This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is an iconic plane of World War II. The famous Memphis Belle, recently placed on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, was one of 12,677 B-17s built — but did you know the B-17 was close to never taking to the skies as a war plane?

During its second evaluation flight, the Model 299 (the prototype of the B-17) crashed. As a result, the Douglas B-18 Bolo was instead selected by the U.S. Armed Forces.


The B-18 was a variant of the successful DC-2 airliner. As a bomber, it wasn’t bad, either: It could haul 4,400 pounds of bombs and had a maximum range of 1,200 miles. The plane had a six-man crew, a top speed of 223 miles per hour, and was equipped with three .30-caliber machine guns for defense.

The problem was that everyone knew that the B-18, which Douglas originally called the DB-1, won by default. The B-17 prototype had clearly out-performed the B-18 in the trials before the fateful crash — and the service test versions, called Y1B-17s, were even better than the crashed prototype. They could haul 8,000 pounds of bombs up to 3,320 miles at a top speed of 256 miles per hour. Despite the crash, it was emerging as the preferred choice.

The B-18 was indeed cheaper and the technology within was proven and safe. As a result, the Army Air Corps bought 217 B-18s. Some of these planes were sent to the Philippines and Hawaii to hold the line — until the B-17 was ready.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

Three B-18s fly in formation near Hawaii prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. On December 7, 1941, most were destroyed on the ground.

(Photo by Harold Wahlberg)

Despite winning the developmental competition, most officials didn’t believe in these planes by 1940. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, the majority of America’s B-18s were destroyed on the ground. The surviving airframes were then relegated to secondary roles. Over 120 B-18s were later modified to become maritime patrol planes — they defeated two German U-boats.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

The B-18 did see most of its action in secondary roles.

(USAF)

The B-18s made its most significant contributions as a test platform. Some were modified to try a 75mm howitzer as an aircraft armament. Although the B-18 wasn’t a suitable platform for the huge gun, the data collected helped make the weapon practical for the B-25G and B-25H, improved versions of the bomber that would later carry out the Doolittle Raid.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

The United States Air Force has a B-18 at its national museum.

(USAF)

All in all, the B-18 had a much less storied career than the B-17, but it still had an honorable service career during World War II.

To see the plane that once beat the B-17 in action, watch the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tl2cqAP0TQ

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force is in dire need of more fighter pilots

Air Force officials have been warning about the force’s dire pilot shortage, and a recent Government Accountability Office report illustrates just how bad the shortfall has gotten.

The report assesses the gaps between the actual number of fighter pilots that the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy have and the number of positions they are authorized to have.


Each service branch reported fighter-pilot shortages that have grown worse in recent years. “Service officials attributed these gaps to aircraft readiness challenges, reduced training opportunities, and increased attrition of fighter pilots due to career dissatisfaction,” the report says.

The Air Force had at least 92% of its fighter-pilot positions filled between 2006 and 2010, an 8% gap, and 104% of what it needed in 2011, a 4% surplus. But the gap has grown since 2012 and is currently the biggest of the three military branches, at 27%.

The Air Force, which has undertaken a number of training and retention initiatives, projected its shortfall to last through fiscal year 2023.

Growing shortfalls and falling retention

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander, walks out to an F-35A Lightning II with Lt. Col. Matt Renbarger, 58th Fighter Squadron commander, before his final qualification flight Sept. 26, 2014, at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Each branch has different levels at which the difference between authorized positions and actual staff levels becomes a shortage. Air Force officials told the GAO that “their established practice is that pilot communities with less than 100 percent of authorizations are considered to be insufficiently staffed.”

Changing authorization levels led to an excess in some Air Force career fields in 2011, but an increase in authorized positions in the past few years has led to a growing shortfall among fighter pilots — from 192, or 5% of authorized positions, that year to 1,005, or 27% of authorized positions, in 2017. (The Air Force said at the end of 2017 that its total shortage was “around 2,000” pilots.)

“According to briefing documents prepared by the Air Force, this gap is concentrated among fighter pilots with fewer than 8 years of experience,” the report notes.

Air Force officials told the GAO that between 2006 and 2017, “fighter pilot gaps were generally limited to non-operational positions, such as staff assignments at Air Force headquarters or combatant commands.”

But the GAO also found that the Air Force had been unable to fill all its operational positions since fiscal year 2014, with the gap between the operational positions it needed to fill and the actual staffing levels it had growing from 39 pilots, or 1% of authorizations, in 2014 to 399 pilots, or 13%, in 2017.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
The Air Force’s fighter-pilot shortfall has grown significantly over the past several years.

Several factors have contributed to these shortfalls, in particular reductions to overall active-duty military end strength.

Service officials said that personnel reductions after the 2008 drawdown in Iraq and cuts to funding stemming from the 2011 Budget Control Act both helped reduce the number of fighter pilots in the military.

The Air Force shed 206 fighter pilots in order to meet initial demand for pilots of unmanned aerial systems in 2011 and 2012 and then lost 54 more to early-retirement incentives in 2014 and 2015. That was compounded by changes to force structure — the decline in active and reserve Air Force fighter squadrons from 134 in 1989 to 55 in 2017 has reduced the opportunities newly trained pilots have to gain flying experience.

These factors have helped create a bottleneck in the Air Force’s training pipeline. The service has more pilots entering than it has resources to train. According to the GAO report, between 2006 and 2017 the Air Force trained 12% fewer new fighter pilots than its target amount.

“Fighter pilots told us that the need to prioritize the staffing of experienced pilots to deploying squadrons has limited the number of experienced personnel available to train newer pilots at home stations,” the report says.

A fighter pilot needs about five years of training to be qualified to lead flights, which costs between about $3 million to $11 million depending on the type of aircraft they’re being trained to fly, according to Air Force officials.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

Those training issues are exacerbated by the reduction in aircraft, as longer maintenance times for legacy aircraft, like the F-16 or F-15, leave fewer aircraft available for training. (A shortage of maintainer crew members has also hamstrung the Air Force, though it has made progress adding more of those personnel.)

The services have also struggled to retain pilots.

