12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades - We Are The Mighty
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12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades

The Air Force is recommending upgrading the awards of a dozen airmen to the Medal of Honor or the Air Force Cross, the service announced Friday.


The upgrades to the service’s two highest valor medals stem from review boards that met in May, according to Brooke Brzozowske, a spokeswoman for the Air Force.

Also read: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack

“The boards were charged with reviewing [Global War on Terrorism] Air Force Cross and Silver Star nominations for possible upgrade,” she said in an email. “Specifically, [the] Air Force Cross Review Board reviewed all Air Force Cross nominations [and] Silver Star Review Board reviewed all Silver Star nominations.”

The recommendations have been forwarded to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James for further action.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Veronica Salgado

Another service spokesman, Maj. Bryan Lewis, said he couldn’t disclose how many of the recommendations were upgraded from Silver Star to Air Force Cross and from Air Force Cross to Medal of Honor — the highest military award for combat action.

The service’s review was part of the Defense Department’s push to audit more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced last year.

The Air Force review of awards continues and is expected to be completed this spring, Lewis told Military.com in December. “We are reviewing 147 cases, which consists of 135 Silver Stars and 12 Air Force Crosses,” he said at the time.

The Air Force is also continuing to review additional cases in which airmen were recommended for but didn’t ultimately receive a Silver Star, he said. It wasn’t immediately clear how many airmen may be upgraded to the third-highest valor award.

Simultaneously, the Army is reviewing 785 Silver Star and Distinguished Service Cross awards; and the Navy, including the Marine Corps, is looking at 425 Navy Cross and Silver Star medals.

In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.

Military.com this week asked the service if James would announce additional upgrades after Marine Corps officials revealed on Wednesday that her counterpart, outgoing Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, would present four Marines and a sailor with upgraded awards for their service.

Mabus will present the upgraded awards in a ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, on Friday.

However, it’s unclear if James will coordinate a medals ceremony in the next few days. The secretary, who had her formal farewell ceremony on Wednesday, is expected to leave the Pentagon next week.

RELATED: Airman to Get Silver Star for Leading River Evacuation Under Fire

Most recently — but separate from the Air Force review — Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the Silver Star in April. Hutchins received his award Nov. 4 during a ceremony at the 18th Air Support Operations Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star Medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army looks to ‘LiFi’ for secure future mission command

When investigating new ways of transmitting and communicating information, sometimes it helps to see the light.

This is the idea behind a new technology being investigated by the Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center’s Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate, along with its industry partner, VLNComm of Charlottesville, Va.

“It’s a wireless system but instead of using radio frequencies it uses infrared light,” said Frank Murphy, an engineer on EMSD’s System Development and Engineering Team. “It is called LiFi, or light fidelity. It has many advantages.”


Murphy has been investigating ways to utilize the emerging commercially available technology in a tactical environment as the physical characteristics appear to solve many issues facing wired and wireless field command post network systems.

The technology will be used in expeditionary mission commands. EMSD has come up with a concept for using LiFi within any enclosed mission command platform. LiFi eliminates the problems associated with the time-consuming task of running data lines in tactical operation centers and command posts. Moreover, since the technology does not use radio waves, it cannot be detected outside the confines of the mission command platform.

“The technology uses light waves to transmit and receive data between the servers and the user’s computer,” said Melvin Jee, the leader of EMSD’s Command Post Platforms Branch. “As light cannot pass through walls, the enemy cannot detect the signal.”

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades

The transceiver (pictured here) is simply put into a USB port and will then detect the signal and users will be hooked up to the IT network of their command post. Then a Soldier just needs a light shined overhead to have network access.

(Photo is courtesy of the RDECOM Soldier Center Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate)

Murphy’s investigation into the technology was inspired in part by Douglas Tamilio, the director of RDECOM Soldier Center, sharing an article about LiFi with RDECOM Soldier Center leadership. Murphy’s investigation was also inspired by the vision of Claudia Quigley, the director of EMSD, and the RDECOM Soldier Center’s ongoing partnership with the 82nd Airborne. The RDECOM Soldier Center and the 82nd Airborne have worked together extensively to find out ways to best meet the needs of warfighters.

Murphy explained that Quigley and other members of the directorate were working with the 82nd Airborne during a field exercise. During the exercise, Murphy noticed that the setup of IT cabling was proving to be a time-consuming and difficult task.

“They had a hard time setting up their IT network, which isn’t usually an NSRDEC area, but we felt that we could address the need,” said Murphy. “Tactical speed is absolutely essential for command post setup. LiFi is potentially faster, easier to install and doesn’t have the security and exposure issues of other technologies. LiFi is un-hackable and untraceable when used within the command post shelter.”

“It’s virtually impossible to find the wavelength the data is being transmitted on, so if LiFi is detected, it’s hard to intercept the data stream,” said Jee.

EMSD is working with industry partners. Murphy explained that the commercially available technology was modified to fit a tactical environment. The technology will affect how soldiers communicate and, thus, carry out a mission.

