The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division 'White House' at Pendleton - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

The building has withstood the test of time. It has seen generations of Marines enter and leave its halls. It has seen Marines off to several wars from the shores of Pacific Islands, the mountains of North Korea, the jungles of Vietnam, and the deserts of the Middle East. It has served as the operational and cultural epicenter of the 1st Marine Division — the most storied and consequential Division in the United States Marine Corps. It has seen its share of history both for the division and the Corps.

The building has even been reviewed as a historical site, still bearing the simple style and white paint associated with World War II era buildings, which were originally meant to be temporary. Few of its kind are still standing across the nation, yet it remains, bold in both color and design, while its peers have been replaced over the decades. If you walk through the musty halls that were once treaded by the likes of Chesty Puller and James Mattis, you can see the artwork — paintings of past commanders, old battle scenes ripped from the pages of history and photos of Marines from modern wars.


“It’s a unique building,” said Colonel Christopher S. Dowling, former Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Division. “When it was built in 1942-1943 it was supposed to only last five years, five years — that was it.”

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

U.S. Marine Corps Col. Christopher S. Dowling.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Audrey M. C. Rampton)

Humanity creates things that last; tools which pass through dozens of hands before becoming worn beyond use, structures that stand strong for decades, centuries and even several millennia. There are also occasions where we make things for a simple and easy use, where they are only meant to last for short periods of time. Building 1133 of Camp Pendleton, better known as “the white house” was one such structure. Acting as both a headquarters and administration building for the growing conflict in the Pacific, it even expanded to accommodate the needs of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions that also participated in World War II’s Pacific Theatre.

“The sergeant major’s office is my favorite room,” said USMC Sgt. Maj. William T. Sowers, former sergeant major of the 1st Marine Division. “The amount of detail in the wood and the fire place gives it that really old feeling and gives off the air of a museum.”

In the early years it did not have the nickname “the white house”. It stood amongst many buildings that were painted the same cheap, bare off-white and was not unique beyond its purpose. Styled like many of the buildings to ensure the security of the command, it served many Marines throughout the Pacific for the course of World War II.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

The 1st Marine Division Headquarters Building on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)

The structure grew upon the Marines that called it home and in 1946 it was officially ordained the 1st Marine Division Headquarters building. This would lead to it being modified decades later, not once, but twice to ensure the building could continue to function and support the many Marines that passed through its halls. Though the renovations have ensured the building has stayed with both the times and technology of the era from phone wiring to internet within its walls, its overall structure and design are still the same as it was when first built.

“It was not as iconic to us during our time,” said U.S. Marine Corps Retired General Matthew P. Caulfield. “We never knew it as ‘the white house’. We never thought about the fact it was the division command post during World War II. We simply knew it as the place we work, though we sometimes referred to it as ‘the head shed’.”

Due to the era in which ‘the white house’ was made, there were many developmental needs required of it during that time. One of the largest was the need to withstand a possible attack. A Japanese invasion of the U.S. was a realistic threat in the 40s. To ensure the safety of the command staff, the building was meant to be indistinguishable from the rest. To those born in the last 40 years, the very concept of a military attack on the U.S. is simply something that would not and could not happen. But in 1940, when Camp Pendleton was officially opened, thousands of Marines marched up from San Diego for combat exercises against a fake enemy. It caused a panic within the civilian population. People initially thought a Japanese invasion had occurred. The base’s presence even led to a drop in the housing market, a fact that is inconceivable to most Southern California home owners today.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

The main gate of Camp Pendleton.

The threat of attack from the skies influenced much of what would become Camp Pendleton as we know it today. The camps on base are spread wide across the camp’s more than 195 square miles, originally designed to protect the base from being crippled in one decisive airstrike, according to Dowling. In the attics of the White House and other buildings from the era, there is still evidence of the original plywood roofing used. Pressed wood was used at the time for two reasons: actual wood planks were in immediate need to build and replace decks of Navy ships, and pressed wood was less likely to create deadly wood debris if the buildings were stuck by a Japanese bomber.

“The white house” was designed by Myron B. Hunt, Harold C. Chambers and E. L. Ellingwood. Their firms handled the development of several buildings across Camp Pendleton during the 1940s. Based on the U.S. Navy B-1 barracks, which was a common design to further make the building indistinguishable from other building on base at the time, making it less of a target for Japanese bombers after Pearl Harbor. Few of these barracks are still left standing after the 70 plus years since their development. The B-1, much like its sibling structure, “the white house” was only a temporary design meant to last for the duration of the war. In 1983 congress would pass the Military Construction Authorization Bill of 1983, which demolished many of the older temporary structures of World War II in favor of new designs. Some structures were renovated due to their historical significance. “The white house” interior was included in these renovations. The building underwent changes to its exterior but maintained its current shape with only a few minor changes.

Since its construction many people have entered “the white house” and many more have driven past it. It is an iconic symbol of the 1st Marine Division with dozens of memorials surrounding it, capturing the sacrifice of every Marine who fought with the Division during its many battles through our history. From officers arriving at its doors in 1940 Ford staff cars, to 1968 Volkswagen Beatles, and even more recently, a 2018 name your make and model. When one steps out of their vehicle, they would gaze up at the white building marked by the iconic blue diamond and the battle streamers the division has earned.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

The 1st Marine Division Headquarters Building on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, May 17, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Prado)

In the old days it would support the entire command staff, but now much of the command is spread out across Camp Pendleton. Many Blue Diamond alum have even thought of making it into a museum, given the many historical pieces that already line its halls. It gives off that feeling of having entered a place engrained with history.

“The iconic building of the ‘Blue Diamond,’ it is the division,” said Sowers. “Many people assume that this is the main command post for the Marine Expeditionary Force or even the Marine Corps Installations West.”

Many of the older veterans were not using to dealing with the commands of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Sowers. When they thought of “the white house” they’d think of the commanding general who presided over all they knew of the Marines on the West Coast at that time.