The GAO found that the number of Air Force pilots signing retention contracts fell from 63% in 2013 to 35% in 2017 — despite the service increasing its maximum aviation bonus contract to $225,000 at the start of 2013, which was the highest amount offered by any of the military service branches.

Stop-gap measures

Officials from the service branches told the GAO they had used various tactics to address their pilot shortfalls, including longer and more frequent deployments, putting senior pilots in junior positions, and “prioritizing staffing fighter pilots to flying positions that require fighter pilot-specific technical skills.”

The service branches has also tried to compensate for fighter-pilot shortages by drawing on pilots from other career fields.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing fly an air-to-air training mission against student pilots April 8, 2015.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

The Air Force, for example, has drawn on mobility pilots — those that fly cargo and refueling aircraft — to fill instructor roles for basic training to free up fighter pilots for duties elsewhere.

But fliers and squadron leaders told the GAO that these measures have had deleterious effects. Pilots and squadron leaders also said that some of these efforts to mitigate pilot shortages had helped drive down retention

A high operational tempo has limited the opportunities senior pilots have to train with junior pilots, which in turn limits the opportunities the service branches have to grow the number of pilots with specific qualifications. This also cuts into the services’ ability to rebuild readiness. Air Force officials said “high deployment rates … have resulted in less time for squadrons to complete their full training requirements because high deployment rates mean that there are fewer aircraft available for training at home stations.”

Moreover, increasing individual deployments undercut family stability, pilots said, affecting satisfaction with their careers.

The Air Force has taken steps to mitigate the effects the pilot shortage has had on pilots’ quality of life.

It has stood up teams dedicated to finding and implementing dozens of initiatives to reduce the fighter-pilot shortage.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
Maj. Tyler Ellison, a Thunderbirds pilot, administers the oath of enlistment to enlist Florida’s newest airmen during the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-in and Expo Air Show at Lakeland, Florida, April, 25, 2015.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez)

“For example, as the result of one initiative, 126 contractors have been placed in fighter squadrons to assist with administrative tasks and reduce workload for fighter pilots,” the GAO notes.

Air Force training squadrons have also taken steps to better apportion resources, including consolidating instructors among training units and altering the training process and syllabus, according to a February 2018 report by Aviation Week, but those shifts still put a strain on pilots and aircraft and represented “a leap into the unknown” for the units.

The GAO report also noted that the service branches had not reevaluated fighter-squadron requirements to reflect change conditions, the increased workload, and the effects of the increasing use of unmanned aircraft.

“Air Force officials told us that metrics that inform squadron requirements … have not been increased because the Air Force is instead prioritizing the effort to recapitalize its fleet of fighter aircraft,” the report said, adding that officials said they were also reassessing fighter-pilots’ nonoperational requirements, focusing on finding which ones could be reassigned to other pilots.

The report made recommendations for each branch, advising the Air Force to reevaluate those squadron requirements, “to include updating current assumptions of fighter pilot workload, and assessing the impact of future incorporation of [unmanned aerial systems] platforms into combat aviation.”

Intel

Why the USGS says it’s stupid to roast marshmallows over a volcano

There’s nothing better to do while you’re out camping with the people you tolerate love than to crack open a beer and roast some marshmallows over a nice fire. I mean, who doesn’t love a little puffed sugar that’s slightly caramelized?

As everyone knows, the entire state of Hawaii has collectively forgotten the last time they gave a f*ck. Many people are taking the recent volcanic eruption with far less seriousness than natural disasters deserve — unlike here in Los Angeles, where a light drizzle brings the entire city to a terrified stand-still.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
Still not as terrifying as reenlisting.

Many Hawaiians have reacted to the flow of lava by taking photos of the incoming molten rock and, generally, taking the whole thing in stride. Twitter user @JayFurr was trolling the official United States Geological Survey — Volcanoes twitter account and asked if it was okay to roast marshmallows in the heat given off by the lava.

@USGSVolcanoes responded with their own half-trolling response.


Which is all legitimate advice. Sulfur dioxide is, essentially, air pollution and hydrogen sulfide is what gives volcanoes that farty smell (hence the joke in Shrek). The sulfuric acid within the vog (or volcanic fog) actually has a really kick-ass reaction when met with sugar. Check the video below for example.

The USGS took the trolling in stride, even if nearly every news outlet insists they took it seriously. For obvious reasons, getting close to lava is a dumb idea and, from the get-go, it was obvious this Twitter user was kidding — Jay Furr’s account even says he’s from Vermont.

But this wasn’t the only time the idea of cooking marshmallows over a pool of magma has come up. Storytrender on YouTube did it a while back in New Zealand. There’s no audio, but you can kind-of see the guy wince while he eats the roasted marshmallow.

It’s safe to assume it tasted like farts.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Russian spy unit that keeps getting caught in the act

Most of us think of highly-trained spies and espionage units as the best of the best, Cold War ninjas who would never dream of getting caught lest they be disavowed by Washington, Moscow, London or wherever they come from.

If 1980s-era film and television has taught us anything, it’s that the Russian spy agencies are among the best of the best. If that was true, something is severely lacking lately, because one of their spy units keeps getting caught doing some high-profile greasy stuff.


Russia’s GRU unit 29155 was recently outed as the unit behind the alleged payment of bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But that’s not the only high-visibility mission that was uncovered in recent days. 29155 was also allegedly behind the effort to hack Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the assassination of former KGB spy Sergei Skripal in England, and an attempted coup in Montenegro.

The unit is part of the Russian military intelligence apparatus, responsible for intelligence gathering and operations outside of the Russian Federation. The GRU (as it’s known outside of Russia and the former Soviet Union) was not as widely known or regarded as the Soviet KGB or the KGB’s antecedents, the Russian SVR and FSB, but today it is the go-to agency for military-related operations.

Why? Because it deploys six times as many foriegn operatives as the FSB or SVR. The GRU is Russia’s largest foreign security service. But unlike the KGB, the GRU has been largely unchanged since its Soviet heyday.

