uses a colorful expression and doesn’t mince words. In his view, the draft brings people together to appreciate service to something higher than themselves.

“Now enter the military, and that rapidly changes. Our way of looking at it is that yours and mine is the antithesis of that. You worry about me, I worry about you. And then we both worry about the mission. Our personal crap is secondary. Nowadays, personal crap is primary, and it’s because there is no view of a larger mission. There is nothing bigger than me. [Veterans] know there is something bigger than us. And that is the country, our nation, and our Corps, and each other. And that is bigger than either one of us personally and we know that from our military experience.”

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
Photo Credit: US Army

In Dye’s view, if people were drafted into the military, if would have a “huge beneficial effect” that would take people away from ‘me first’ into an ‘us first’ viewpoint — something that might close the civilian-military divide.

But he also sees military service as a way of bringing people together working toward a common goal, and building relationships from the shared experience. He continued:

“Point two, which is perhaps even more important, you know we are seeing deteriorating social relationships. Why? Well, I don’t have to talk to you, I can email your ass and never meet you. And furthermore, if I’m a white guy from Southeast Missouri, and you’re a black guy from Trenton, New Jersey, we would never run into each other and wouldn’t want to. Why would we? Nothing in common. So you give the nation a common denominator. That black guy from Trenton, New Jersey and the Hispanic guy from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the white guy from Missouri and you shuffle them together in a military experience, and for the first time you find out that black guy is a human being just like I am. And all these prejudices and nonsense are just that, nonsense. And you learn about the Latino guy, and the Latino guy and the black guy learn about you. And what happens is, you lose some of these preconceptions. This nonsense, and I saw it happen when the draft was there. And its wonderful for the country. We are no longer living in little cliques. [Military service members] have been there. We’ve been in the military … we know the black guys are the same as the white guy, and the white guy knows that the Latino guy is the same as he is. And I think that is exceedingly valuable. And that’s point two, and we lost it when we got rid of the draft.”

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

He’s had a hand in more than 70 films, television shows, and video games, and continues to run his business, Warriors, Inc.

DON’T MISS: Here’s How Hollywood Legend Dale Dye Earned The Bronze Star For Heroism In Vietnam

MIGHTY HISTORY

A US troop helped an East German escape the Iron Curtain

There were only a few places around the world more tense than in the Cold War showdown between East and West that occurred every day in divided Berlin. In the West, American and NATO guards stared down the barrels of the Soviet-backed East German border guards from the other side of the Berlin Wall. These guards were known to shoot down any East German civilian trying to cross the wall, sometimes leaving their mangled corpse in the barbed wire.

One American decided he was going to do what he could to help.


This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey

An East German border guard leaps over barbed wire and away from the East German “utopia.”

It’s a well-known fact by now that life behind the Iron Curtain wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Few places in the Eastern Bloc were more repressive than in East Germany, and East Berlin in particular. East Berlin’s proximity to the freedom enjoyed by West Germany and greater Western Europe forced the Communist regimes to be more harsh to those attempting to escape to freedom. Still, many East Germans made the attempt. Scores of people died trying to cross the Berlin Wall. Untold numbers more likely made the escape.

One of those successful escapees was Hans-Peter Spitzner and his daughter Peggy. Spitzner lived more than 100 miles from East Berlin, but when the Stasi – the East German secret police – came knocking on his door and arrested him in the middle of the night for not voting the Communist Party line, he was done. He resolved to get out of East Germany. When Spitzner’s wife was suddenly able to travel to the West for a family birthday, he decided to make his move.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey

Spitzner with his wife and daughter.

Spitzner read in a Communist newspaper about how American and other troops were stripping East German stores of their stocks using favorable currency conversion rates. Under the post-World War II agreements, Western allies had free and open access to East Berlin and could come and go as they pleased. The author of the article even mentioned that Western soldiers’ cars weren’t searched. Spitzner rationalized that he and his daughter could hide in one of those cars and escape to freedom.

So the man drove 120 miles to East Berlin, just to hang out at the bus stops frequented by Western troops. All day long, he asked if anyone would be willing to smuggle him and his daughter out. Eventually, a young U.S. Army troop named Eric Yaw was walking up to his black Toyota.

He agreed to smuggle Spitzner and his daughter out of East Germany.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey

Eric Yaw’s Toyota Corolla.