Generals, majors, sergeants and lance corporals have walked its halls over the last 70 years. Some still live amongst us while others have given the ultimate sacrifice. Their memories and actions live through both the 1st Marine Division and “the white house” itself, which has been an unchanging monument to the Marines of the 1st Marine Division. No matter the age in which one served the Division, all have known that building in one way or another. It is a testament to both the Division and the Marines that have served. Our ideals have become engrained into its very structure and it has become a permanent member in both the hearts and minds of the Marines of the 1st Marine Division.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US will rewrite its rules for helmet cams in combat

U.S. military leaders are considering new guidelines for the use of helmet cameras on the battlefield after Islamic State-linked fighters in Niger exploited footage taken by a fallen American soldier to make a propaganda video that highlighted the killing of four U.S. forces.


Weeks after the deadly October 2017 ambush, people linked to the militants shopped around the grisly footage to news organizations. When few expressed interest, the insurgents added music and propaganda, made a short movie, and posted it online. Then it was written about in a number of news stories around the world.

The Islamic State group’s capitalization on its fortunate find after the northern Niger battle highlighted the risk for the U.S. military of its men and women using the popular mini-cameras on missions. Experts say military officials are likely to respond with tighter controls.

Also read: Nigeria just bought the JF-17 Thunder to blast Boko Haram

“The need for clear guidance on the use of cameras in operations was amplified by the ambush in Niger,” said Navy Capt. Jason Salata, spokesman for Special Operations Command, based in Florida. And U.S. Africa Command, which doesn’t have its own policy on the issue, is also doing a review to determine whether new guidelines are required, said Army Col. Mark Cheadle, spokesman for the command.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
The funeral of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Black in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 30, 2017. Black was assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) on Fort Bragg, North Carolina when he died from wounds sustained during enemy contact in the country of Niger in West Africa, Oct. 4, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)

The goal is to ensure commanders understand the risks when they authorize helmet cameras or other video to be recorded. One idea centers on security measures that would make it harder for enemies who get their hands on such footage to use it.

“I think they’re doing the right thing by saying, ‘Well, we can’t limit its usage, we’ve got to limit its vulnerabilities, things like encrypting them,'” said Spencer Meredith, associate professor of national security at the National Defense University. “So, how do we take something like a helmet cam, which is a vital tool for ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance), for training, for mission analysis, for after-action reports and put limits on its vulnerabilities?”

Related: These combat camera vets return to train young troops

While some form of encryption would be the most likely approach, Meredith said, other technological fixes include ways to limit the battery life or otherwise make a device inoperable after a certain period of time. Other guidelines could address who can approve the use of helmet cameras and similar technology, and where and how they can be used.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
Nigerien soldiers. (Photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher C. Klutts)

The commanders of U.S. forces in Africa and the Middle East will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 13, 2018.

The military’s increased usage of GoPros and other video cameras reflects their booming presence in our everyday lives. Such technology can deliver bird’s-eye views of skiers hurtling down the slopes, divers exploring the sea floor, breathtaking parasailing tours, and whitewater rafting. It takes no special training for amateurs to get in on the act.

But the technology’s penetration of the military over the years has been uneven. It was originally more prominent among special operations forces, but has since expanded to conventional troops as the cameras became more widespread and more commanders became convinced of their value.

More: This Combat Camera vet used his skills to launch a civilian career as a photojournalist

The benefits range from training to assistance on the battlefield. Troops often wear the cameras during drills as a way to hone skills, identify shortcomings, and work through various exercise scenarios. Once deployed, forces use them on missions, capturing film of enemy operations or gathering intelligence.

The video is generally stored on the camera, not live-streamed back to observers or commanders. It can be useful after a mission to review details, analyze enemy tactics, or to prove or rebut charges of abuse or civilian casualties. For example, U.S. forces have tried to use video to capture dangerous incidents involving Iranian or Russian aircraft or ships, hoping to document what happened in case complaints are challenged.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane, combat cameraman. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane)

Combat camera photographs or video footage from training or military missions also are often released to the public or posted on Defense Department websites and social media accounts, after being declassified and cleared.

“The value is after the fact, when you’re analyzing it,” Meredith said. “Is there something that you missed, a person over here you may want to go back and talk to? It’s the after action report where it becomes useful.”

Rules on helmet camera use have lagged, however. Instead of having their own guidelines, such devices so far have been lumped in with other more general restrictions on photography and videotaping. These largely prohibit pornography or any unauthorized imagery of casualties, detainees, classified or sensitive equipment or locations, or intelligence gathering.

Related: Now commandos have a new camera to record their door-kicking exploits

But those rules were designed to address unrelated problems. After video surfaced of several Marines urinating on the bodies of enemy fighters in Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command in 2013 beefed up the photography and video regulations for troops deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas in the Middle East.

They stipulated troops can use videos for official purposes when collecting evidence or intelligence or on other missions that would be aided by recordings, if approved by an officer who is a lieutenant colonel or higher. In the Navy, that would be a commander or higher.

In the Niger mission, the team of American and Nigerien forces traveled to the last known location of a senior militant and sought to collect any remaining evidence. A helmet camera could be used appropriately in that type of mission.

Articles

French trawler catches a Portuguese submarine

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
Portuguese Type 214 submarine. (Photo: PN)


A French fishing trawler had a larger haul than normal, catching the NRP Tridente, a Portuguese Type 214 submarine, in its nets off the coast of Cornwall, England.  Despite the Tridente hitting the trawler as it surfaced, no casualties on either vessel were reported in the incident. The sub was in British waters as part of a NATO exercise.

The Type 214, one of two Portugal purchased from Germany, is not the first to have been caught by a trawler. In April, 2015, a similar incident off Northern Ireland involving the British trawler Karen being dragged backwards at 10 knots was initially blamed on a Russian submarine before the Royal Navy accepted responsibility for the incident. The Karen suffered substantial damage to its deck but made it back to port.

A March 2015 incident off the coast of Scotland was blamed on a Russian sub. That time, the sub not only came close to dragging the fishing boat Aquarius down as it tried to free itself from the net, it also made off with the trawler’s two-ton catch of haddock and skate, according to The Daily Mail. The Aquarius survived the close call.

The Type 214 sub displaces just over 2,000 tons when submerged. It is armed with eight 21-inch torpedo tubes that can fire IF-21 Black Shark torpedoes or Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and can reach speeds of up to 20 knots. The Type 214 also has air-independent propulsion, which enables it to re-charge its batteries without having to use diesel engines and a snorkel, albeit it does maintain that capability.