The GRU is the unit that takes on the most important military operations, like say, partnering with the Taliban or killing off former Soviet spies. But Foreign Policy says their work has been pretty sloppy in the past few years.

In the case of bounties on American troops in Afghanistan, U.S. intelligence services were actually able to track bank transfers between the Taliban and GRU accounts overseas. As for the other plots, it didn’t even require intelligence services. Media outlets inside and outside of Russia have been able to track members of 29155 because they kept reusing aliases with questionable cover stories to travel throughout the world.

Using these bits of information, the movement of GRU assets was relatively easy to track for the media, who published their findings. It was so easy, the information was confirmed by multiple countries’ intelligence agencies. The members of 29155 were mapped and tracked all over Europe.

Two of the 29155’s agents, Alexander Petrov (really Alexander Mishkin) and Ruslan Boshirov (real name Anatoliy Chepiga), were caught red-handed by Scotland Yard on closed-circuit tv cameras in the 2018 assassination plot of Sergei Skripal.

In that plot, the use of a Soviet nerve agent, along with the GRU operatives, led investigators not only to 29155, but to Chepiga entire graduating class of the GRU academy. From there, they uncovered plots to poison an arms dealer, interfering in elections in Spain, and even a coup in NATO member Montenegro.

Western intelligence saw the effort as a “Rosettta Stone” in reading Russian intelligence movements abroad.

Whoops.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 iconic Pearl Harbor photos and the remarkable stories behind them

The attack on Pearl Harbor happened 77 years ago on Dec. 7, 2018.

The Japanese attack on the US naval base in Hawaii killed more than 2,400 American sailors and civilians and wounded 1,000 more.

Japanese fighter planes also destroyed or damaged almost 20 naval ships and more than 300 planes during the attack.

Several photos were captured during the attack, some of which have become iconic of that infamous day.

Here are the stories behind five of those unforgettable images.


This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

A Japanese fighter plane drops what’s believed to be the first bomb on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

1. The first bomb likely dropped.

The above photo, which was taken by a Japanese photographer, was found by US Navy photographer Martin J. Shemanski at Yokusuka Base near Tokyo Bay shortly after the Japanese surrendered.

The photo shows the Japanese fighter plane (the small black speck that almost looks like a bird) appearing to pull out of a dive after dropping the bomb on Battleship Row. Another Japanese fighter plane can be seen in the upper right corner.

Shemanski and four other US military photographers were ordered to go through Japanese photo processing labs after the surrender, and he found it torn up in a trash can.

“It had a torn photo in it,” Shemanski told the Press-Enterprise in 2015.

“I picked up a couple pieces and I got a shot of a torpedo hitting the Oklahoma. I thought, ‘This is Navy intelligence,'” he added.

The USS Oklahoma was a Nevada-class battleship that was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Shemanski told the Press-Enterprise that the picture was torn up in about 20 pieces.

Shemanski reassembled the photo and turned it over to US naval intelligence on the USS Shangri-La aircraft carrier.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

The USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

(US Navy photo)

2. The USS Shaw explodes.

This photo shows the USS Shaw destroyer exploding while in floating dry dock.

Between 7:55 a.m. and 9:15 a.m., the Shaw was hit by three bombs released by Japanese fighters in steep dives from approximately 1,000 feet, according to the US Navy action report.

The Shaw immediately caught fire, and the ship was abandoned. About 20 minutes later, as sailors were trying to flood the dry dock to save the ship, the forward magazines blew up, which is pictured above.

The blast destroyed the bow and damaged the dry dock and a nearby tugboat.

Initially thought to be a loss, the Shaw was eventually repaired and later took part in several engagements in the Pacific, including the biggest naval battle of all-time, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

The USS West Virginia (left) next to the USS Tennessee during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

(US Navy photo)

3. Battleship Row on fire.

The picture above shows the USS West Virginia and USS Tennessee battleships on fire in Battleship Row.

Battleship Row was where seven US Navy battleships were moored on the eastern side of Ford Island (shown in the first picture), which rests in the middle of Pearl Harbor.

These seven battleships alone (the USS Arizona, USS West Virginia, USS Oklahoma, USS Tennessee, USS Maryland, USS California, and USS Nevada) were equal to about 70% of Japan’s active battleship fleet.

As such, these ships were the main target for the Japanese fighter planes, with 29 of Japan’s 40 torpedo planes ordered to attack it.

Each Japanese torpedo plane carried one Type 91 aerial torpedo with a warhead of 992 pounds, and 21 of them hit their targets. Japanese bombers then flew in after the torpedo plane attacks and caused further damage.

In total, the Japanese sunk the Oklahoma and Arizona, and damaged the other five ships.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

A small boat rescues a crew member from the water after the Pearl Harbor attack.

4. Rescuing sailors from the USS West Virginia.

This photo shows a boat rescuing a crew member from the water as two other sailors are in the upper center of the burning USS West Virginia’s superstructure.

The USS West Virginia was a Colorado-class battleship that was hit by at least seven torpedoes and two bombs during the attack.

When the West Virginia was raised from the water for repairs six months after the attack, they found the bodies of three US Navy sailors who had been trapped in a compartment for 16 days, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.

US Marines standing guard had heard the sailors banging for help, but they couldn’t do anything. No one on guard wanted to go near the ship and hear the sounds.

When the sailors bodies were finally recovered, rescuers found a calendar on which the sailors had marked their last days.

The West Virginia was later reconstructed and put back into the war in 1944, supporting operations in the Philippines and Okinawa.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

Smoke rises from the USS Arizona battleship as it sinks after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

(NPS Photo)

5. The sinking USS Arizona.

This photo shows the USS Arizona battleship sinking in Battleship Row after it was hit by eight Japanese bombs and one torpedo.

One of the bombs went through a magazine and ignited cordite, which caused an expansion of gases and then a huge explosion.

The Arizona quickly sunk with 1,177 of the 1,512 personnel on board, which was about half the number of people killed in the entire attack.

The battleship burned for more than two days.