There was just one hitch: the heat sensors at Checkpoint Charlie. As soon as the family was in Yaw’s trunk, Spitzner was certain they were doomed. If they were caught, they’d be imprisoned. If they ran, they’d be shot. But as luck would have it, that day was particularly warm, and Yaw’s black Toyota retained enough heat to hide Spitzner and his daughter from the border guards. In just a few minutes, Yaw opened the trunk and informed the two they were free.

Spitzner phoned his wife on vacation in Austria and told her the news. Yaw was disciplined by the Army for smuggling the two East Germans, but repeatedly said he would do the same thing again. Today, Yaw is out of the Army but is still a family friend. The Spitzners have returned to their hometown in what used to be East Germany.

No one regrets a thing.

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Special mission faceoff: Delta Force versus Spetsnaz

There’s a nasty villain who’s holed himself up in a compound somewhere in BadGuyLand. Both the United States and Russia want to nab this guy – and get him bad. Then, there is a need to rescue some hostages being held at a second compound.


The United States will send elements of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, better known as “Delta Force.” Russia will send elite spetsnaz troops. Who do you send where?

Let’s put the movies starring Chuck Norris aside (even if they were pretty awesome – and where can I get that motorcycle?). The real Delta Force is filled with very deadly operators.

Founded in 1977, and taking over for an interim unit known as Blue Light. Some Delta operators have risen to great heights: Gen. Peter Schoomaker became Army Chief of Staff, while Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin rose to command Army Special Operations Command and the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center.

Delta operators are recruited from across the military, but the 75th Ranger Regiment seems to be a primary source, according to a 2006 statement during a Congressional testimony.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
Delta Force is part of Joint Special Operations Command, which targets high value individuals and terrorist groups. (Photo from U.S. Army)

Delta was primarily a counter-terrorist group, but has since evolved to carry out a variety of missions, including the capture of high-value targets.

One such operation in 1993 turned into the Battle of Mogadishu. The unit was also involved in the capture of an ISIS chemical weapons expert this year, and reportedly also helped capture the Mexican drug lord known as “El Chapo” this past Janaury.

During Operation Just Cause, Delta operatives rescued Kurt Muse from one of Noriega’s prisons. Delta also carried out a major raid on an ISIS prison in Oct. 2015 that freed seven prisoners. Sergeant 1st Class Josh Wheeler was killed in the raid.

Russia’s spetsnaz were created for a different purpose.

Founded by the Soviet Union, they worked for the Main Intelligence Directorate, known as the GRU. Their mission was to track down and destroy American tactical and theater nuclear systems like the MGR-3 Little John and the MGM-31 Pershing missile.

But their mission evolved into hunting other targets.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, spetsznaz took out the Afghan president. Spetsnaz have also seen action in Russia’s intervention in the Ukraine, the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, and the Syrian civil war. Russia trained a lot of them – according to Viktor Suvarov, a defecting Soviet officer, there were 20 brigades and 41 companies of spetsnaz in 1978.

That number went up after the invasion of Afghanistan.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
Russian Spetsnaz in small arms training.

Spetsnaz and Delta each boast the usual small arms (assault rifles and pistols). The spetsznaz have some unique specialized gear, like the NRS-2 survival knife that can fire a pistol round, and the VSS Vintorez sniper rifle that is capable of select-fire. The large size of spetsnaz – 12 formations of brigade or regimental size in 2012 – means that they are not as selective as Delta.

So, who do you send where? Since the spetsnaz are almost mass-produced, it makes more sense to send them after the high-value target. If the guy lives to be turned over to people like Jose Rodriguez and James Mitchell who can… encourage him to talk, fine.

But Delta Force will be needed for the hostage rescue mission, since they have performed it very well in the past.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a Navy admiral left Marines hanging during a Japanese attack

The Marines on Wake Island had a last stand that belongs with the Alamo in terms of its legendary status. One Marine, Henry Elrod, became a legend during that stand.


What is not as well known is that there was an effort to try to either relieve or evacuate the Marines from Wake Island. Samuel Eliot Morison described that operation in “The Rising Sun in the Pacific,” Volume III of his 15-volume History of United States Naval Operations in World War II.