Fishing trawlers are not the only vessels that have caught subs. In 1983, the frigate USS McCloy (FF 1038) caught a Soviet Navy Victor III nuclear-powered submarine K-324 with its towed-array sonar. The submarine was disabled, forced to surface, and had to be towed to Cuba for repairs. In 2009, a Chinese submarine also got caught in a towed array cable. The AN/SQR-19 system of USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) snagged the sub’s propeller as well. While the submarine was not damaged, the John S. McCain needed to repair its towed array sonar system.

Such incidents have high stakes for the submarines. Most submarines only have a single propeller and shaft, and damage to either can leave the submarine stranded a long way from home. In this case, the Tridente was able to make it back to port.

Articles

Sailor killed in Mosul was attached to SEAL team

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan. | U.S. Navy photo


An explosive ordnance disposal technician killed by an ISIS bomb in Iraq on Oct. 20 had been working with a Navy SEAL team near Mosul at the time of his death, Military.com has learned.

Chief Petty Officer Jason C. “JJ” Finan, 34, had been attached to a Coronado, California-based SEAL team at the time of his death, according to a source with close knowledge of the events. Military.com is not releasing the name of the team to avoid compromising operational security.

Finan was killed when his Humvee rolled over an improvised explosive device as it was exiting a minefield, the source said. No other teammates were injured.

In an interview with Stars and Stripes in Irbil, Iraq, this weekend, the commander of the coalition fight against the Islamic State, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, provided more context, saying Finan had spotted one IED and was directing teammates and civilians to safety when his vehicle struck another roadside bomb.

A Defense Department official confirmed to Military.com that Finan, as a member of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Three, had been attached to a special operations task force serving in Iraq.

SEAL teams frequently have outside augments serving in specialized capacities, such as explosive ordnance disposal.

In a pair of emails to unit family members, the commander of the SEAL team paid tribute to Finan and the sacrifice he made for his brothers-in-arms.

“JJ was the definition of a professional and a loyal teammate and he will be deeply missed,” the commanding officer wrote. “He answered the nation’s call and paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, and for it we will be forever grateful.”

The officer said the team planned to honor Finan formally and informally in coming weeks in a variety of ways.

“Meanwhile, we will remain resolute,” he said. “Our SEALs and sailors currently deployed will continue to do our nation’s work with the utmost dedication and professionalism … this country is blessed to have such patriots as JJ.”

Finan is the first U.S. service member to be killed supporting the Iraqi Security Forces’ assault on Mosul, the last major stronghold for the Islamic State in Iraq.

A 13-year sailor, Finan was a master explosive ordnance disposal technician who had previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and had also served aboard the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan early in his career.

He had twice been awarded the Combat Action Ribbon and had a number of awards honoring exemplary service, including the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Valor Device.

In just one day, a GoFundMe page created to support Finan’s family has raised more than $21,000.

MIGHTY SPORTS

These 10 moves will give you the ultimate ab workout

If you look at a list of body parts men want to tone, somewhere up near the top, you’ll see abs. Sure, bulging biceps would be great, and you probably wouldn’t mind pecs that pop either. But abs — those elusive, sculpted, six-pack symbol of hyper-fitness — are universally sought on any fitness list. And yet, there is a cottage industry selling misguided, haphazard ab advice. The best abs workouts for men are pretty hard to come by.

The main problem is that many workouts don’t take into account that your midsection is actually composed of multiple muscles. The rectus abdominis is probably the one you know best: Running down your centerline from your sternum to pubic bone, this is the muscle people are typically talking about when they describe a six-pack. Then there are the obliques, technically two sets of muscles that run on diagonals beneath the rectus abdominis from your lower ribs to your hip bones. The transverse abdominus is even deeper still, wrapping around the sides of your torso and stabilizing your core. Your lower back muscles also play an integral role in defining your core — both aesthetically (they eliminate some of that side-fat overhang situation) and functionally (a strong lower back helps you rotate your core and stand more erect).


Not sure whether you’re hitting all the essential muscles in your core routine? The workout here has you covered. These 10 moves will sculpt your midsection into one lean, mean abdominal machine. Of course, no core workout will ever be a success if it’s not accompanied by eating smart and keeping up the cardio — if you’re carrying extra pounds, you’re going to have a gut, no matter how many planks you do.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

(Photo by Sergio Pedemonte)

The ultimate abs workout

One you can get through the below workout comfortably, add reps to your set, or sets to your circuit, to keep challenging yourself.

1. Flutter kick

Lie on your back, legs extended, heels about 6 inches off the ground. Place your hands by your sides or under the small of your back for support. Begin to scissor your legs up and down, as if you are doing the backstroke in the pool. Flutter kick for 20 seconds, rest 10, then do 20 seconds more.

2. Leg drop

Lie on your back on the floor, legs straight up in the air, feet together. Place your hands by your sides or under the small of your back for support. Without bending your knees, lower your legs to just above the floor, then raise them back to their vertical position. Do 10 reps, rest 10 seconds, then do another 10 reps.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

(Photo by Eric Mills)

3. Russian twist

Grab an 8-10 pound medicine ball or dumbbell. Sit on the floor, knees bent, feet flat in front of you. Hold the weight with both hands, arms straight in front of your chest. Lean back so that your body is at 45 degrees (mid-situp position). Twist to the right, letting your arms swing over to your right side. Twist back to the left, letting arms swing to the left side of your body. That’s one rep. Do 10 reps, rest 10 seconds. Do 3 sets.

4. Plank

Get into an extended pushup position, then lower yourself to your elbows. Keeping your body in a straight line from head to toe, hold the position for 60 seconds. For variations on the theme, try a side plank (prop yourself up on one elbow, then raise your hips off the ground to create a straight line from your feet to your shoulders).