This is perhaps the most iconic taken during the Pearl Harbor attack. The Arizona still lies in the harbor as a national memorial.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This mathematician was the ‘Rick Sanchez’ of the Cold War

Born in 1903, John Neumann was a true prodigy. He specialized in mathematics, even in school, but he also gobbled up languages, science, and every other subject. He lived through World War I as a teen, and spent the inter-war years, World War II, and the Cold War changing science and technology in fields as far apart as computing, economics, nuclear physics, and quantum theory.


And he did so even while he built a reputation for drinking, partying, and eccentricity, sort of like a certain scientist from pop culture: Rick Sanchez of Rick and Morty fame.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

First, though, we should point out some key ways von Neumann (his family received the honorific “von” in 1913) was different from Sanchez out of respect for the dead.

There’s no evidence von Neumann was nearly as troubled as Sanchez. He had a dark view of humanity, thinking nuclear war was inevitable and would likely result in near extinction, but he also loved his family and worked hard to make sure America would come out on top in a war. And he was impeccably dressed, usually rocking a three-piece suit, something Rick Sanchez did not do.

But he was a drinker, if not on the same dysfunctional scale as Rick, and he was a party-goer, even if he never had an orgy with an entire planet like Sanchez. Most importantly, he was easily as brilliant as Sanchez.

And when we say he was brilliant like Sanchez, we mean it. He could reportedly memorize dozens or hundreds of pages of text in a single read through, even mentally holding onto long numbers that went deep past the decimal. And he invented stuff or predicted inventions with offhand comments. He once “blue-skyed” to an Army officer about a machine that would quickly compute artillery tables for more accurate fire.

The officer he was speaking to was on the ENIAC project, a machine in development that did exactly that. The officer got von Neumann permission to see the machine, and Neumann was able to improve it almost immediately. He also began developing his own, smaller, less complicated, and more nimble machine. The Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer, or EDVAC, which would have been the first programmable computer ever invented.

The war ended, and EDVAC was abandoned, so von Neumann pushed for a second computer design, the Mathematical and Numerical Integrator and Computer, the MANIAC, arguably the first modern computer. Programs were stored inside of it, it was a fraction of the size of all other computers at the time, and it was much more powerful than other machines.

It was used to do much of the calculations for the first hydrogen bombs. In fact, it was so powerful and accurate that someone asked if von Neumann had created a machine so powerful even he couldn’t out calculate it.

So a contest was held between von Neumann and the MANIAC. At lower levels of complexity, von Neumann was faster than MANIAC and perfectly accurate. But as the Princeton researchers running the test upped the mathematical complexity, the time difference between machine and man narrowed and, eventually, von Neumann made a mistake.

So, yes, von Neumann had made a machine so powerful that even he couldn’t out compute it.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

(YouTube/Helidon)

And the MANIAC’s aid to thermonuclear development created a new problem for von Neumann to work on. He had done the calculations to decide what cities to drop the atom bombs on to end World War II and what altitude they should go off at (Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 1,800 ft., if anyone was curious). But hydrogen bombs quickly became thousands of times more powerful than the atom bombs. Von Neumann had to figure out how they would be used.

This involved not just figuring out what weapons would be employed where, but how likely the Soviets were to use their atomic bombs and, later, hydrogen bombs. To figure this out, he went back to a theory he had developed in the 1920s: minimax, the idea that a person works to minimize their losses and maximize their gains in zero-sum events when competing against a single opponent.

You know, events like war. Von Neumann used this theory to help inform American leaders on how likely the Soviet leaders were to use their weapons.

Not that minimax was perfect for nuclear standoffs. It led von Neumann to believe that a nuclear exchange was inevitable and America should launch a first strike to destroy the Soviet facilities while it was still small. History would prove this aggression unnecessary.

Sort of like how history would prove Rick Sanchez’s proposal to destroy the earth with a nuclear bomb in the Rick and Morty pilot episode proved unnecessary.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Coast Guard wants your help remembering World War I dead

Nov. 11, 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of the end of hostilities during World War I. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of November 1918, the guns that caused such destruction fell silent, ending what to that time was the most bloody conflict humanity had ever fought.

To mark this solemn occasion, the United States WWI Centennial Commission is calling on Americans across the nation to toll bells at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 2018, in remembrance of those who served during that conflict.


The tolling of bells is a traditional expression of honor and remembrance. WWICC’s “Bells of Peace” initiative is a national event to honor the 4.5 million Americans who served in uniform, the 116,516 Americans who died and more than 200,000 who were wounded in what was referred to as the Great War.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

USS Tampa, prior to the First World War.

(US Navy photo)

During the “war to end all wars,” the Coast Guard served as part of the Navy, with many cutters taking part in combat with the nation’s enemies. The Coast Guard, too, paid dearly. The USS Tampa sunk after being attacked by a German U-Boat, with all 130 souls aboard, including 111 Coast Guardsmen, 4 Navy members and 15 British passengers. 11 Coast Guardsmen from the USS Seneca also perished during a rescue attempt off the coast of France while 70 others were lost to drowning, disease and collisions, among other causes.

To honor those whom we lost, the Coast Guard, in concert with our Navy shipmates, ask commands and members to toll their bells 21 times — the highest honor afforded by U.S. naval tradition. Please honor and remember those that have gone before us, especially those who gave their lives to preserve the freedoms we have, by ringing a bell 21 times.

You may find more information about the event here.

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.

Articles

Here is what a war with Iran might look like

With tensions high in numerous hot spots around the world America is looking at the possibility of war with a number of rogue states. One of those states is Iran.


So just what would a war with Iran look like?

War with Iran would look vastly different than war with a state such as North Korea.

Related video:

Without an immediately adjacent staging area from which to launch an invasion American and its allies will have to build up forces in the region once a fight comes. This means that for the first time since World War II, American troops will have to invade a country from over the horizon.

The Fifth Fleet, based at NSA Bahrain, would have the initial task of fighting off Iranian naval forces. With Tehran’s limited power projection this would be the largest impediment to building up forces near Iran.

With the natural bottleneck at the Strait of Hormuz, this is likely where the Iranian’s would make their stand. Iran’s conventional navy has little means of dealing with the powerful American fleet. Bested by America before, they would likely suffer a second ignominious defeat.

