4 Badass Conscientious Objectors - We Are The Mighty
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4 Badass Conscientious Objectors

The controversy surrounding Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl continues to mount as rumors of a possible desertion charge against him spread — rumors as cloudy as the stories that surround his 2009 disappearance and capture.


Despite the fact that the Pentagon concluded in a 2010 investigation that he had simply walked away from his unit while serving at Combat Outpost Mest-Lalak in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, the truth behind the circumstances of his capture remains murky.

Some of his fellow soldiers call him a deserter, saying he planned to walk away the whole time.  They also blame him for the deaths of soldiers killed while looking for him in the days following his disappearance.

Bergdahl was freed by the Taliban in May 2014 in exchange for five Guantanamo Bay detainees, a swap that only added to the controversy in that the Obama administration seemed to be negotiating with terrorists and also seemed to be attempting to make a feel-good story out of something that had dubious elements.

A smattering of detail emerged – some of it courtesy of his parents who ended their silence at a high-profile Rose Garden ceremony heralding his release – including a notion that as Bowe Bergdahl’s enlistment went along, he increasingly viewed himself as a conscientious objector.

But there’s a big difference between a conscientious objector and a deserter.  In fact, military history shows that true conscientious observers would never desert.

4 Badass Conscientious Objectors
Desmond Doss receives the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Earning valid conscientious objector status in the U.S. military has always been a tough thing to accomplish. During the Civil War, the first American war to introduce forced conscription, objectors, like anyone else, could pay a $300 fine to hire a substitute.

During World War One, objectors were able to serve in noncombat roles. Those who refused were imprisoned in military facilities. The World War Two-era United States military was slightly more accommodating, allowing conscientious objectors to serve in the numerous, various New Deal work programs that were still necessary to the war effort.

Most of these programs were gone by the time of the Vietnam War, but COs could still find other ways to serve without violating their religious or social beliefs.

And some have demonstrated that being a conscientious objector doesn’t make you a slacker or a coward. In their stories one can see that true followers of their consciences would never use CO status as an excuse to shirk their duties.

Here are four examples of conscientious objectors who made their way to the front and served with valor:

1. Sergeant Alvin York

4 Badass Conscientious Objectors

Alvin C. York (aka “Sergeant York”) had to fight to get conscientious objector status. His subsequent acceptance of the Army’s decision is an integral part of the mythos of the man.

After a life of drinking and fighting, a religious experience led York to renounce his lifestyle and turn to fundamentalist Christianity. The doctrine of his newfound faith included a rejection of secular politics and a devout pacifism. He even began to lead the prayers of his local church.

Three years later, the United States would enter World War One and Alvin York would register for the draft, as any dutiful American did. He applied for conscientious objector status, even appealing after his first request was denied.

By the time he arrived in France, York had come to believe God meant for him to fight and to win and that God would protect him as long as was necessary. One night, he and three other NCOs led thirteen privates to infiltrate the German lines and take out the machine guns. Somewhere along the way, one machine gun opened up on York and his compatriots, killing or wounding nine of the sixteen men. York didn’t even have time to take cover. He stood his ground and picked off the whole crew.

While he was taking out the German gun, another six Germans went over the top of their trench and charged at the lone American with fixed bayonets. York, having exhausted his rifle’s ammunition, pulled his sidearm and dropped all six before they could reach him. The German commander surrendered his entire unit to York. 132 men in total were led back to the American lines by York and his six surviving privates. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for this action.

York became one of the most decorated doughboys of the Great War and returned home a hero. A movie was made about his exploits, for which Gary Cooper would win an Oscar for the title role of “Sergeant York.”

York attempted to re-enlist in World War Two, but was too old for combat duty, instead becoming a Major in the Army Signal Corps.

2. Desmond Doss

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If ever there was an example more different from Sergeant York’s, it’s the story of Desmond Doss.  Drafted as a medic during World War II, Doss was a devout Seventh Day Adventist.

In today’s military, he might not ever have made it past basic training. He refused to train or work on Saturdays.  He wouldn’t eat meat. He wouldn’t carry a weapon. Even in the face of taunts and threats from other members of his unit, he stood fast to his beliefs.  His commanding officer tried to get him a section eight discharge, meaning he was unsuitable for military service, but Doss refused to accept this discharge because it amounted to being called “crazy” due to his beliefs.