 

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
Most of the F4F Wildcats defending Wake Island were lost in the initial attack. The remaining would also fall to the Japanese, but not before sinking the Kisaragi battleship. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

Within days of the Pearl Harbor attack, Adm. Husband E. Kimmel started the effort to help the Marines on Wake.

Kimmel saw a chance to catch part of the Japanese fleet by surprise using Wake as a form of bait. Given that Wake was 2,300 miles from Pearl Harbor, there was no time to waste.

That said, the expedition still took time. All three carriers in the Pacific Fleet would take part. But there were a few problems. The

USS Saratoga (CV 3) was the carrier that had the planes of VMF-221, 14 F2A Brewster Buffalo fighters (utter pieces of junk, but that is another story). In a fateful decision, Kimmel put Rear Adm. Frank Jack Fletcher in charge of Task Force 14, which had the mission to steam into Wake Island.

Fletcher would command from the cruiser USS Astoria (CA 34).

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
U.S. Navy Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo fighters pictured during a training flight from Naval Air Station (NAS) Miami, Florida (USA). 14 of these planes were slated to reinforce the Marines on Wake Island. (US Navy photo)

Vice Adm. William F. Halsey, in command of Task Force 8 on the USS Enterprise (CV 6), would be held in reserve. Vice Adm. Wilson Brown, on board the USS Lexington (CV 2), would carry out a diversionary raid on the Marshall Islands.

Shortly after the expedition departed, Kimmel was relieved by Vice Adm. William Pye, pending the arrival of Chester W. Nimitz at Pearl Harbor. The expedition made its way towards Wake, but Fletcher was seemingly obsessed with his destroyers’ fuel state. Much as the Civil War-era Gen. George McClellan temporized about pressing the attack against Robert E. Lee in late 1862, Fletcher would take time the Marines could not afford to get the fuel he thought he needed for his ships.

Even after messages from the Marines on Wake reported the presence of enemy dive bombers and their desperate situation, he chose to fuel on Dec. 22. Morison would note that the destroyer with the least amount of fuel still had almost 90,000 barrels of fuel oil in its tanks.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
Frank Jack Fletcher. (US Navy photo)

Even with the difficult refueling, the USS Saratoga was 425 miles from Wake at 0800 on Dec. 23, where the Marines were in desperate combat with the Japanese. Pye called off the Wake Relief Expedition when word of the landings reached Pearl Harbor. Morison notes that the Marines had actually wiped out the invasion force on Wilkes Island, and it took time to convince the hard-fighting Marines to surrender. They would spend almost four years in Japanese prison camps. Almost 100 of them would be massacred on Oct. 5, 1943.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey

Inexplicably, Fletcher would still be assigned seagoing commands after the failure of the Wake Relief Expedition. The USS Lexington would be lost during the Battle of the Coral Sea. The USS Yorktown (CV 5) would be sunk at the Battle of Midway (where Fletcher did the smart thing and let Raymond Spruance take the lead).

Fletcher would leave Marines hanging again at Guadalcanal, when a decision to pull back the carriers would lead to the disastrous Battle of Savo Island, where the USS Astoria and three other heavy cruisers would be sunk.

Fletcher was wounded when the USS Saratoga was torpedoed at the end of August, 1942. After that, he’d be shunted off to backwater commands until the end of World War II. He died in 1975.

Articles

Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship destroys swarming boat attack in test

A Navy Littoral Combat Ship destroyed an attacking swarm of small boats using a wide range of assets and weapons such as 57mm guns, radar, drones and helicopters, service officials said.


This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
The USS Coronado during sea trials. Photo: US Navy

“We did a firing against swarming boats using installed 57mm guns in combination with the ship’s 30mm guns to take out unmanned remote-controlled boats,” Capt. Tom Anderson, LCS program manager, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The swarming small boat attack, which took place off the coast of California, was a key part of an operational test and evaluation of the USS Coronado, or LCS 4.

The test attack was designed to access and demonstrate the LCS’s layered defense system which seeks to use a host of assets and integrated technologies as a way to identify and destroy approaching threats, Anderson explained.

During the scenario, at least four armed fast-moving small boats raced after the USS Coronado in an attempt to attack, destroy and overwhelm the ship, he said.

The system of layered defenses, however, worked as intended, Anderson said. Operators on the ship adjust their weapons based upon the range of the threat, he added.