The real naval threat comes from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Navy. The IRGC has procured numerous agile speedboats armed with ship-killing missiles. Manned by fanatical defenders of the Islamic Republic of Iran their mission is to swarm a hostile force, unleashing a barrage of missiles, and hoping to score a victory with sheer numbers.

While the U.S. Navy will not emerge unscathed, their force of destroyers and patrol ships will utterly destroy the threat. Phalanx Close-In Weapon Systems will deal with many of the missiles, though there is likely to be extensive damage to some ships. Navy and Marine Corps aircraft will blow the boats not caught in the hellfire out of the water.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

Those aircraft will also be actively engaging the Iranian Air Force as the battle for air superiority begins. Heavily outnumbered the planes will also have to rely on the anti-aircraft capabilities of the Navy ships below.

The Air Force will divert planes already operating in the area while other squadrons proceed to friendly bases within range of the fight. The Air Force’s B-52 and B-2 bomber forces will also begin flying strikes against critical Iranian infrastructure, particularly Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

While this fight rages over the Persian Gulf, ground forces will begin deploying to fight. The 82nd Airborne will have the Global Response Force wheels up in 18 hours though they will not immediately jump into action. The rest of the division will soon follow.

The Marines will look to I Marine Expeditionary Force to be the backbone of their fighting capability. Elements of the III Marine Expeditionary Force will bolster this force.

As the buildup of ground forces continues, and as the Navy eradicates Iranian naval resistance, Marine Raiders and Navy SEALs – supported by Marine infantry – will assault and reduce Iranian naval forces on several islands in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. This will clear the way for the invasion fleet to strike.

Launching from bases in Kuwait and Bahrain the invasion fleet will then steam towards the port of Shahid Rejeai, adjacent to the city of Bandar Abbas. Striking here will allow for the capture of a large port facility while simultaneously conducting a decapitation strike against the Iranian Navy headquartered at Bandar Abbas.

Prior to the landings at the port itself, Army Rangers supported by a brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division will conduct a parachute assault on Bandar Abbas International Airport in order to establish an airhead.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

The remaining two brigades of the 82nd will secure the flanks of the invasion against counterattack by conducting parachute assaults onto critical road junctions and bridges.

At dawn, the Marines will spearhead the assault. The Marines’ armor will be critical in supporting the light infantry forces as they storm ashore to capture facilities for follow-on armor. Staged on numerous ships offshore Navy and Marine helicopters will carry troops in air assaults against positions while others land ashore in landing craft and AAVs.

By evening, armored units aboard roll-on/roll-off ships will be unloading in the ports while Marine units will have driven forward to link up with the paratroopers. Light infantry and Stryker forces will be airlanding at the recently secured airport.

With the beachhead established the invasion force will launch a massive sustained drive on Tehran. While an armored thrust storms up highway 71, the 101st Airborne, held in reserve until now, will conduct an air assault from NSA Bahrain onto Bushehr airport to open the way toward Shiraz, an important military city.

The Iranian military, long-suffering from embargoes and sanctions lacks the technology and wherewithal to put up serious resistance. Iranian armor will lay smoldering in the wake of American firepower.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
The largest threat will come from the irregular forces of the IRGC and the Islamic militias, or Basij, which are prepared to defend Iran to the death. However, after years of counterinsurgency operations American forces will be ready to defend against such threats.

Light infantry and Special Forces will capture Shiraz eliminating a serious threat and providing a logistical support base for continued operations. Other special operations forces will be operating throughout Iran to bolster friendly forces.

The long supply line from Bandar Abbas to the front lines will mean the 82nd Airborne will be busy capturing more air bases to bring in more troops and sustain the prolonged ground assault.

Eventually, all necessary forces will be positioned around Tehran for a final push to destroy the Ayatollah’s regime. Thunder runs and air assaults will criss-cross the city as American and allied forces seek to drive out the last remnants of resistance.

With the Ayatollah deposed and victory declared American forces will settle in for a nation-building campaign while a new government gains its strength.

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This Crow GI became the last Indian War Chief during World War II

Few American veterans will ever officially earn both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the title of Crow War Chief. Joe Medicine Crow might be the only one. His other awards include the Bronze Star and the French Légion d’Honneur. How he earned the title of War Chief of the Crow tribe is a feat unheard of for decades before World War II started.

But for all his feats, he was still a Private in the U.S. Army.


This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
Screenshot via Whitehouse.gov

“Promote ahead of peers.”

There are four criteria to become a Crow War Chief, all of which Joe Medicine Crow accomplished during two years of service with the U.S. Army in Europe:

  • Touching an Enemy Without Killing Him
  • Taking an Enemy’s Weapon
  • Leading a Successful War Party
  • Stealing an Enemy’s Horse

The Crow did not likely think this would be so difficult in the age of machine guns and tanks, but as Joe Medicine Crow showed, it was clearly not impossible.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
Joe Medicine Crow in full feathered headdress plays a drum for U.S. President Barack Obama. (Wikimedia Commons)

Also, that’s Dr. Joe Medicine Crow. Just sayin.

The Native American GI was working in a shipyard in Washington state for the first part of World War II. In 1943, he decided to join the U.S. Army. He came from an incredible nomadic warrior tradition. He was the last person to hear a first-hand account of the Battle of Little Bighorn and his grandfather served as a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer before the general’s last stand. Joe Medicine Crow would carry this tradition forward, as well as many others.

Before he left for the war, a medicine man provided him with a painted eagle feather he would wear under his uniform before fighting. He would also paint traditional war paint under his uniform, placing two red stripes on his arms. And then, he became a War Chief, the last Crow War Chief.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
Screenshot via Whitehouse.gov

Crow lived to the ripe old age of 102.

While fighting at the Siegfried Line, the border fortification that would take the U.S. Army into Germany, the warrior was ordered to take a team – a war party, if you will – and cross a field under a hail of bullets to retrieve some dynamite from a previously destroyed American position. Joe Medicine Crow and seven fellow GIs crossed a field of devastating fire that probably should have killed all of them, grabbed the explosives and blew a huge hole in Hitler’s vaunted line. No one was killed. One down.