“A command post of any size is an information processing center,” said Murphy, “They take information from the field whether it comes in from a drone, soldier/squad reports, other personnel in the area, satellite information, information from wheeled vehicles, or from behind the front lines — all this information gets fed to the command post staff. They make a decision and then the information goes right back out. Lives depend on this communication.”

“LiFi is part of NSRDEC’s plan to provide a fully integrated platform with all of the necessary infrastructure in order for the warfighter to set up his command post,” said Jee. “Just as a house is fully integrated with power, lights, and network cabling — allowing the homeowners to just concentrate on the furnishings — NSRDEC plans to provide a fully functional house, allowing the warfighter and program managers to provide the “furniture.'”

“In a command post, everyone has a job to do and they have their information chain,” said Murphy.

“All these soldiers need network access. With this, you simply shine the light over their head. After you hook the transceiver into the USB port, the transceiver will detect the signal and you will be hooked up to the IT network of your command post. It’s as simple as that. We also hope to have it integrated into the wiring harness for the lighting so we can just roll up the tent and pack it away during a move.”

Murphy emphasized that the NSRDEC project is really a team effort and that several entities at the Natick Soldier Systems Center were important to the development of the technology. He also received “great guidance” from his branch chief, Melvin Jee, and from his team leader, Connie Miles-Patrick, System Development and Engineering Team, as well as the DREN team and people in the Natick Contracting Division.

He also credited the use of the Base Camp Integration Lab, or BCIL, which was created by and is expertly run by, Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems. A first-generation Li-Fi system prototype was recently set up at the BCIL and successfully demonstrated the capability to send and receive data using the BCIL’s IT network.

“The people at the BCIL were incredible,” said Murphy. “They gave us the perfect platform to showcase the tactical capabilities of this device. This project really showcases what Natick is all about. The Natick team dove in with both feet. Great things happen when people believe in each other and in an idea. We all want to help the soldier.”

Murphy believes that LiFi is truly the wave of the future.

“The demand for data inside the command post is only going to continue to increase,” said Murphy, “So data quantity and quality need to improve to meet this demand. This technology can be hooked up permanently in rigid wall mission command platforms, but it can be used anywhere. We will be bringing world-class communications, security, speed, and capability to the frontline soldier. Information in the field is a weapon. This technology will help the warfighter make better decisions and be more effective and lethal in the field. This changes everything in the IT network system. It’s a game changer.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. This is what it’s really like.

When most of us join the Navy, we don’t expect to be put into positions where our lives are in danger. For sure, we know it’s a possibility; as is joining any branch of the Armed Forces, but not as probable as our USMC and Army brothers-in-arms.

But now that a sailor has fallen to the virus, it’s apparent just how potent and diverse enemy combatants can be.


I served four years on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, from 2006 to 2010. The crew aboard CVN-71 refer to their ship as The Big Stick, personifying the ship as the US’s show of force to allow us to “Walk Softly” throughout the world. My job was to safely and efficiently maintain the electrical and steam plant systems within the two powerful Nuclear Reactor plants that power and propel the ship.

We steamed everywhere from South Africa to England to the middle of nowhere deep in the Atlantic ocean. We also spent six months sending F-18 Super Hornets to Afghanistan to provide Close Air Support for ISAF forces on the ground.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades

PHILIPPINE SEA (March 18, 2020) An F/A-18F Super Hornet, assigned to the “Black Knights” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) March 18, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh)

Sailing a warship is inherently dangerous. There are cables with thousands of volts of heart-stopping power running through them, manifolds of high-pressure steam harnessing enough force to easily cut a person in half and thousands of people carrying-out dynamic operations both above and below-deck. Not to mention the mighty (and oftentimes unpredictable) sea, rocking and listing the ship with sometimes violent and turbulent waves.

In my four years on The Big Stick I lost three fellow shipmates to these various dangers. Now that the world is fighting a new, global enemy, unconventional deaths like losing a sailor to COVID-19 are becoming a new normal for families all across the world. And now, we see that active duty military members are just as susceptible as anyone else.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

Part of the allure of joining the Navy is being able to see the world. The main mission of the Navy is to bring US sovereign territory, in the form of floating cities like the Roosevelt, to any corner of the planet in just a matter of hours. This allows sailors to enjoy the perks of visiting ports in places like Cape Town, Tokyo and Da Nang. Unfortunately, now, that perk also led to the death of one of my fellow Rough Riders.

The virus likely infiltrated the ship during a port visit to Vietnam’s fifth largest city. Da Nang offered its sandy beaches and opulent hotels to provide some RR for the crew of the TR but before long, the crew was ordered back to the ship, underway early and restricted to “River City” communications (meaning no phone calls or internet access).