5. Jackknife

From an extended pushup position, engage your abs and hike your hips into the air until your body forms an inverted V shape. Hold for three counts, then lower yourself back into an extended pushup position, keeping your back flat. Repeat sequence for 60 seconds.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

(Photo by Humphrey Muleba)

6. V-sits 

Sit on the floor, knees bent, feet flat in front of you. Place a medicine ball between your feet. Lean back and lift your feet off the floor, straightening your legs until your weight is balanced in a V position. From here, either hold this position for 30 seconds, or for a more advanced challenge, bend and straighten your legs while maintain the V-hold. Relax, then repeat.

7. Side cable pull

Set the cable machine to a weight you can use for 8-10 reps. Stand perpendicular to the cable machine, left side closest, placing the pulley at chest height. Keeping your feet and hips stationary, twist your torso to the left and grab the pulley handle with both hands, arms straight. Pull the cable until your arms are straight in front of your body and your torso is straight over your legs. Hold for one count, then twist back toward the machine to return to the start position. Do 8-10 reps, then repeat on the opposite side. Do 2 complete sets.

8. Reverse crunches

Sit on the floor, knees bent, feet flat in front of you. Lean back so that your body is at 45 degrees (mid-situp position). Extend your arms in front of you as a counterbalance. Engage your abs and sink deeper toward the floor (don’t let your shoulders touch the ground), then immediately return to the start position. Pulse up and down for 30 seconds. Rest 10 seconds. Repeat for 30 seconds.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

(Photo by Felipe Galvan)

9. Pullup knee raise

Using an overhand grip, perform a standard pullup. Once your head clear the bar, hold the contraction while bending your knees to your chest. (For a simpler version, hang from the pullup bar, arms extended. Bend your knees to your chest, then release them.) Do 8-10 reps, 30 seconds rest. 2 sets.

10. Diagonal chop

Set the cable machine to a weight you can use for 8-10 reps. Half-kneel perpendicular to the cable machine, left side closest to the machine and left knee bent in front of you (right leg on the floor). Place the pulley just above head height. Keeping your lower body stationary, twist to the left and grab the pulley handle with both hands, arms straight. Pull the cable on a diagonal until your arms are down at your right hip, torso twisted to your right side. Hold for one count, then twist back to the left to return to the start position. Do 8-10 reps, then repeat on the opposite side. Do 2 complete sets.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch Civil War veterans at Gettysburg for the battle’s 75th reunion

As wars rage, there’s a natural tendency for combatants on both sides to hate each other. After all, it is their bullets and bayonets that are killing folks in your unit. You’ve lost buddies to them.


However, as the years go by, that hatred fades. Today, it’s not unusual to hear about American and Japanese veterans of World War II reuniting on friendly terms 70 years after that bitter conflict

— with war trophies even being returned in some exceptional cases. This was also true when it came to the American Civil War.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton
Civil War veterans had been holding reunions at Gettysburg for a number of years. This was a scene from the 1913 reunion. (Photo by Pennsylvania)

More than 50 years after the war, former adversaries began to reunite as friends. The war’s 75th anniversary reunion, for example, was particularly notable for bringing together almost 2,000 veterans. According to one contemporary media account at the time, the average age of the reunion was 94. That report also noted that a 1913 reunion had been marred by nine deaths among the veterans. The 1938 reunion, billed as the last great reunion for the Civil War vets, also was notable in that an eternal flame was lit to serve as a symbol of peace and unity.

What was also unique was that the Civil War veterans were also treated to an air show. Among the planes featured were the Consolidated PB-2, which saw brief service in World War II as a trainer, the Northrop A-17 Nomad, which also was primarily used as a trainer, and, a future legend, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.

Luckily for us, this unique reunion was caught on film. Check out this brief clip to see more, including the B-17 flyover.

 

(Civil War Trust | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is trying to get an edge on NATO as it stokes Ukraine

A confrontation between Russian and Ukrainian ships in the Black Sea in November 2018 ended with Ukraine’s ships seized and its sailors jailed.

It was the first direct clash between Moscow and Kiev in years, and it stoked tensions that have been elevated for years, especially after Russia intervened in Ukraine in 2014 and seized the Crimean Peninsula and then backed separatist movements along Ukraine’s eastern border.

The Nov. 25, 2018 clash took place in the Kerch Strait, which divides Crimea and mainland Russia and connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. Photos show Russia appears to have struck one of the Ukrainian ships with a heavy weapon, such as a 30mm gun or missile.


Since claiming Crimea, Russia has taken a more aggressive stance toward the Sea of Azov, declaring invalid a 2003 agreement in which Moscow and Kiev agreed to share the body of water.

In 2015, Russia began construction of a bridge over the Kerch Strait. The sea is already the world’s shallowest, no deeper than 50 feet, and the height of the bridge further restricted the size of ships that could pass through.

Russia has also interfered with Ukrainian shipping in the area and at times closed the strait completely — all of which is particularly challenging for Ukraine, which has major ports on the Sea of Azov.

Ukraine and Russia have both pursued a military buildup in the area, but Russia has more forces and their activity has been more substantial.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross, background, conducts an underway exercise with the Ukrainian navy.

Moscow’s moves in the Black Sea region are of a piece of with what it’s been doing throughout Eastern Europe amid heightened tensions with NATO.

‘An arc of A2/AD’

Since 2014, Russia has “built up tremendous amounts of capability” in Crimea, said Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at geopolitical-analysis firm Stratfor.

Russian forces in the area now amount to about 30,000 troops and more than 100 combat aircraft, up from dozens that were in the area prior to the takeover, Lamrani said. (In May 2018, 17 Russian planes swarmed a British warship sailing just 30 miles from Crimea.)

“They have now three battalions of S-400s, plus other air-defense systems, like the S-300 [and the] Buk M2,” Lamrani said. Another division of S-400 missiles is on its way to Crimea, where it will be the fourth on duty, according to Russian state media.

“They installed a number of coastal missile-defense batteries” firing weapons like Bastion and Bal cruise missiles, which can strike land and sea targets, Lamrani said. Russian state media also said this week that more Bal and other anti-ship missiles were headed to the Crimean city of Kerch, which overlooks the strait of the same name.

“They have some Iskander missiles they rotate through the area, lots of new artillery systems, lots of new armor,” Lamrani added, referring to Russian short-range, nuclear-capable cruise missiles. “They didn’t really have main battle tanks there before 2014. Now they do.”