After penetrating the line, Joe Medicine Crow and the 103d Infantry advanced on a nearby town that turned out to be heavily defended. As a scout, Joe was ahead of most of his unit. After they were ordered to flank some German defenders, Joe was separated and decided to take a shortcut. That’s when he ran right into a Nazi defender while running at full sprint.

For anyone else, this might have been embarrassing at the least and deadly at the most, but this is Joe Medicine Crow. He sent the Nazi flying and the Nazi’s rifle across the lawn. The American was still standing as he bent over and grabbed his enemy’s weapon. Two down.

Instead of killing the German, Joe decided to drop the weapon and let his warrior skills take over. The two men fought hand-to-hand for what seemed like hours. When Joe finally got the upper hand and started to kill the Nazi soldier with his hands at the man’s throat. But the German began to whimper, and Joe let him go. Three down.

Then, there’s the task of stealing a horse.

Joe Medicine Crow was scouting a farmhouse behind enemy lines one night when he realized it was full of high-ranking SS officers. They all rode there on horses, which were corralled under guard near the house. Joe Medicine Crow snuck through the guards with only his M1911 to protect him. Having grown up learning to ride horses bareback, mounting one of them in Europe was no problem. He let out a Crow war cry and sang a song as he herded all the horses out of the corral and into U.S. Army lore.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Green Beret spent his life fighting communists in three different armies

As the Red Army pressed into Finland, their progress was continuously slowed. Their soldiers were being harassed by Finnish infiltrators before they could reach the frontline. Even the Soviet commando teams dispatched to hunt the evasive Finns were being cut down. The havoc that these raiders created led the Soviets to place a bounty on the unit’s leader – 3,000,000 Finnish Marks for the head of Lauri Allan Törni.

Born in Finland on May 28, 1919, Törni started his career of service early, serving in the Civil Guard (a volunteer militia) as a teenager. In 1938, he entered military service and joined the 4th Independent Jäger Infantry Battalion, a unit that specialized in sabotage, guerilla warfare, and long-range reconnaissance. When the Soviet Union carried out a surprise attack on Finland the next year and started the Winter War, Törni’s battalion was quickly brought to the frontline.


This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

Törni after graduating cadet school in 1940 (Finnish public domain)

At Lake Lagoda, a body of water previously shared by Finland and the USSR, the Soviets attacked the Finns with superior numbers of infantry and armor. During their defense, the Finnish troops lost contact with their headquarters. Without hesitation or orders, Törni stealthily skied through the Soviet lines to re-establish communications. Upon his return to the Finnish lines, he took command of a Swedish-speaking unit of demoralized troops. Though he didn’t speak their language, Törni organized the troops with a series of gestures, shouts, and punches. For his bravery during this engagement, Törni was promoted to 2nd Lt. However, despite some Finnish victories and high Soviet casualties, the Winter War soon ended with a Soviet victory and Finland was forced to concede 11% of its territory.

In the months following the Winter War, Nazi Germany became a strong Finnish ally, and in June 1941, Törni went to Austria for seven weeks to train with the Waffen SS. During this training, Törni wore an SS uniform and swore an oath of loyalty to the Nazi party, both of which would haunt him for the rest of his life. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union with Operation Barbarossa, Finland made a push to retake the land they had lost to the Soviets in what became known as the Continuation War.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

Törni in an SS uniform (Finnish public domain)

At the onset of the Continuation War, Törni was given command of a Finnish armored unit, employing captured Soviet tanks and armored cars. On March 23, 1942, Törni was skiing behind enemy lines to capture Soviet prisoners when he skied over a friendly mine. He recovered from his injuries, immediately went AWOL from the hospital and returned to the front. Törni’s unit was tasked with hunting Soviet commandos that had infiltrated Finnish lines, and eventually infiltrated Soviet lines themselves to attack headquarters and communication sites. Impressed with his ruthlessness and efficiency on the battlefield, Törni’s commanders allowed him to create a hand-picked, deep-strike infantry unit that became known as Detachment Törni.

Törni and his raiders conducted sabotage and ambush missions deep behind Soviet lines. Operating separately from the rest of the Finnish Army, Detachment Törni equipped themselves with Soviet weapons which both confused their enemy and made ammunition plentiful for the raiders. Their engagements often led to close-range, hand-to-hand combat in which they brutalized Soviet troops. Their reputation on the battlefield spread and resulted in the Soviet bounty on Törni’s head. For his leadership and bravery, Törni was awarded the Mannerheim Cross, Finland’s highest military honor, on July 9, 1944.

Despite Törni’s efforts and other Finnish victories, the sheer size of the Red Army could not be matched and the Continuation War ended in a Soviet victory in September 1944. Finland was forced to concede more territory, pay reparations, and demobilize most of their military, including Detachment Törni. Unhappy with this result, Törni joined the Finnish Resistance and went to Germany for training in 1945.

Törni went to Germany with the intention to return to Finland, train resistance fighters and free Finland from the Soviet Union. In order to conceal his involvement with the Nazis, Törni assumed the alias Lauri Lane. During his training, the Red Army had taken over all of Germany’s eastern ports. With no way to return to Finland, Törni joined a German Army unit and was given command as a captain. Though he spoke poor German, Törni used the same ruthless tactics he employed against the Soviets in Finland and gained a reputation for bravery, quickly earning the respect and loyalty of his soldiers.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

Törni (center) as Finnish Army Lieutenant (Finnish public domain)

By March 1945, the German Army was all but defeated. To avoid capture or death at the hands of the Soviets, Törni and his men made their way to the Western Front where they surrendered to British troops. Imprisoned in a POW camp in Lübeck, Germany, Törni feared that the British would turn him over to the Soviets or discover his past connection to the SS and try him for war crimes. To avoid either fate, Törni escaped the camp and made his way back to Finland. While trying to locate his family, Törni was caught and imprisoned by the Finnish State Police. He escaped, but was imprisoned again in April 1946. Törni was tried for treason, having joined the German Army after Finland signed a peace treaty with the Soviet Union, and was sentenced to six years in prison.