Back in 2008, steaming off the coast of Iran, River City was set pretty much all the time (and we hated it) but we knew it was necessary. Recently, this order meant something very serious was unfolding and the sailors aboard knew it.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades

Photo courtesy of August Dannehl

When that first River City was set just weeks ago, it was hard to imagine just how serious this situation would be. No one could have predicted then that over 500 Rough Riders would test positive for the coronavirus, a Navy Captain with 30 years of military experience would be fired, a Trump-appointed official would resign and one sailor would ultimately die in the line of duty from this silent, unpredictable enemy.

Living for months at a time on a carrier out to sea, confined to extremely small and cramped spaces, living and working alongside fellow Sailors in close proximity; these truths have always been the downsides of Navy service. Now, in the age of COVID-19, they have proven deadly.

Articles

SEAL Team 6 faced unexpected resistance during deadly Yemen raid

SEAL Team 6 operators who went in to attack a compound used by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula did not have a compromised mission, but instead were confronted by an enemy that was more prepared than the commandos expected.


According to a report by the Washington Times, planning for the Jan. 29 raid assumed that family members would not be able or willing to fight the SEALs, prompting them to bypass one of the houses in the compound.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
Navy SEALs retreat after a training exercise. | US Navy photo

The SEALs came under fire from women who picked up rifles during the raid. The unexpectedly fierce firefight meant that the SEALs were unable to collect as much intelligence as they had hoped to, the report said. Civilian casualties also occurred during the raid.

The raid has been criticized by many, including Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. McCain has consistently labeled the raid in which Senior Chief Petty Officer William Owens was killed a “failure.”

Despite the unexpected firefight, the civilian casualties, and the fact that less intelligence was gathered than they hoped for, an after-action review conducted by Central Command could not identify any bad judgment, incompetence, conflicting information or other issues.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
A US Navy SEAL aims his SCAR during training. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Martin L. Carey)

“I think we had a good understanding of exactly what happened on [the] objective and we’ve been able to pull lessons learned out of that that we will apply in future operations,” Gen. Joseph Votel, the Army officer who runs CENTCOM, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “And as a result, I made the determination that there was no need for an additional investigation into this particular operation.”

The previous special operations raid into Yemen, carried out by American forces, took place in December, 2014. The objective was to rescue an American photojournalist and a South African teacher. The hostages were executed by terrorists during the raid.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army just picked its new sniper rifle

A senior Army modernization official today said that the service’s new Squad Designated Marksman Rifle will be the 7.62mm Heckler Koch G28.


The Army selected the G28 as its new Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System in 2016 to replace its M110 Semi-automatic Sniper System — a move that will provide snipers with a shorter rifle that doesn’t stick out to the enemy as a sniper weapon.

Now, the Army plans to start fielding the G28 in 2018 to infantry squads as the service’s standard SDMR, Lt. Gen. John Murray, deputy chief of staff for Army G8, told Military.com.

The Army has money in the fiscal 2018 budget earmarked for the SDMR program, said Murray, who did not have the exact figure listed in the budget.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
A German soldier trains with the G28. (Photo from Allied Joint Force Command Brunssum)

Equipping squads with a new 7.62mm SDMR is the first step in a two-phase effort to ensure units have the capability to penetrate enemy body armor.

May 2017, Gen. Mark Milley testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the service’s current M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round will not defeat enemy body armor plates similar to the U.S. military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.

Also read: This is what became of the Army’s futuristic M-16 replacement rifle

The revelation launched an ad hoc effort to acquire new 7.62mm Interim Service Combat Rifle, mainly for infantry units, but the idea quickly lost momentum.

Then, in early February 2018, Murray told members of Congress that the new SDMR is a phase one; phase two would be to field a more powerful replacement to the M249 squad automatic weapon, which is chambered for 5.56mm.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
Army Pfc. Ryein Weber assigned to Apache Company, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, qualifies with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon on Grezelka range at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. (U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)

The presence of a 7.62mm rifle in the squad formation is nothing new, but units currently have to turn in their SDMRs at the end of a combat deployment.

Related: Here’s every weapon the Army issues its soldiers

Since 2009, the Army’s SBR has been the Enhanced Battle Rifle 14, a modernized M14 equipped with a Sage International adjustable aluminum stock with pistol grip, a Leupold 3.5×10 power scope and Harris bipod legs.

The Army adopted the EBR concept, first used in 2004 by Navy SEALs, in response to the growing need of infantry squads operating in Afghanistan to engage enemy fighters at longer ranges.

Articles

9 highest war movie body counts

Despite Hot Shots Part Deux‘s claim to be the bloodiest movie ever, we actually did the math and found the top body counts for war films featuring the U.S. military. These counts are only for onscreen, confirmed dead. If they’re still moving when the director cuts to the next shot, it doesn’t count. The results are surprising.


9. Delta Force

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nE0V-xhTF4s
Despite his online reputation for ceaseless badassery, Chuck Norris’ seminal work Delta Force only has 78 confirmed kills. Though admittedly, 43 of those are at the hands of Chuck Norris himself.