But Doss wasn’t useless. He wanted to serve; he just wasn’t willing to kill to do it. He even worked overtime hours to make up for his Saturday Sabbath. Still, his fellow soldiers threatened to kill him as soon as they got into action.  It was Doss’ dedication to saving lives that would earn him the love and respect of his unit.  Doss would do anything to save his men, from going into the open field, braving snipers, or dodging machine gun fire. From Guam to Leyte to Okinawa, Doss repeatedly braved anything the Japanese could muster to pull the injured to the rear.

It was at Okinawa where Doss entered Army history. As his unit climbed a vertical cliffside the Japanese opened up with artillery, mortars, and machine guns, turning his unit back and killing or wounding 75 men. Doss retrieved them one by one, loading them onto a litter and down the cliff.

A few days later, in the mouth of a cave, he braved a shower of grenades thrown from eight yards away, dressing wounds, and making four trips to pull his soldiers out. The last time, a grenade critically injured him. He treated his own wounds and waited five hours for a litter to carry him off.

On the way back, the three men had to take cover from a tank attack. While waiting, Doss crawled off his litter, treated a more injured man, and told the litter bearers to take the other man. While waiting for them to come back, he was hit in the arm by a sniper and crawled 300 yards to an aid station. He was the first true conscientious objector to earn the Medal of Honor.

3. Thomas Bennett
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Bennett was a student at West Virginia University in the Fall of 1967 as the war in Vietnam was heating up. He was committed to his country but was also deeply religious. His Southern Baptist beliefs kept him from killing even in the name of patriotism. Still, Bennett enlisted as a combat medic in 1968 to save the lives of his countrymen who would fight as he couldn’t.

He arrived in South Vietnam in 1969. A month later, Bennett’s bravery earned him a recommendation for a Silver Star. Two days after that, his platoon was dispatched to assist an ambushed patrol. They immediately came under fire from an entrenched enemy column with automatic weapons, mortars, and rockets.

As the point men fell wounded, he ran toward them and tended their wounds as he pulled each of them to relative safety. For the rest of the night and into the following day, he ran from position to position, aiding the wounded and pulling them back to safety. He ran just a bit too far trying to get to a man wounded ahead of the unit and was killed by an enemy sniper.

He received the Medal of Honor, the second conscientious objector to receive the U.S. military’s highest level of recognition.

4. Joseph LaPointe, Jr.

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Joseph LaPointe, Jr. was an average guy from Ohio, a mailman who got married at twenty years old. He was also a devout Baptist. Drafted in 1968, he declared himself a conscientious objector, but still opted to serve in the Army, taking the role of field medic with the 101st Airborne.

He arrived in Vietnam in June of 1968. By the next year, he was in the area of Quang Tin, having earned a Bronze Star and a Silver Star. On June 2, he landed on a cavalry patrol as they came under heavy fire from a nearby bunker. Two men in the lead were wounded immediately.

As the patrol took cover, LaPointe ran forward to help. He shielded the men with his body as he performed first aid. He was injured twice before dragging the men to cover. He continued to protect the two men with his own body until a grenade killed all three.

He also received the Medal of Honor.

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO agrees that Russia is in violation of major treaty

NATO allies agree that Russia is in material breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and have decided to start planning for a post-INF Treaty world, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels Dec. 4, 2018.

The secretary general spoke following a meeting of foreign ministers at NATO headquarters. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo represented the United States at the meeting.

“All allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a new ground-launched cruise missile system — the SSC-8, also known as the 9M729,” Stoltenberg said. “Allies agree that this missile system violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security. And they agree that Russia is therefore in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty.”


Tensions raised in Europe

The treaty — signed by President Ronald Reagan and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 – was a pillar of European security. The treaty eliminated an entire category of destabilizing weapons. Russia’s deployment ratchets up tension on the continent.

“This is really serious, because, of course, all missiles are dangerous, but these missiles are in particular dangerous because they are hard to detect, they are mobile [and] they are nuclear-capable,” the secretary general said at a news conference.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks with reporters during a foreign ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Dec. 4, 2018.

(NATO photo)

The new Russian missiles can reach European cities, thus reducing warning time. “And they also reduce the threshold for nuclear weapons in the event of a conflict,” he said. “That’s the reason why the INF Treaty has been so important, and that is why it is so serious that this treaty risks breaking down because of the Russian violations.”