Russia sees Crimea as a stronghold from which to pressure Ukraine and assert control over a broader swath of the Black Sea, Lamrani said.

Weapons like the S-400 and coastal-defense systems can be employed as a part of anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD, strategy, and their presence in Crimea and elsewhere along Russia’s eastern frontiers has garnered attention from NATO.

Russian “A2/AD capability [runs] from the high north through Kaliningrad, down to Crimea and all the way down into [Russia’s] base at Tartus in Syria,” Ben Hodges, who commanded the US Army in Europe before retiring at the end of 2017, told Business Insider at the beginning of November 2018.

The S-400, considered Russia’s most advanced air-defense system, is also deployed in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea and near Latakia on the Syrian coast. The S-300, which is older but still highly capable, has been deployed in the region, including in the breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia, which borders the Black Sea.

“There are varying degrees of capabilities” at each of those sites, Hodges added, “but the one in Kaliningrad and the one in Crimea are the most substantial, with air- and missile-defense and anti-ship missiles and several thousands of troops” from Russia’s army, navy, and air force. “That’s part of creating an arc of A2/AD, if you will.”

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

Russia S-400 air-defense systems in Syria.

(Russian Defense Ministry)

Russian moves around the Black Sea were particularly worrisome, Hodges said, comparing the seizure of Crimea and subsequent territorial claims in the Black Sea to China’s claims and island construction in the South China Sea.

Some of the NATO members bordering the sea, like Romania and Bulgaria, don’t have a major naval presence there, but Turkey would likely prevent Russia from having free reign in the sea.

With the vantage point provided by Crimea, Russian combat aircraft and land-based weapons systems like the S-400 and Bal missiles can extend their reach hundreds of miles into and over the Black Sea.

“They can effectively support their navy with an umbrella defense of surface-to-air missiles and anti-ship missile systems that can keep NATO away in case of any threat,” Lamrani said.

A2/AD systems could provide similar defense in a place like Kaliningrad, which has Russia’s only year-round, ice-free Baltic Sea port and is close to St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city. In western Syria, where Russian S-400 systems have already been deployed, US-led coalition forces have worked hard to avoid Russian airspace.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) flagship HMS Duncan, arrives to the harbor in Constanta, Romania, Feb. 2, 2018.

(NATO / CPO FRA C.Valverde)

‘Alive to these challenges’

Russian forces are outstripped by NATO as a whole, and an all-out Russian attack on another country is considered unlikely.

But concern has grown that Russian A2/AD in areas like eastern Syria or the Baltic and Black seas could create layered defensive bubbles and limit NATO’s freedom of movement — especially in an engagement below the threshold of war.

In the decades since the Cold War, NATO members also shifted their attention away from a potential conflict with a peer or near-peer foe, focusing instead on smaller-scale operations like counterterrorism. (The US and others have started to reverse this shift.)

“There’s been decline in … investments rather in this type of warfare, as NATO attention has shifted to other priorities,” Lamrani said of A2/AD.

But, he noted, Russia has pursued the mismatch to compensate for a weakness.

“Russia is stronger than NATO in air defenses and stronger than NATO in land-based anti-ship missile systems, as well as anti-missile systems in general,” Lamrani said. “That came out of Russia trying to mitigate its disadvantages in other areas. For instance, NATO naval forces are much stronger than Russia, and NATO air power as a whole is much stronger than Russia.”

Advanced stealth platforms, like the US-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, are seen as potential counters to A2/AD systems. And other assets, like the Navy’s EA-18G Growler electronic-attack aircraft, could help thwart them.

But it’s not clear those resources are available in the numbers needed to do so, nor is it likely such an engagement could be conducted without heavy losses.

Nevertheless, while Russia may find an advantage within the specific area of A2/AD, Lamrani said, “that doesn’t mean that NATO hasn’t been developing its own capabilities in other areas [and it] doesn’t mean that NATO hasn’t been thinking about this type of stuff.”

“Let’s just say the alliance is alive to these challenges, and it … will be prepared to use all the different things that would be required,” Hodges said in early November, without elaborating. “This is not something … the alliance has not looked at very closely.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone… a farewell to Navy veteran and soul singer Bill Withers

Bill Withers died earlier in the week from complications from heart disease at age 81. Withers was known for his amazing vocals, soulful songs and was one of the best soul singers of all time. He was also a veteran of the United States Navy.

His death has resulted in an outpouring of mourning and grief from singers, artists and fans cross the world.

Regarded as one of the best songwriters of his generation, his influence has been seen in multiple genres of music and generations of artists. Withers gave us such classics as ‘Lean On Me,’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine,’ ‘Grandma’s Hands,’ ‘Just the Two of Us’ and ‘Lovely Day.’

But there is one song that really resonates with veterans. In 1973, Withers released a song he had written while America was still involved in Vietnam.

Bill Withers – I Can’t Write Left Handed

www.youtube.com

Withers was born July 4, 1938, in Slab Fork, West Virginia. He was afflicted with a stutter from the time he was a child. He enlisted in the Navy at 18 where he served as an aircraft mechanic. He had good reason for wanting that field.

Withers told Rolling Stone, “My first goal was, I didn’t want to be a cook or a steward. So I went to aircraft-mechanic school. I still had to prove to people that thought I was genetically inferior that I wasn’t too stupid to drain the oil out of an airplane.”

While he was in the Navy, he was able to do speech therapy so he could stop stuttering. In fact, he stayed in the Navy as long as he could so he could work on his speech. He overcame his stutter using various techniques while also developing an interest in singing and songwriting. After nine years of service, he was discharged in 1965 and moved to Los Angeles to try and break into the music business. Withers worked for the aviation industry during the day while playing local night clubs at night trying to get noticed. His hard work paid off, when in 1970, he was signed to a record contract. His first album came out a year later and his career took off shortly thereafter.

After a couple of years of hits, Withers would write and perform a song that would be hailed as one of the most poignant songs about veterans and the war in Vietnam.

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“I Can’t Write Left-Handed” was written from the perspective of a wounded warrior. It wasn’t a political statement, it wasn’t self-righteous, it wasn’t inflammatory. It was simply what he thought Vietnam Veterans went through and what they were going to go through. It was one of the first songs to touch on the mental anguish and post traumatic stress many Vietnam Veterans experienced in the years after the war.