8. Rambo Series

First Blood (commonly known as “the Rambo movie”) is the most surprising. With a body count of one confirmed kill, you wonder how John Rambo earned the reputation of being Hollywood’s biggest military badass… until you see the rest of the Rambo films (lots of cops go through windows, though). Body counts rise at a near exponential rate after the commies kill Rambo’s love interest, with 80 kills in First Blood Part II, 158 in Rambo III, and a whopping 273 in 2008’s Rambo. At that rate, I imagine that Rambo: Last Blood will maim more people than a movie starring 100 untamed lions.

7. The Patriot

Another surprise is the number of onscreen deaths in The Patriot. Mel Gibson’s Revolutionary War film, based on the Southern colonies’ fight against brutal British Colonel Banastre Tarleton, only had 123 onscreen kills.

6. Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down is considered one of the most realistic portrayals of any military action ever depicted onscreen, but the 135 deaths (122 Somalis, 13 Americans) doesn’t reflect the real-world body count of 1,500 Somalis, 18 Americans, 1 Malaysian and 1 Pakistani.

5. Saving Private Ryan

Steven Spielberg’s WWII epic Saving Private Ryan defined the distinctive WWII onscreen look and feel, replicated again and again. Appropriately, the film starts with his vision of the intense D-Day landings at Normandy. The final tally, including the dog tags of the KIA, stands at 243.

4. Platoon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKpQB3bEPbI
Platoon’s 277 kills are enough to give anyone a thousand-yard stare.

3. We Were Soldiers

The 305 total onscreen deaths between US forces and the North Vietnamese Army in We Were Soldiers gives Mel Gibson war film extras a higher mortality rate than Sean Bean in any film or TV show ever.

2. Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino’s films have a reputation for violence and his WWII masterwork Inglourious Basterds delivers Lieutenant Aldo Raine’s scalps and then some with a confirmed kill count of 315.

1. Windtalkers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygXyaFv9ub0
The all-time top body count of any movie featuring US troops in combat goes to Nicolas Cage’s Windtalkers with a whopping 548 onscreen kills.
MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force is launching more secure, accurate GPS satellites

The U.S. Air Force is preparing to launch the first of a new generation of GPS satellites, with the goal of providing more accuracy and security in the face of jamming threats from adversaries, including Russia.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite is set to lift off on Dec. 18, 2018, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.


It will be the first of 32 planned GPS III satellites that are designed to replace older ones currently in orbit and are being manufactured by Lockheed Martin. SpaceX won contracts to handle five of the first six GPS 3 launches.

Many of the leading features of the system will not be fully functional until at least 2022.

The cost of the system is estimated at billion to billion.

The Air Force controls a series of 31 GPS satellites from a high-security complex at an Air Force base near Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The military says the GPS III satellites will have a stronger signal that will be more difficult to jam.

Norway accused Russia of disrupting GPS signals during a recent NATO military exercise.

Lockheed Martin says the new system will have three times greater accuracy and up to eight times more antijamming capabilities than the existing GPS satellites.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

How these armies beat their foe with a prostitute, palm trees and plague bodies

Siege warfare is a military tactic in which an enemy army surrounds a castle or fortress and attempts to break in either by physical force or by starving the inhabitants into submission. In other words, it is a nasty ordeal for all involved and it often sports some diabolical tactics.


Here are three sieges from ancient history that show just how nasty things can get.

1. Battle of Jericho (late 17th or 16th centuries BCE)

The siege of Jericho is a well-known story. The Israelites marched around the walls seven times and on the seventh circuit they stopped, the Levites blew into their shofars and the next thing you know the walls came tumbling down, end of story. However, there is an alternative history that wrings more true.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
The shofars sounded, the men cried out and the walls fell. But that’s not exactly what happened. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Israelite commander named Joshua used psychological terror and stealth to bring down the walls of Jericho. In other words, before Joshua mustered his forces on the days preceding the Jericho battle, he sent two men to scout out the area and the city of Jericho like any good commander would.

Once the men were in the city, they went straight to the inn. An inn is a perfect place for a pair of strangers seeking information. The men got lucky when a prostitute by name of Rahab approached them and gave them all the details about the city’s security. Afterward, both spies swore to Rahab that she and her family would be spared so long as she left a scarlet cord hanging from her window.

Once the spies returned with the goodies, Joshua assembled his forces and deployed to Jericho, where they would march around the city for seven days. There are two reasons for this. First was to terrorize the city’s inhabitants with this bizarre rounding of the city day after day.

Second, was to keep the guards along the wall occupied by watching the army. While this goes on, a number of men would break rank undetected and head to Rahab’s window and climb up the scarlet cord. This would go on for six days. After the seventh day came, the Israelite army stopped, the shofars sounded and the men shouted.

This was a signal for the uncertain amount of men staying in Rahab’s apartment to attack the city from the inside by taking the main gate and opening it for the Israelites to storm in. Once the Israelites were in, the slaughter begins.

Every man, woman, child — and even livestock — were put to the sword, except for Rahab and her family.