Stoltenberg said the United States has made every effort to engage with Russia, and to seek answers about the new missile. “The U.S. has raised the matter formally with Russia at senior levels more than 30 times,” he said. “Other allies have raised it with Russia, too. We did so, a few weeks ago, in the NATO-Russia Council here in Brussels.”

Violation undermines allied security

But Russia has not listened and continues to produce and deploy the missiles. This violation “erodes the foundations of effective arms control and undermines allied security,” Stoltenberg said. “This is part of Russia’s broader pattern of behavior, intended to weaken the overall Euro-Atlantic security architecture.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The United States fully complies with the INF Treaty. “There are no new U.S. missiles in Europe, but there are new Russian missiles in Europe,” he said. “Arms control agreements are only effective if they are respected by all sides. A situation where the U.S. abides by the treaty and Russia does not is simply not sustainable.”

The NATO allies call on Russia once again to comply with the treaty. At the same time, the alliance will take appropriate actions to ensure the credibility and effectiveness of NATO’s deterrence and defense strategy, he said. “We will continue to keep Russia’s military posture and deployments under close review,” Stoltenberg said.

No one in NATO wants a new Cold War with a new arms race, he said. “We seek dialogue, not confrontation, with Russia,” the secretary general said. “Russia now has a last chance to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty, but we must also start to prepare for a world without the treaty.”

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

Articles

North Korea says new missile can carry heavy nuke

North Korea has boasted of a successful weekend launch of a new type of “medium long-range” ballistic rocket that can carry a heavy nuclear warhead.


Outsiders also see a significant technological jump, with Sunday’s test-fire apparently flying higher and for a longer time period than any other such previous missile.

Amid condemnation in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington, a jubilant leader Kim Jong Un promised more nuclear and missile tests and warned that North Korean weapons could strike the U.S. mainland and Pacific holdings.

North Korean propaganda must be considered with wariness, but Monday’s claim, if confirmed, would mark another big advance toward the North’s goal of fielding a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

MIGHTY TRENDING

South Korea wants to lower its bar for peace talks with the North

South Korea’s president said Feb. 26, 2018, that the United States should lower the threshold for talks with North Korea and that the two countries should start a dialogue soon.


President Moon Jae-in made the remarks in a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong one day after a senior North Korean official told Moon that his country is willing to open talks with the United States.

Also read: North and South Korea to train together at the Winter Olympics

The officials were in South Korea for the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Feb. 25, 2018.

According to his office, Moon asked for China’s support for U.S.-North Korea talks, and Liu responded that China would help facilitate them. Moon also said that North Korea should show a commitment to denuclearization, something it has refused to do.

Earlier, the U.S. said the international community needs to maintain maximum pressure on North Korea until it gives up its nuclear weapons development.

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President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

“We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization,” the White House said in a statement.

Moon met Feb. 25, 2018, with a North Korean delegation led by Kim Yong Chol, a former general whom South Korea has accused of being behind two attacks on the South that killed 50 people in 2010. Kim told Moon that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wanted to improve ties with Washington and had “ample intentions of holding talks,” according to the South Korean president’s office.

Related: North Korea’s brinkmanship will continue right after the Olympics

The North Korean delegation met with Moon’s national security chief on Feb. 26, 2018. Moon’s office said the two sides agreed that the Olympics had been a meaningful stepping stone toward restoring inter-Korean ties, and to continue to collaborate to seek a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

South Korean protesters burned a North Korean flag and used a knife to slash a portrait of Kim Jong Un near a hotel where the North Korean delegation was staying.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Over 40 Fox Company Marines drive to funeral of Chosin fallen

Sgt. Justus Branson, a platoon sergeant with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, looked on as his brother in arms, Pfc. Roger Gonzales, was lowered to his final resting place. Gonzales died 68 years earlier at the Chosin Reservoir while serving with Fox Company. Branson was part of a group of over 40 Marines who drove from Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Training Center Twentynine Palms to attend the funeral of Gonzales.


“The presence of so many Marines indicates the honor that we give for those who lay down their lives for their Country and their fellow citizens,” said Chaplain Daniel Fullerton, the chaplain for Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division. Chaplain Fullerton delivered the invocation during the funeral.