Withers opened the song with a spoken intro….

“We recorded this song on October the 6th. Since then the war’s been declared over. If you’re like me you’ll remember it like anybody remembers any war: one big drag. Lot of people write songs about wars and government … Very social things. But I think about young guys who were like I was when I was young. I had no more idea about any government, or political things or anything. And I think about those kind of young guys now who all of a sudden somebody comes up, and they’re very law-abiding, so if somebody says go they don’t ask any questions they just go. And I can remember not too long ago seeing a young guy with his right arm gone. Just got back. And I asked him how he was doing. He said he was doing all right now but he had thought he was gonna die. He said getting shot at didn’t bother him, it was getting shot that shook him up. And I tried to put myself in his position. Maybe he cried, maybe he said…”

The lyrics then tell us the story of the man with a missing right arm.

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I can’t write left handed

Would you please write a letter to my mother
Tell her to tell the family lawyer
Try to get a deferment for my younger brother

Tell the Reverend Harris to pray for me, lord, lord, lord
I ain’t gonna live, I don’t believe I’m going to live to get much older
Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never
Bless his heart I ain’t never done nothin’ to, he done shot me in my shoulder

Boot camp we had classes
You know we talked about fightin’, fightin’ everyday
And lookin’ through rosy, rosy colored glasses
I must admit it seemed exciting anyway
But something that day overlooked to tell me
Bullet look better I must say
Rather when they comin’ at you.
But go without the other way

And please call up the Reverend Harris
And tell him to ask the lord to do some good things for me
Tell him, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live, I ain’t gonna live to get much older
Strange little man over here in Vietnam, I ain’t never seen, bless his heart I
Ain’t never done nothing to, he done shot me in my shoulder

After a long career with many hits, Withers withdrew from the music industry. He felt that he was too old and that touring and performing were a young man’s game. Withers will go down as one of the true icons of soul and one of the best vocalists of his generation. Let us also remember him for his service to our country as well as using his talent to give a voice to those who served in Vietnam. Rest in peace, Sir.

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Articles

This country plans on using fighter jets to hunt down poachers

Ever see those signs on the highway that read “speed limit enforced by aircraft”?


Well, if you’re in South Africa, you might just start seeing similar signage declaring anti-poaching laws are being enforced by the country’s Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter jets.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that illegal hunting could be dealt with using a JDAM strike, or even a gun run with the Gripen’s 27 mm Mauser cannon. However, it definitely does herald a new mission for the South African Air Force, and brings to the forefront the struggles the country has had over the years with curbing rampant poaching across its outback.

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Swedish JAS 39 Gripens at Nellis AFB during the multi-national Red Flag exercise (Photo US Air Force)

The SAAF aims to use the Litening III pod to track poachers at night near the South Africa-Zimbabwe border. Built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems of Israel, the Litening is widely used as to designate targets for guided munitions, enhancing their effectiveness in combat situations.

Instead of designating poachers for an airstrike, the SAAF will use Litening’s reconnaissance capabilities, allowing them to see activity on the ground clearly, even while flying at night. The pod can be slung underneath the aircraft on its wings, or beneath its fuselage on a “belly pylon.”

Litening has already more than proven its worth in night operations in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past 15 years.

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A Litening pod attached to an A-10 Thunderbolt II (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Using a datalink developed in South Africa known as “Link ZA,” information on the location of poachers as well images of them in action can be shared with other aircraft in the area, or even controllers on the ground. This would presumably be used to vector rangers on the ground to the general location of the poachers.

Poaching has been a widespread and seemingly unstoppable issue in South Africa for decades, causing an alarming decrease in the country’s rhino population. Combat veterans, hired by private security companies and smaller organizations such as Vetpaw have been deployed to the area to combat poaching  in recent years.

The Gripen is a multirole fighter with air-to-ground and air-to-air capabilities, serving with a number of countries across the world. Designed and manufactured in Sweden, it was built as a versatile competitor to the likes of the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale and other similar fighters of the current era.

The single-engine fighter currently flies in Thailand, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Sweden, in addition to South Africa, and will soon enter service with the Brazilian Air Force. Saab is still aggressively courting a next-generation version of the Gripen, called the Gripen NG – slightly more on par with Boeing’s Advanced Super Hornet.

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One of nine two-seater ‘D’ model Gripens operated by the SAAF (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

South Africa began taking delivery of its Gripens in 2008, purchasing a total of 26 planes — a mix of single and two-seaters. In 2013, less than half of these aircraft were operational at any given time. Slashes made to the country’s defense budget forced the SAAF to limit flight operations while placing a group of its brand new fighters in storage as they could not be flown.

It was reported last year that the SAAF began rotating its Gripens in and out of storage, activating some of the mothballed fighters to return to service, while storing others to be reactivated later on. Since South Africa does not face any military threats, none of these Gripens have ever been involved in combat situations.

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Rhinos grazing in a nature preserve near Gauteng, South Africa (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

It’s possible that using fighters in such a role might prove to be too expensive for the South African government, though, necessitating the SAAF to explore utilizing a different aircraft for its anti-poaching operations. However, this in itself could be problematic as the Litening pod can only be equipped to fighter and attack jets.

Using Gripens, orbiting high above poaching target zones, will likely turn out to be a decent interim solution while the South African government comes up with a cheaper and more cost-effective solution. Until then, poachers beware, you’re being watched by state-of-the-art fighter jets in night skies above.

 

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to protect yourself from Chinese cyber spies

The FBI has a clear message for the US public: Chinese society itself is a threat to the US due to its heavy engagement with espionage and influence campaigns.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said as much at a February 2018 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, during which he said naive academics have allowed “nontraditional collectors” of intelligence to infiltrate the US’s revered “very open research and development environment” in universities.


While Chinese citizens have been pouring into US and Western universities and industries, China has seen an explosion in domestic technology, especially in its military and space sectors.

To be fair, all countries with the capability engage in spycraft, but the Chinese Communists don’t gather intelligence like the US does.

China’s society is not like the US’s. In China, everything belongs to the ruling Communist Party, including the military and intelligence services, and its people can be coerced into their service.