“The way it works is you want to have visibility of those swarms coming in as far off as you can. This visibility can come from other ships, helicopters up or the Fire Scout (drone),” he said. “Longer range assets passes information off to the ship and then the ship’s radar picks it up as the threat comes in.”

The next layers of defense are then a ship-based medium-range missile, followed by 57mm guns and 30mm guns for the closest-in threats.

“We worked on taking out those incoming swarms including multiple swarm boats coming at the ship. They were controlled from the beach. We had mannequins on board. When we fired on them and attempted to get to mission kill, we assessed whether we hit the engine, hit the control consul or hit the human being,” Anderson added.

The medium-range missile used on the LCS is a Hellfire Longbow weapon, a 100-pound guided missile also fired from helicopters.  At the same time, Navy program managers are currently exploring the prospect of adding a longer-range over-the-horizon missile to the LCS arsenal as well.

Tactics were also a key factor in destroying the small boat swarms. Anderson added that the 40-knot speed of the LCS gives it a mobility advantage when it comes to thwarting attacks from small boat swarms.

“The beautiful thing about LCS is that it is fast enough, so when swarms are coming in you can almost out-pace the small boats. You can get them in a position where you have the longer range weapon,” he said.

The 15-foot wake of ocean that trails behind a fast-moving LCS is often itself large enough to swamp small boats before they can ever reach the ship, Anderson added.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist Keith DeVinney

Nevertheless, small boat swarms could be a particular threat in shallow, smaller waterways such as straights, water near the shoreline or areas of the ocean described as heavily trafficked “choke points.”

“It is predominately a littoral threat in areas where there are choke points. Swarms of small boats could be used as one of the tactics instead of having a large surface combatant come out to threaten a ship. They can be lower cost and are very disruptive,” Anderson explained.

A large destroyer, by contrast, may be equipped to address a small boat threat but cannot operate in shallower waters and lacks the speed and maneuverability ideally suited to counter small, fast-moving boats, Anderson described.

Potential LCS Modifications

The Navy is exploring the prospect of making some modifications to the structure of the LCS in order to accommodate a longer-range missile. Service ship developers are also looking at adding more armor protection onto some of the weapons systems, sensors and magazines.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
The USS Coronado arrives in San Francisco Oct. 7, 2015 for Fleet Week. Photo: flickr/rulenumberone2

Improving the electronic warfare capacity of the ship is also a key consideration, along with “hardening” the combat systems such that they are better able to withstand attacks and remain functional if the ship is hit by enemy fire. This could involve making adjustment to the power and cooling systems aboard the ship, Anderson explained.

Overall, the Navy plans to acquire as many as 32 LCS ships broken down into two variants; an Independence variant with a trimaran hull and a Freedom variant with a flat-bottomed mono-hull. The service plans to have 24 LCS ships delivered by 2019.

The Independence variants are also armed with a ship-defense interceptor missile called SeaRAM, a weapon designed to destroy approaching drones, aircraft, cruise missiles and anti-ship missiles. The defensive weapon is already installed on the Independence variant of the LCS and will be integrated onto the Freedom variant from ship number 17 and forward, Anderson explained.

The LCS ship is engineered in what Navy engineers call a “modular” fashion, meaning it is designed to more readily and quickly swap out technologies and system and more efficiently integrate new technologies as they emerge, Anderson said.

The ships are configured with so-called “mission packages” for anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare and countermine operations. The idea is to have swappable groups of integrated technologies able to move on and off the ships as dictated by mission requirements.

“The ship can be built at the right pace of construction and the weapons can be developed base on the threat in the real world,” Anderson added.

For the swarm boat test, the USS Coronado was configured with the “surface warfare” package – a group of weapons and technologies which includes an MH-60 helicopter, 30mm gun and 11-meter Rigid Inflatable Boats, or RIBs.

In 2016, the USS Coronado is slated to deploy to Singapore.

Also at ScoutWarrior.com:

Wireless Technology Brings Crosshair From Thermal Sights to Night Vision Goggle Display

A UH-60L Black Hawk Helo Crashed Monday at Fort Hood, Killing 4 Soldiers

NFL-Army Collaborative Research on Concussions Yields Initial Results

A Turkish Fighter Jet Fired an Air-to-Air Missile at a Russian Plane Near the Turkish-Syrian Border

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Infantry Marines are now getting lighter, more streamlined body armor

The Marine Corps has started fielding a new plate carrier vest that features a more streamlined cut and offers a 25% weight savings over the vests Marines currently wear.