The group of Marines traveled to Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., to pay their respect to Gonzales, whose remains had been identified and transferred to the Gonzales family, 68 years after he was killed in action during Fox Company’s last stand at the Chosin Reservoir.

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The family of U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Roger Gonzales, with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regimant, 1st Marine Division, speak during his funeral service at the Green Hill Mortuary and Memorial Chaple, Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Sept. 21, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Miguel A. Rosales)

“Even if we were in the middle of a huge training operation, we would’ve driven across the country for this, without a doubt,” said Branson.

Family, friends, and service members from across the US paid their respect to Gonzales as he was laid to rest, next to his mother Anastacia, at Green Hills Cemetery. The bond that exists between the Marines and those that have gone before them is a sacred and timeless connection. Pfc. Gonzales shared some of the same bonds and experiences during his time in the Marine Corps that the Marines share and experience now.

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U.S. Marines with the Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regimant, 1st Marine Division, Color Guard, fold an American flag, during Pfc. Roger Gonzales’ funeral service at the Green Hill Mortuary and Memorial Chaple, Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Sept. 21, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Miguel A. Rosales)

During those times, men, ages 18 to 26 were drafted into the U.S. military and required to serve their country for the war ahead — some men didn’t need to be drafted. Such was the case for Pfc. Roger Gonzales, a San Pedro, California native.

Shortly after graduating high school, Gonzales enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserves and two years later found himself in North Korea with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division.

“The Marines moved us around together, his cousin and I, we were the 7th Marines when they were reforming it. We were in infantry training together, in the same squad, and so we got to be good friends,” said Robert Ezell, then a corporal with Fox Company. “We had good times together — we had a lot of laughs. We took care of each other like Marines do.”

Ezell continued by sharing that when he and Gonzales arrived to Korea, they were placed into the same company, but in different platoons.

At the time, the U.S. X Corps, which consisted mainly of the 1st Marine Division and the Army’s 31st Regimental Combat Team, occupied the Chosin Reservoir.

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The family of Pfc. Roger Gonzales recive American flags during his funeral service at the Green Hill Mortuary and Memorial Chaple, Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Sept. 21, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Miguel A. Rosales)

On Nov. 27, 1950, the Chinese force surprised the U.S. X Corps at the Chosin Reservoir. From November 27 to December 13, 30,000 United Nations troops (later nicknamed “The Chosin Few”) were encircled and attacked by approximately 120,000 Chinese troops. They were nicknamed the Chosin Few because of the inferior number of troops and the location of the battle.

The conflict lasted a brutal 17 days, which took place during some of the harshest weather conditions and roughest terrain of the war. The extreme weather conditions caused the weapons lubricant to freeze, rendering the troops’ weapons useless, and by the end of the fighting it had come to hand-to-hand combat. It would come to be known as one of the most gruesome battles of the Korean War. The war claimed the lives of more than 30,000 U.S. troops.

“After the first firefight, his cousin called me and told me that Roger had been killed on top of the mountain pass, Toktong Pass,” said Ezell.

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U.S. Marines with the Company F, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regimant, 1st Marine Division, Color Guard, render a salute to Pfc. Roger Gonzales during his funeral service at the Green Hill Mortuary and Memorial Chaple, Rancho Palos Verdes, California, Sept. 21, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Miguel A. Rosales)

Gonzales was buried at the base of Fox Hill. After the war, his remains were disinterred and returned to the U.S. but could not be identified at the time. However, through scientific advances and DNA tests from Gonzales’ younger sisters, Alicia Vallejo and Mary Rosa Loy, that changed. On June 4, 2018, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency was able to identify Gonzales’ remains.

After nearly 68 years of uncertainty and unanswered questions, the Gonzales family was finally able to honor their Marine who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Ezell remembered his friend, “I feel very honored to be able to speak at his burial. It’s just a big honor to me. I don’t know what else to say about him except that he was a great guy.”

For today’s Fox Company Marines, they felt they had to attend the funeral to make sure Gonzales was laid to rest with a proper goodbye from his unit.

“Knowing his story and knowing what he went through- being able to be here for him and represent him,” said Branson. “It’s probably the most meaningful thing I’ve done in the Marine Corps. It’s truly an honor to be here.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 50 most violent cities in the world

Latin America holds the ignominious distinction of having the most cities on Mexico’s Citizens’ Council for Public Security’s annual ranking of the world’s most violent cities for 2016.