Beijing has gone to extreme lengths to police its people on even social interactions, establishing leverage over their citizens, even the ones living abroad. Chinese citizens in the US and Canada have reported threats being made to their families on the mainland when they speak up against the CCP.

The US has accused China of coercing foreign firms into technology transfer. The private sector, as it tries to break into China’s massive market, is filled with off-the-record horror stories of spying and theft of secrets.

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(Photo by howtostartablogonline.net)

Because of the clandestine nature of spycraft, it’s almost impossible to know if you’re the subject of Chinese espionage, but there are steps you can take to reduce the risk you face.

Based on insider accounts, here’s how you can protect yourself from suspected outlets of Chinese espionage as a US citizen.

Avoid Chinese tech

Bill Bishop, an author who has lived on and off in China for decades and writes the Sinocism newsletter for Axios, tweeted the following: “Entertaining to talk to Chinese engineers with experience with Huawei about whether or not Huawei installs back doors. Unanimous ‘Of course’ followed by ‘how naive are the foreigners who still doubt that.'”

New court documents filed in the US allege that ZTE, another Chinese phone maker, was set up with the express purpose of conducting international espionage.

With a camera, microphone, and the logins of its owners accounts, accessing the smarphones of US citizens would be a massive intelligence boon for any nation.

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Public naivety comes up again and again in intelligence circles. In May, the US banned all Chinese-made smartphones from the Pentagon, saying devices from Huawei and ZTE “may pose an unacceptable risk to department’s personnel, information and mission.”

If the Pentagon is taking seriously the risk of espionage via Chinese-made phones, maybe savvy US citizens should follow suit.

Don’t bring tech to China

“If you have a security briefing” before heading to China for a company with sensitive information, “you would be told ‘do not take a laptop,'” Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project told Business Insider.

“I once got a security briefing or someone told me ‘do not leave the laptop in your room and take a shower, someone could walk in and download your information and be out,'” said Glaser.

Glaser said it’s common for foreigners staying in a hotel in China to return from the gym or a trip and find “people rummaging around their room.”

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(Photo by Charles & Hudson)

China has been “aggressive” about intelligence gathering from government and business officials “for years and years and years, and they are really good at it,” said Glaser.

“Any person who is really dealing with proprietary information, nobody takes a laptop, nobody writes an email. People who are really serious about security will take a burner phone, they would never take their own phone,” said Glaser.

Use caution with Chinese nationals

The Chinese Communist Party has extraordinary powers within its borders to detain and reeducate people over something as central and inoffensive as an ethnic or religious identity.

In 2014, the FBI issued a public service announcement warning against being a pawn for Chinese spies. US students are “coming back from an overseas experience saying unusual things happened, offers that didn’t make sense, for money, big favors, positions they really weren’t suited for. And we think a lot of those were pitches or recruitments,” the FBI said.

Naturalized Chinese citizens in the US been indicted countless times, with many being employed by Chinese firms to steal secrets across a broad swath of US industries. The FBI’s Wray warned in February 2018, specifically that Chinese “professors, scientists, students” all participated in intelligence gathering.

China is widely suspected of using cyber crime to steal US plans for the F-35 stealth jet, but other more civilian industries like agriculture and manufacturing are at risk too, according to experts.

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F-35 Lightning II
(Lockheed Martin photo)

Wray received considerable backlash for his comments from Asian-American civil rights groups who noted in a letter to Wray that “well-intentioned public policies might nonetheless lead to troubling issues of potential bias, racial profiling, and wrongful prosecution.”

But Wray stood firm in his analysis.

“To be clear, we do not open investigations based on race, or ethnicity, or national origin,” Wray told NBC News. “But when we open investigations into economic espionage, time and time again, they keep leading back to China.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

DoD releases new biodefense strategy for man-made, natural threats

The new National Biodefense Strategy is a living document designed to counter man-made and natural biological threats, National Security Advisor John Bolton said during a September 2018 White House briefing.

“This is critical, we think, for our defense purposes looking at the range of weapons of mass destruction the United States our friends and allies face,” he said.

While nuclear weapons are an existential threat to the United States, chemical and biological weapons also pose dangers to Americans. Bolton noted that biological weapons often are called “poor man’s nukes” and said the biodefense strategy aims at countering that threat.


Steering Committee

“What we’ve done is establish a Cabinet-level biodefense steering committee to be chaired by the Department of Health and Human Services,” he said. “This is the approach best suited for carrying out the strategy operationally.” HHS Secretary Alex Azar will chair the committee.

Participating agencies include the departments of Defense, Agriculture and Homeland Security, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and others.

Bolton stressed that this is just one part of the nation’s biodefense strategy and does not encompass what the U.S. offensive response would be to a biological attack. He also said the strategy will evolve as needed. As new techniques or new medical treatments or new threats emerge, he added, the strategy will change.

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A nurse takes a patient’s pulse in the influenza ward at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., near the end of the Spanish Flu epidemic, Nov. 1, 1918. Fresh air was believed to help prevent the spread of the disease, which killed 50 million to 100 million people worldwide. Pandemic flus such as this are rare, occurring just three times in the 20th century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(Library of Congress photo)

Azar, who also spoke at the briefing, noted that the strategy has to cover a range of threats, from nation-states to individuals. He noted that the anthrax attack of 2001 was launched by an individual, while the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918 that infected a quarter of all Americans and killed almost 700,000 was natural.

The threats are real and growing, Azar said. The world is growing more urbanized and interconnected, which speeds the spread of infectious threats. He noted the early summer 2018 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Such is the ease of travel between countries now that just in the DRC, more than 100,000 people are being screened at border crossings every day,” he said. “We also face accidental and man-made threats. Today’s rapid technological advances have great potential to improve public health and human health, but they also create the opportunity for new kinds of threats and for more and more actors to make use of biological weapons.”

The strategy looks to promote research into combating pandemics and coordinating response to attacks or outbreaks. It looks to work with allies, the United Nations’ World Health Organization, the Red Cross and others.