2. The Siege of Baghdad (1258)

In 1258, the massive Mongol army along with many foreign nations under the authority of Prince Hulegu, surrounded the city of Baghdad after conquering much of Iran and northern Iraq. Once the Mongols settled into camp, the destruction began.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
That’ll teach you to negotiate with a Mongol. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The total size of Hulegu’s army was roughly between 100,000-150,000 men, probably closer 120,000 total.

On jan. 30, 1258, the Hulegu gave the order to commence the bombardment of the city walls. But there was a problem. The Mongol siege crews had no rocks. The siege train carrying the needed stones was three days journey away.

While the Mongols look for suitable projectiles to throw at the city walls, Hulegu ordered his Mongol archers to fire arrows over the walls with messages attached saying the city’s residents would be treated with kindness if they surrender.

While Hulegu sought to end this siege peacefully, Mongol engineers came up empty handed in the catapult rock search. However, not all was lost. Mongol engineers stripped foundation stones from the buildings in the suburbs and uprooted palm trees to use as hasty projectiles, battering the walls of Baghdad (James Chambers, The Devil’s Horsemen, 145).

The Caliph quickly sent ambassadors to negotiate peace but Hulegu would not hear the plea and detained them. Hulegu’s message was clear, surrender was not enough; it must be unconditional surrender.

While the Caliph continued to send envoys to Hulegu, the Mongols continued to bombard the walls — focusing on the Ajami tower, which was reduced to rubble by Feb. 1. The Mongols would finally break into the city the next day and seized a portion of the eastern wall. However, the battle was far from over and the negotiations continued for another four days. On the 6 February, the bombardment was over but the Mongols remained on the wall until the Caliph surrendered. Hulegu sent another message, this one to the armies of Baghdad. The message told them to lay down their arms and leave their posts.

Seeing the situation was unwinnable by use of arms, the Caliph’s advisors advised him to flee. But one man by the name of Ibn Alqami proposed that the best way to end this was for the Caliph to go before Hulegu. Hulegu’s terms to the Caliph were simple: turn over his daughter so that he could marry her and recognize Hulegu as the supreme authority.

If accepted, Hulegu would end the siege. The Caliph agreed and his forces marched out thinking they were going to retire to Syria. However, the forces were killed and later the Caliph and his sons were put to death. As for Baghdad, well, the hounds of hell were let loose.

The Armenian historian, Kirakos of Gandzak, wrote about the destruction stating:

Hulegu then ordered the troops guarding the walls to descend and kill the inhabitants of the city, great and small. (The Mongols) organized as though harvesting a field and cut down countless, numberless multitudes of men, women, and children. For forty days they did not stop. Then they grew weary and stopped killing. Their hands grew tired; they took others for sale. They destroyed mercilessly.

However, Hulegu’s wife, the senior Khantun (lady), named Doquz Khatun was a Christian. She spared the Christians of Baghdad, Nestorians and other denominations and beseeched her husband not to kill them. And he spared them with their goods and property.

Hulegu ordered all his soldiers to take the goods and property of the city. They all loaded up with gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, and costly garments, for it was an extremely rich city, unequalled on earth.

Hulegu himself took his share the caliph’s treasures—three thousand camel loads; and there was no counting the horses, mules and asses.

So how many people died? That answer is disputed. But it has been suggested that as many as 2 million may have been killed in the Mongol destruction. However, this does not take into account the many more that were slaughtered throughout the Near East during Hulegu’s military expedition.

3. “Bring out your Dead!” The Siege of Kaffa (1346)

While this is a not ranking list, the Siege of Kaffa probably wins hands down for the suckiest siege. The reason is that Kaffa is ground zero for the worst plague to date to ever fall upon mankind. However, I understand the plague started elsewhere, but for Europe, Kaffa is the main source. So how did it happen?

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
Throwing plague-infected corpses over the walls of Kaffa might have been the opening salvo in a regional pandemic. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In 1346, Mongols besieged the Genoese city of Kaffa located on the Black Sea. Before this siege, the Mongols and Genoese made an agreement in 1266 that the city would serve as a trading center between Europe and the Far East. However, the city would be taken over by the Mongols later on only to be given back. This seesaw agreement tradeoff would go on for some time.

The final straw came in 1343 when Christian locals and Muslims in the enclave of Tana inflamed. In turn, the Christians fled to Kaffa to escape the wrath of Khan Janibeg. Janibeg sent his army after them and found them hiding in the city. So what better option than to besiege the city.