The new Plate Carrier Generation III will go first to infantry and other combat-arms Marines and then to supporting units in a push to reach full operational capability by fiscal 2023, according to a recent Marine Corps Systems Command announcement.


The Corps selected Vertical Protective Apparel LLC in September 2018 to manufacture up to 225,886 of the lighter and better-fitting Plate Carrier Generation III in an effort to increase the performance of Marines on the battlefield.

“When you lighten the load, Marines can get to their destinations faster, and they’re going to have more endurance, which increases their lethality,” Lt. Col. Andrew Konicki, the program manager for Infantry Combat Equipment at Marine Corps Systems Command, said in a statement. “The PC Gen. III is important because it is nearly 25-percent lighter than the legacy technology.”

Military.com reached out to Systems Command for the average weight of the PC Gen. III compared to the current plate carrier but did not receive an immediate response.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey

The Marine Corps conducted a study in 2016 using the prototype of the new plate carrier, which involved Marines wearing it while running through obstacle courses and taking a 15-kilometer hike, according to the release. The study results showed that Marines completed the courses faster and appeared better conditioned when wearing the newer plate carrier design, it states.

Program officials worked with industry to remove excess bulk from the legacy plate carrier to reduce weight and give Marines more freedom of movement for handling weapons.

The material of the PC Gen. III reduces water absorption, and designers shaved bulk from the vest by cutting out excess fabric from around the shoulders.

“The PC Gen. III improves the Marines’ ability to shoot and move by eliminating excess bulk from the design, and cutting out the shoulders for a better rifle stock weld,” Lt. Col. Bryan Leahy, who leads the Individual Armor Team at PM ICE, said in the release.

The PC Gen. III is better-fitting than the current vest. It fits closer to the body, increasing protection and decreasing the risk of injury because of improper fit, according to the release.

The Marine Corps also added more sizes, so nearly 15,000 more male and female Marines will be able to get a proper fit when wearing the system, it adds.

“I think there’s a misconception that all females are small, and that’s not always true,” said Konicki. “We conducted a study that found the smallest Marine is actually male.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

This crazy-looking scooter can actually blow up a tank

In the 1950s France, in the midst of dealing with insurgencies in its colonies in Algeria and Indochina, recognized a military need for easily transportable artillery that could quickly be deployed to the front lines. It happened upon one very novel solution: a militarized Vespa scooter with a built-in armor-piercing gun.


The Vespa 150 TAP, built by French Vespa licensee ACMA, was designed expressly to be used with the French airborne special forces, the Troupes Aéro Portées (TAP).

The Vespa TAP was designed to be airdropped into a military theater fully assembled and ready for immediate action. This high level of mobility made the TAP the perfect anti-guerilla weapon, since enemy irregulars could appear at a moment’s notice even in remote locations.

Outfitted with an M20 recoilless rifle, the TAP proved more than capable of destroying makeshift fortifications used by guerrillas in Algeria and Indochina. The M20 was designed as an anti-tank recoilless rifle that was outfitted with a high-explosive anti-tank warhead. Under ideal circumstances, the rifle could penetrate 100mm of armor from 7,000 yards away.

The M20 outfitted on the Vespa was never actually meant to be fired while the vehicle was in motion. Instead, the Vespa frame functioned as a way of transporting the artillery to the front line. Once there, the rifle would be removed from the Vespa and placed on a tripod for accurate firing.

This is the ‘greatest rifle ever made’ according to R. Lee Ermey
Photo: Youtube.com

Remarkably, aside for a slight overhaul of the engine, plus the inclusion of the rifle and ammunition mounts, the standard Vespa and the TAP were designed almost identically. The TAP had a strengthened frame and lower gearing, but besides that it drives just as any Vespa would.

About 500 total TAPs were produced throughout the 1950s.

However ingenious the TAP was, the vehicle was never used outside of the French military during engagements in Algeria and French Indochina.

Here’s a video of a TAP being driven.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07GXqdsdE6M

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This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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