Featured image: National Security Advisor John Bolton.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

Israeli air strike hits huge Hezbollah weapons stockpile in Syria

A stockpile of weapons for the terrorist group Hezbollah was hit April 27 by the Israeli Defense Force, resulting in a huge explosion in the vicinity of Damascus International Airport.


According to a report by Reuters, propaganda from Syrian state media placed blame squarely on the Israelis. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that Israel reserved the right to act in order to prevent Hezbollah from receiving “advanced weapons” from Iran.

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F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“The incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy to act to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah,” the British news agency quoted Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz as saying in an interview with Army Radio, even as the Israeli military declined to comment on the apparent air strike.

Israel has apparently launched other strikes against stockpiles of weapons that are allegedly en route to Hezbollah — albeit the only truly confirmed strike was one this past March that resulted in the first confirmed kill for the Arrow missile defense system. According to Bloomberg, another depot was targeted late last week. The terrorist group is backing Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, alongside their Iranian sponsors. A BBC compilation of suspected Israeli strikes – and the one from last March that was confirmed – include some that have killed Hezbollah terrorists and in one instance, an Iranian general.

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An Israeli F-15I fighter jet launches anti-missile flares during an air show at the graduation ceremony of Israeli pilots at the Hatzerim air force base in the Negev desert, near the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 27, 2012. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ

Iran has a history of providing terrorist groups and rebels with support. During the Iraq War, Iran allegedly provided explosively-formed penetrators to Shiite insurgents in Iraq, while also reportedly passing them on to anti-Afghan forces as well. Iran’s support for the insurgents is believed to be responsible for the deaths of at least 500 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iran also supplied Noor anti-ship missiles to Houthi rebels in Yemen, who launched multiple attacks on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87). The United States eventually responded by launching Tomahawk cruise missiles at radar sites controlled by the Houthis. An Iranian-supplied anti-ship missile was fired on the Israeli corvette INS Hanit that did minor damage during the 2006 Lebanon War.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how to restore a classic M1903 Springfield rifle

For the longest time, I always wanted an M1903 Springfield rifle. This was the rifle that served in two world wars and saw use as late as the Vietnam Conflict. To this day the rifle serves in Honor Guard Detachments honoring our fallen military members and US veterans. It’s one of those iconic fighting rifles that every serious gunny should have in their safes.

My problem was two-fold.

First, they always seemed to be around and always seemed to be priced on the lower end of the spectrum. I would see one, handle it, inspect it and think about it; only to be swayed by some other firearm, seemingly at the last minute. Those of us who lived through the Federal Assault Weapon Ban of 1994 or any of the numerous state bans know this phenomenon all too well.


“That’s just an old bolt-action rifle. I need to buy more ammo, more magazines, more black guns, before I can’t get them anymore.”

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(Recoilweb)

Invariably this leads to the second part of the dilemma. By the time you think your collection, or horde, is squared away and you can go for something you really want as a fun shooter or a collectible; that price has seemed to skyrocket.

“Oh my God! I remember when these things were all day long in a pickle barrel outside the gun shop! Now they want 00!!!!”

If I am exaggerating, it is only slightly. Prices of obsolete or out of production firearms rise due to scarcity and demand. Remember when Mosin Nagant rifles sold as low as each, in some areas that price has increased more than 10-fold! Then the realization hits you that there were only a finite amount of those rifles to go around.

Many military surplus rifles were converted into sporting rifles because a surplus Mauser, Enfield or even a Springfield 1903 was much cheaper than a commercially manufactured bolt-action hunting rifle. In the past few years, I have actually restored a number of these rifles to their former military appearance. When I came across this Remington M1903A3 Springfield at around 0, I thought I would take another chance.

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(Recoilweb)

Luckily the rifle’s action, barrel, and sights were still intact. The previous owner had discarded the original military stock, handguards, and the metal stock hardware. I removed the barreled action from the commercial Fajen stock and began my search for the rest of the parts.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

(Recoilweb)

I found all the metal hardware at SARCO: butt plate, sling swivels, stacking swivel, sling swivel screws, and handguard ring. It was a mix of some original and some reproduction. I found an original military stock on an auction site and a reproduction handguard in the white and handguard clips at Numrich Arms.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

(Recoilweb)

The stock was very dark and required a good deal of hand fitting in order to install the action properly. This was mostly with regard to the internal magazine body and the mounting screw channels. I spent a week staining the new handguard, but it never got quite as dark as the stock. Eventually I might go with another stock closer in color to the hand guard, but for now, I would be satisfied with just a decent shooter.

I had hopes… the trigger was nice, the bore was clean and the metal still had that Remington green hue to it for which the Remington-built rifles were famous.

It was installing the metal hardware that proved to be its own challenge.

At first glance you might think that these parts slide over the front sight and barrel, but the front sight sits too high and requires removal.

I soaked it overnight in Kroil and the next day removed the front sight base, as trying to tap just the sight blade usually leads to its destruction.

The base is set in a keyway and although it’s a notoriously tight fit, it comes off rather easily. Drift out the pin, drive out the sight, remove the entire blade. The handguard, bands, etc. are then easily installed and the sight is put back into place. I advise going slow, using lots of machine oil and you won’t ding or destroy your sight.

With the rifle together and in as close to original condition as I was going to take it at this point, I set out to the range.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

(Recoilweb)

One of the things I like about the M1903A3 is the longer sight radius with the rear mounted peep sight. It may not be as fast as some military rifles with their over the chamber mounted rear sights, but I’m not gearing up to storm the beaches of Guadalcanal anytime soon.

As a full-time firearms reviewer, consultant, and author I have the luxury of trying out many new firearms, but rarely get to shoot the ones I really enjoy.

The story of the iconic 1st Marine Division ‘White House’ at Pendleton

(Recoilweb)

Initial testing using some Greek surplus ball ammo yielded groups of 3.35″ to 4.5″ at 100 yards. The next time out, I might try some commercial ammunition and maybe even attempt some fitting of the handguard, stock, and barrel bands. There are a lot of components that can affect accuracy on this rifle, considering in its sporter configuration it produced groups of about half that size at the same distance.

The rifle filled a small void in my collection and will probably only be shot a few times a year if I am lucky. However, I still hold to the old adage that only accurate rifles are interesting and my goal will be to make my M1903A3 interesting once again.

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.