In 1344, the Genoese were successful in breaking the siege by killing 15,000 of the Khan’s men and destroying their siege engines. The Khan would come back and try again in 1346, but as the Mongol besieged the city, a mysterious illness began to circulate the encampment. The Mongols, seeing their men fall ill and die, decided to use the bodies as a weapon. According to the notary Gabriel de Mussis:

The dying Tartars, stunned and stupefied by the immensity of the disaster brought about by the disease, and realizing that they had no hope of escape, lost interest in the siege. But they ordered corpses to be placed in catapults (trebuchets) and lobbed into the city in the hope that the intolerable stench would kill everyone inside. What seemed like mountains of dead were thrown into the city, and the Christians could not hide or flee or escape from them, although they dumped as many of the bodies as they could in the sea. And soon the rotting corpses tainted the air and poisoned the water supply, and the stench was so overwhelming that hardly one in several thousand was in a position to flee the remains of the Tartar army. Moreover, one infected man could carry the poison to others, and infect people and places with the disease by look alone. No one knew, or could discover, a means of defense.

Eventually, the city would surrender in 1349. But the damage had been done, and some of the Genoese took to their ships heading back for the ports in Italy. Unfortunately, some on board of those ships were infected with the bubonic plague. Gabriel de Mussis mentions this, stating:

…As it happened, among those who escaped from Caffa by boat were a few sailors who had been infected with the poisonous disease. Some boats were bound for Genoa, others went to Venice and to other Christian areas. When the sailors reached these places and mixed with the people there, it was as if they had brought evil spirits with them: every city, every settlement, every place was poisoned by the contagious pestilence, and their inhabitants, both men and women, died suddenly.

Overall, the Siege of Kaffa could be the deadliest siege ever. The outcome of the siege and the bubonic plague affected much of the world, particularly Europe, since Asia was already contaminated.

While it is possible that had the siege at Kaffa not taken place, the plague may not have infected Europe, or it may have come much later. But given that the siege did happen, it may have unwittingly resulted in the deaths of 50 million people out of a population of 80 million in Europe from 1346-1353.

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5 little-known facts about R. Lee Ermey, the military’s favorite Gunny

Editor’s Note: On April 15, 2018, R. Lee Ermey passed away from complications of pneumonia. His long time manager, Bill Rogin, made the announcement via Ermey’s twitter handle. In honor of his passing, We Are The Mighty is proud to share these facts about America’s favorite Gunny.

Most people know R. Lee Ermey from his role as Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket.” And if you somehow joined the military and never saw “Full Metal Jacket,” the first question anyone would ask is “How is that even possible?” But the second would be “How much do you know about this guy, anyway?”


Ermey didn’t go right into acting and if it weren’t for his Marine Corps-level determination, we might never know him at all. Which would be a shame, because his life before and after “Full Metal Jacket” is equally interesting.

1. His first job after the military was untraditional.

Ermey was medically retired from the Marine Corps and was at a loss about what to do as a civilian. He told Entertainment Weekly in a 1997 interview that he “bought a run-down bar and whorehouse” in Okinawa. He had to leave the business behind when the Japanese FBI caught wind of his black marketing. He escaped to the Philippines, where he met his wife.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
What Ermey actually looked like as a Drill Instructor in 1968.

2. His first role was an Army helicopter pilot.

It was while in the Philippines that the future Gunnery Sergeant was cast in “Apocalypse Now” by Francis Ford Coppola himself. Ermey was studying drama and did a number of Filipino films before Coppola discovered him. You can see him in yet another legendary war movie scene.

Coppola also hired him as the film’s technical advisor for all thing military.

Also read: 7 ooh-rah tips from the career of R. Lee Ermey

3. He wasn’t supposed to be in “Full Metal Jacket.”

Ermey was doing his job as technical advisor, reading the part of Sgt. Hartman while interviewing extras for the film. They already hired another actor for the part but Ermey had a plan to get the part. He got the job as technical advisor because of his other roles in Vietnam movies. He taped the interviews he did as Hartman and Kubrick cast him after seeing those tapes.

Interestingly enough, Ermey wrote the insults he hurled at the Marines in the film. Kubrick never gave him input on what a drill instructor might say. He wrote 150 pages of insults.

4. Ermey is the only Marine to be promoted after retiring.

He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant after spending 14 months in Vietnam and doing two tours in Okinawa. He was medically retired for the injuries he received during his service. But it was in 2002, that Marine Corps Commandant James L. Jones promoted Ermey to E-7, Gunnery Sergeant, the rank he became so well-known for. It was the first and only time the Corps has promoted a retiree.

5. He originally joined the Corps to stay out of jail – and almost went Navy.

In the old days, joining the military was an option for at-risk youth and juvenile delinquents to avoid real jail time. Ermey was arrested twice as a teen. He admits to being a bit of a hell-raiser. And he didn’t even know about the Marine Corps the day he decided to join.

 

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
Actor and Retired Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. R. Lee Ermey (center on right) with his 1966 Marine recruits at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“Basically a silver-haired judge, a kindly old judge, looked down at me and said ‘this is the second time I’ve seen you up here and it looks like we’re going to have to do something about this,” Ermey told a gathering in 2010. He wanted to join the Navy because his father was in the Navy, but they rejected him on the grounds that he was a troublemaker.