During his time in prison, Törni made several escape attempts. Though all of them failed, he was released in December 1948 after Finnish President Juho Paasikivi granted him a pardon. Törni made his way to Sweden where he became engaged to a Swedish Finn named Marja Kops. Hoping to establish a career before settling down, Törni adopted a Swedish alias and sailed to Caracas, Venezuela as a crewman aboard a cargo ship. From Caracas, Törni joined the crew of a Swedish cargo ship bound for the United States in 1950.

While off the coast of Mobile, Alabama, Törni jumped overboard and swam to shore. He made his way up the east coast to New York City where he found work in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park “Finntown” as a carpenter and cleaner. In 1953, he was granted a residence permit and joined the U.S. Army in 1954 under the Lodge-Philbin Act which allowed the recruiting of foreign nationals into the armed forces.

Upon enlisting, Törni changed his name to Larry Thorne. He befriended a group of Finnish-American officers who, along with his impressive skill set and combat experience, helped him join the elite U.S. Army Special Forces. As a Green Beret, Thorne taught skiing, survival, mountaineering, and guerilla tactics. After attending OCS in 1957, he was commissioned as a 1st Lt. and was eventually promoted to Captain in 1960. In 1962, while assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group in West Germany, Thorne served as second-in-command of a high risk mission in the Iranian Zagros Mountains. The team searched for, located, and destroyed Top Secret material aboard a crashed U.S. plane. Thorne’s performance during the mission earned him a positive reputation in the Special Force community.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

Thorne’s official Army photo (U.S. Army photo)

In November 1963, Thorne deployed to Vietnam with Special Forces Detachment A-734 as an adviser to ARVN forces. During an attack on their camp at Tịnh Biên, Viet Cong forces managed to breach the outer perimeter and nearly overran the U.S. and South Vietnamese troops stationed there. All members of the Special Forces detachment were wounded during the attack, including Thorne who was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for valor. The character Captain Steve “Sven” Kornie in Robin Moore’s book, The Green Berets, is based on Thorne and his courageous actions at Tinh Biên.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II

A U.S. Army H-34 Choctaw similar to the one that carried Thorne on his final mission. (U.S. Army photo)

Thorne volunteered for a second tour in Vietnam and was put in command of a MACV-SOG unit. On October 18, 1965, Thorne led a clandestine mission to locate Viet Cong turnaround points on the Ho Chi Minh trail and destroy them with airstrikes as part of Operation Shining Brass. The mission was the first of its kind and the team was composed of Republic of Vietnam and U.S. forces. During the mission, the U.S. Air Force O-1 Bird Dog observation plane and the Republic of Vietnam Air Force H-34 Choctaw helicopter carrying Thorne went missing and rescue teams were unable to locate either crash site. After his disappearance, Thorne was presumed dead, posthumously promoted to the rank of Major and awarded the Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross.

It was not until 1999 that Thorne’s remains were found by a Finnish and Joint POW/MIA Accounting Team. It was concluded that Thorne’s Choctaw had crashed into the side of a mountain while flying nap-of-the-earth. His remains were repatriated and formally identified in 2003. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on June 26, 2003 with full honors along with the remains of the RVNAF casualties from the crash. Thorne is the only former member of the SS to be interred at Arlington.

Though he was engaged at one point, Thorne spent most of his life committed to fighting communist forces. He left behind no wife and no children. His ex-fiancée would go on to marry another man. Instead, Thorne’s legacy is one of a warrior who ruled the battlefield. He was a scourge on the Soviets in Europe and a deadly threat to Viet Cong in Vietnam. His service and commitment to both his home country of Finland and adopted country of the United States stand as models for anyone willing to take up the profession of arms.

Articles

Navy SEALs are prowling the Middle East on these stealthy boats

Everyone knows that when Navy SEALs arrive at their target, they can do some serious ass-kicking. But how they get to the point of attack is changing – and becoming more high-tech.


According to a report from TheDrive.com, the Combatant Craft Assault has been stealthily prowling the battlefield, giving SEALs new capabilities to insert into hostile territory and then make a clean getaway.

The CCAs reportedly took part in Eager Lion, a joint exercise in Jordan, and also got a moment in the spotlight when Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of United States Central Command took a training ride in one.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
SEALs use a Combatant Craft Assault to insert special operators during an exercise as part of Eager Lion 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Paul Coover/Released)

According to AmericanSpecialOperations.com, the CCA is 41 feet long, and is capable of carrying M240 medium machine guns, M2 heavy machine guns, and Mk-19 automatic grenade launchers. The boat is also capable of being air-dropped by a C-17A Globemaster, making it a highly flexible asset.

These boats can operate from the well decks of Navy amphibious ships or afloat staging bases like USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) and USNS Lewis B. Puller (T-ESB 3), which departed this past June for a deployment to the Persian Gulf region.

The craft reached full operational capability this year. While initially built by United States Marine, Inc., Lockheed Martin is now handling maintenance of these boats, which are manned by Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewmen. Two other stealthy special-ops boats, the Combatant Craft Medium and the Combatant Craft Heavy, are reportedly in various stages of development and/or deployment to the fleet.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
Service members assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) participate in an interoperability exercise in the ship’s well deck during exercise Eager Lion 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Darren M. Moore)

CENTCOM has seen a number of incidents with Iran, including a near-midair collision between a drone and a F/A-18E Super Hornet. Iran also notably seized American sailors in December, 2015 detaining the crews of two Riverine Command Boats. The stealthy boats could prevent future incidents by being far more difficult to track.

You can see the Eager Lion video with a CCA cameo below.

MIGHTY FIT

Here’s the single most important factor to building strength

Whether your personal gym goals are to bulk up or slim down, most people find themselves getting stronger the more they workout. Seems pretty straightforward, right? It makes sense that the more reps you do, the stronger you become.

Unfortunately, that’s a freakin’ myth — and you should stop believing it this instant.

Sure, when you first pick up a weight and curl it a few times, you’ll increase the size of your muscle. But, over time, your body will get used to managing the resistance and start moving it around like it’s no big deal. After a while, you’ll notice that the weights you once had trouble lifting aren’t so heavy and your gains have plateaued.

It sucks, but it happens all the time. Fortunately, there is a way to combat this issue and resolve it sooner rather than later.


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Observe the glorious gif above. On the surface, it looks like this strong dude is lifting two human beings like it isn’t sh*t — because that’s precisely what he’s doing. The question is, how did he get to that level? The answer is straightforward: The key to gaining strength is to consistently lift heavier weights. Don’t let yourself get comfortable.

When you challenge yourself by lifting heavy weights in a controlled setting, you tear your muscles fibers. When those fibers are rebuilt, they’re made stronger. Your body will adjust to the amount of weight you’re lifting. So, if you don’t up the resistance regularly and challenge yourself, your body won’t understand that it needs to provide more energy to lift the load.

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After your lifting session is complete, it’s essential that you take in the proper amount of protein and calories to allow those muscles to heal. After you repeat this process enough times, the weight that felt heavy just a few weeks ago probably doesn’t give you much trouble.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FFskYViAkG1LG.gif&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.giphy.com&s=97&h=2484fdd52ffa0d8fcb5f2b82b7081edb175973123377ce282206bc797d1db02c&size=980x&c=4022924634 image-library=”0″ pin_description=”” caption=”She makes lifting these plates look simple.” crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FFskYViAkG1LG.gif%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.giphy.com%26s%3D97%26h%3D2484fdd52ffa0d8fcb5f2b82b7081edb175973123377ce282206bc797d1db02c%26size%3D980x%26c%3D4022924634%22%7D” expand=1 photo_credit=””]

This highlights the importance of a gym philosophy, which states “overload over time.” This means, simply, that you should be gradually increasing the weight load in order to consistently fail toward the end of your sets. Over time, you should remain overloaded. But you should always give yourself the time needed to recover — if you’re going to the gym three to five times a week, diversify your areas of impact. Toss in a lower-body workout between your upper-torso days.

In short: Always challenge yourself and always give yourself time to recover. It’s breaking and rebuilding that makes us strong.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How Najaf became the Marines’ forgotten battle in Iraq

In the Battle of Fallujah, Marines swept in to take the city away from insurgent forces, only to have politicians pull them out — and send them right back in months later. The first and second Battles of Fallujah have entered Marine Corps lore, alongside Iwo Jima and Chapultepec.


But what many don’t know is what happened at the Battle of Najaf, which played out before the 2nd Battle of Fallujah kicked off.

An Najaf is another sacred city in Iraq. It has approximately seven square miles of cemeteries — as above, so below. Under the cemeteries are miles of catacombs, haunting places where enemy fighters could be hiding, concealed in the dark.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
A U.S. soldier performs a security patrol outside An Najaf cemetery where Anti-Iraqi Forces have recently launched attacks at Multi-National Forces. The patrol’s focus was on finding weapons caches, Improvised Explosive Devises (I.E.D.s), and Anti-Iraqi Forces that might be hiding in tombs or catacombs within the cemetery. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt Ashley Brokop)

A major player in the battle was the insurgent leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia cleric who brought disgruntled Iraqis together under the idea of an Islamic democracy. To enforce that idea, he created a military wing, Jaysh al-Mahdi, also known as the Mahdi Army. He suddenly turned on the coalition, demanding an immediate withdraw of all coalition forces from Iraq.

Though the mayor of An Najaf brokered a ceasefire between the coalition and the Mahdi Army in June 2004, this only lasted until the end of August. In July of that year, the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit took over operational command from Task Force Dragon. That’s when the fighting in the city started to escalate.

In August, the Mahdi Army attacked the 1st Battalion 4th Marines, starting a significant battle of the new Iraq War. The next days were long and drawn out, characterized by house-to-house fighting, open-street engagements, and fighting across open farm fields. For eight days, the battle raged through the city.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
A U.S. Marine Corps M1 Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Special Operations Capable (SOC), in convoy along the streets of An Najaf, An Najaf Province, Iraq, on Aug. 12, 2004, during a raid of the Muqtada Militia strong points in the area. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel J. Fosco)

Much like what happened in Fallujah a few months earlier, Marines and soldiers were taking the fight to insurgents. American troops were surprised by incoming small arms fire and indirect fire. Though the enemy forces were not well trained, there was a lot of them, which compensated for their lack of real infantry tactics.

At one point, the battle swept over the city’s huge cemetery, which was the stage for some of the most intense fighting of the entire Iraq War. Surrounded by the resting dead, Marines fought against extreme numbers and both sides suffered heavy casualties. Fighting on the surface was so brutal that soldiers and Marines were also forced to fight in the catacombs below.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
U.S. troops at final limit of advance during a morning of clearing operations.

Fallujah was the biggest urban battle since Hue City and An Najaf saw the first tunnel fighting since Vietnam.

The end of the battle brought with it a final tally of dead and wounded. Twelve Americans were killed in action and 94 were wounded. Iraqi soldiers also saw significant losses. The numbers for the Mahdi Army, however, are far greater, with 1,500 killed in action and an unknown number wounded, estimated to be in the thousands.

The battle removed Al-Sadr and most of those loyal to him from the city. Marines began to secure their area of operations and returned to rebuilding Najaf and the surrounding region. However, some of the Mahdi Army’s militiamen stayed in the city, challenging the 1st battalion, 4th Marines at every opportunity.

This bomber originally beat the iconic B-17 in World War II
Marines patrol the streets of Najaf in 2004.

Instead of their normal black militia uniforms, they now wore street clothing. This allowed them to blend into the local populace. Coalition troops could no longer differentiate between friend or foe when the streets turned to a battlefield.

Marines and soldiers at the Battle of Najaf should be proud of the accomplishment of securing the city. As time passes, they remain hopeful that Americans will know about the heroes that came out of the battle and the ones who fell there — that we never let this battle be lost to history.

It will be remembered, just as much as The Battles of Fallujah.

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