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These vintage photos prove the military has always worked hard (and played harder)

Pictures of off-duty soldiers capture the everyday, mundane moments of what life is really like on the front lines. Much of a soldier’s time in the field doesn’t involve combat or danger, but rather, ordinary tasks, down time, and simple boredom. No matter where the war is or what it’s about, troops in the field often have a lot of time on their hands, not much to do, and a lot of alcohol around. This leads to some great candid moments, and when cameras are around, great pictures.


Soldiers going on leave would often take photos to remember the good times they had, or to memorialize their comrades. There were also performances, bands, and card games to wile away the time, and this is true on all sides of every war. There are as many pictures of German soldiers smiling and goofing off as there are British and American. These photos humanize wars and the people who fought them.

Here are some of the best pictures of soldiers off-duty, taken all over the world.Vote up the best vintage photos of off-duty soldiers below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section.

Vintage Photos of Off-Duty Soldiers

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These three women were the first American military casualties of WWI

It was a warm Sunday afternoon on May 20, 1917, as nurses and doctors of Chicago’s Base Hospital Unit No. 12 gathered on deck of the U.S.S. Mongolia to watch Navy gunners conduct target practice.


Laura Huckleberry, one of the nurses standing on deck, had grown up on a farm near North Vernon, Indiana, and graduated from the Illinois Training School for Nurses in 1913. With Huckleberry were her roommates, Emma Matzen and Edith Ayres, also graduates of the Illinois Training School Class of 1913 and Red Cross Reserve Nurses selected for coveted spots in the hospital unit.

Also enjoying the Atlantic breezes while lounging in deck chairs or standing at the ship’s railing, the group included Scottish-born Helen Burnett Wood, a nursing supervisor at Evanston Hospital. Wood’s mother had protested her daughter’s decision to join the unit, but the 28-year-old Wood had written just before the ship sailed to tell them not to worry.

But Wood’s mother’s worst fears soon materialized.

“We watched them load and fire and then Emma said, ‘Somebody’s shot,'” Huckleberry later wrote of the event in her diary. “I turned and saw two girls on the deck and blood all around.”

Related: These 6 women earned the Silver Star for valor in war

Pieces of flying shrapnel struck Ayres in the left temple and her side, while Wood’s heart was pierced. Both were killed instantly. Matzen suffered shrapnel wounds to her leg and arm. As doctors and nurses attended to their fallen comrades, the ship turned around and returned to New York. The wounded Emma Matzen was taken to the Brooklyn Naval Yard Hospital, then transferred to New York Presbyterian Hospital and later to convalesce at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.

These three women became the first American military casualties of World War I. But it was unclear whether they were entitled to military benefits. Before their bodies were shipped home, Ayers and Wood were honored by the American Red Cross in a memorial service at St. Stephen’s Church. Their coffins, placed side by side, were draped with the Allied flags as New Yorkers paid their respects.

Although technically not buried with full military honors, the two nurses were honored in their local communities in elaborate public services described as “similar to those accorded the sons of Uncle Sam who fall on the field of battle.”

In honor of their martyred patriot, 32 autos in a “slow and solemn march” accompanied the hearse carrying Edith Ayers’ casket from the rail junction to Attica, Ohio. Area schools were closed for two days and most of the community paid their respects as her body lay in state in the Methodist Church. The burial concluded with a 21-gun salute from the 8th Ohio National Guard as a delegation of Red Cross nurses and representatives of the governor and the state of Ohio stood in silence.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
A gun on the U.S.S. Mongolia. | Public Domain photo

Wealthy financier and former Evanston mayor James Patten, whose wife was a friend of Helen Wood, telegraphed his New York representative to have the body shipped to Chicago at his cost. Evanston Hospital, Northwestern University and First Presbyterian Church officials took part in planning the memorial services after obtaining the consent of relatives.

More than 5,000 people lined the streets of Evanston to view her funeral escort, which included a marching band, 50 cadets from Great Lakes Naval Station, Red Cross nurses, hospital and university officials and other dignitaries. Following church services, a contingent of Red Cross nurses accompanied grieving family and friends to the gravesite.

Part of the ambiguity about the military status of these nurses came from the fact that they were enrolled by the American Red Cross before being inducted into the U.S. Army. They also served without rank or commission. Although the Army and Navy had formed nursing corps before the war, this was the first time they had inducted women in large numbers.

The Senate Naval Affairs Committee investigated the incident, determining that it resulted from the malfunctioning of the brass cap on the powder cartridge case and ordering changes to naval guns to prevent recurrence of such mishaps. But as U.S. war casualties mounted, these women were soon forgotten.

Emma Matzen recovered from her injuries and rejoined her unit in France later that year. In 1919, she returned home to Nebraska, where she and a sister, also a nurse, ran a small hospital. Each adopted infant girls who had been abandoned at the hospital; both girls later became nurses as well. Matzen moved to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, in 1949 where she did private duty nursing until she was 87. She was the only female among the 49 residents in her local VA Hospital; she died in 1979 at the age of 100.

Until the mid-1940s, the Edith Work Ayers American Legion Post in Cleveland was an all-women’s group comprised of former WWI Red Cross nurses and volunteers. The Attica Ohio Historical Society has honored her during annual Memorial Day ceremonies. Ayers’ graveside, although also without mention of any military service, has an American Legion marker. An Attica high school student, with the endorsement of the American Legion, has applied to the Ohio History Commission for a plaque to be placed in Attica in honor of its native daughter.

In Northesk Church near Musselburgh, Scotland, Helen Wood’s name is the first listed on a Roll of Honor of the congregation’s WWI deceased. In 2014, the flag which draped her coffin and her Red Cross pin were displayed in a WWI exhibition at the local museum. But Helen Wood is buried thousands of miles away in Chicago’s Rosehill Cemetery. Among the grand tombstones of famous Chicagoans and war veterans, Wood’s simple headstone makes no mention of her military death. Her wartime sacrifice is recognized only by a marker provided long ago by the Gold Star Father’s Association.

On the centennial of the accident aboard the Mongolia, a public wreath laying ceremony will be held at Helen Burnett Wood’s grave site in Rosehill Cemetery May 20. Part of “Northwestern Remembers the First World War”, a series of exhibits, lectures, and commemorations from Northwestern University Libraries will also be part of the remembering of America’s first casualties of WWI.  Support of the event is provided by the Pritzker Military Museum Library.

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This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

In December 2003, Michael Trotter, Jr. was a soldier stationed in Baghdad, Iraq. His unit was camped out in one of Saddam Hussein’s bombed-out palaces when his commanding officer discovered a piano and suggested Trotter, who enjoyed singing, check it out.


“You had to crawl over soot and rut and rock and rubble from the war to get to this piano; it was like one of those dramatic movie scenes,” Trotter told Real Clear Life.

It’s common for troops to play the easier-to-transport guitar while deployed, but not many get the chance to tickle the ivory. Trotter didn’t know how to play piano, but he began to teach himself. Music became an outlet and an escape from the stress of combat.

When his friend, Army Captain Robert C. Scheetz, Jr., was killed by an IED, Trotter wrote a song called “Dear Martha,” which he then performed at Scheetz’s memorial service. Trotter would go on to sing at many more memorials, providing solace for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Dear Martha” is about the letters written between loved ones divided by war. Trotter recorded the song with his wife, Tanya Blount, as part of their musical duo, The War and Treaty, which explores the concept of creating music out of darkness and despair to find peace, tranquility, and a higher purpose.

While this video doesn’t include any visuals, you can hear their tranquil notes and haunting harmonies by clicking play below — and you really, really should:

(The War and Treaty | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Even the Warthog is giving pilots hypoxia

The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II has been a legend in providing close-air support. However, even legends have bad moments, and the A-10 has now succumbed to one of the problems plaguing other United States military aircraft: It’s giving pilots hypoxia.


12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
Joint terminal attack controllers wave at an A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft during a show of force on the Nevada Test and Training Range July 19, 2017. The A-10 has excellent maneuverability at low airspeeds and altitudes and is a highly accurate weapons delivery platform. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kevin Tanenbaum)

According to a report by Aviation Week and Space Technology, the hypoxia incidents, which the Department of Defense labeled as “physiological episodes,” took place last year. There were two cases among A-10s assigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, where the 355th Fighter Wing is based.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
Two U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs fly in a wingtip formation after refueling from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Feb. 15, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

In both cases, backup oxygen systems kicked in and allowed the pilots to return safely to base. One plane was equipped with an onboard oxygen generation system (OBOGS), which replaced an older liquid oxygen (LOX) system. The other plane still had the older system installed.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
A-10 Thunderbolt IIs break over the Pacific Alaska Range Complex and one aircraft drops a flare during live-fire training April 24. The A-10s are from the 355th Fighter Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Members from the 355th FS are tasked to provide mission-ready A-10s, as well as search and rescue capability in Alaska and deployed sites worldwide. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Robert Wieland)

An investigation determined that the Warthog with the LOX system had issues with the oxygen regulator and cabin pressure systems. The problems were repaired. However, 28 OBOGS-equipped A-10s were grounded while investigators tried to determine the cause of the incident.

While no root cause was found, some corrosion was located among system’s pipes. New procedures, including making sure that the water separator is drained, allowed the OBOGS-equipped A-10s to return to operational duties after a week. During that week, A-10s with the LOX system held the line. Since the implementation of the new procedures, no hypoxia incidents have occurred among the A-10s at Davis-Monthan.

12 Airmen may get Air Force Cross or Medal of Honor upgrades
A USAF F-35A departs from Luke AFB in Arizona (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

Other planes where pilots have reported hypoxia issues in recent years include the F-22 Raptor, the F/A-18, the T-45 Goshawk, the T-6 Texan, and the F-35 Lightning. Last year, Cobham developed a system to help warn pilots when a hypoxia incident is taking place.

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