Of the 50 cities on the list, 43 are in Latin America, including 19 in Brazil, eight in Mexico, and seven in Venezuela.

The region’s violence is in large part drug related, driven by traffickers and supplemented by gang wars, political instability, and widespread poverty that has been exacerbated by sluggish economic growth or economic reversals.

The council’s ranking contains cities with populations of more than 300,000 and does not count deaths in combat zones or cities with unavailable data, so some dangerous cities don’t appear on the list

In some cases, the Council has determined homicide rates through estimates based on incomplete data.

In Venezuela, for example, the government has not consistently released homicide data(though it did this year), so to find the rate for Caracas, the Council made an estimate based on entries at the Bello Monte morgue — though, as the Council admits, that morgue receives bodies from an area much larger than Caracas itself.

50. Durban, South Africa, had 34.43 homicides per 100,000 residents.

49. Curitiba, Brazil, had 34.92 homicides per 100,000 residents.

48. Cucuta, Colombia, had 37 homicides per 100,000 residents.

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2012 Car Bombing in Bogota Colombia targeting the former minister, Fernando Londoño.
Four Columbian cities made the list for deadliest places in the world. (Image Wiki)

47. Vitoria, Brazil, had 37.54 homicides per 100,000 residents.

46. Manaus, Brazil, had 38.25 homicides per 100,000 residents.

45. Macapa, Brazil, had 38.45 homicides per 100,000 residents.

44. Armenia, Colombia, had 38.54 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Armenia was the home of Carlos Lehder — a cocaine-addled neo-Nazi who helped start the Medellin cartel.

43. Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa, had 39.19 homicides per 100,000 residents.

42. Goiânia y Aparecida de Goiânia, Brazil, had 39.48 homicides per 100,000 residents.

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The mafia arson attack on the Casino Royale in Monterrey killed at least 52 people in 2011.Mexico had eight cities on the list of deadliest places in the world. (Image Wiki)

41. Ciudad Obregón, Mexico, had 40.95 homicides per 100,000 residents.

40. Chihuahua, Mexico, had 42.02 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Read more about the disappeared Ayotzinapa students here and here.

39. Cuiaba, Brazil, had 42.61 homicides per 100,000 residents.

38. Teresina, Brazil, had 42.84 homicides per 100,000 residents.

37. Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, had 43.63 homicides per 100,000.

Read more about the cartel-related violence plaguing Ciudad Juarez.

36. Detroit had 44.60 homicides per 100,000 residents.

35. Fortaleza, Brazil, had 44.98 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Read Now: These veterans are keeping kids safe on dangerous Chicago streets

34. New Orleans had 45.17 homicides per 100,000 residents.

33. São Luís, Brazil, had 45.41 homicides per 100,000 residents.

32. Kingston, Jamaica, had 45.43 homicides per 100,000 residents.

31. Palmira, Colombia, had 46.30 homicides per 100,000 residents.

30. Gran Barcelona, Venezuela, had 46.86 homicides per 100,000 residents.

29. João Pessoa, Brazil, had 47.57 homicides per 100,000 residents.

28. Recife, Brazil, had 47.89 homicides per 100,000 residents.

27. Mazatlan, Mexico, had 48.75 homicides per 100,000 residents.

26. Baltimore had 51.14 homicides per 100,000 residents.

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Murder victim in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil had 19 cities on the list of most dangerous places in the world.
(Image Andréa Farias)

25. Maceio, Brazil, had 51.78 homicides per 100,000 residents.

24. Culiacan, Mexico, had 51.81 homicides per 100,000 residents.

23. Guatemala City, Guatemala, had 52.73 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Cocaine seizures in Guatemala, a major drug transshipment point, recently hit a 10-year high.

22. Tijuana, Mexico, had 53.06 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Over the last two years, Tijuana has seen a spike in homicides, as rival cartels compete for control.

21. Cali, Colombia, had 54 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Also Read: The 5 most heavily-mined countries in the world

20. Salvador, Brazil, had 54.71 homicides per 100,000 residents.

19. Campos dos Goytacazes, Brazil, had 56.45 homicides per 100,000 residents.

18. Cumana, Venezuela, had 59.31 homicides per 100,000 residents.

17. Barquisimeto, Venezuela, had 59.38 homicides per 100,000 residents.

16. Vitória da Conquista, Brazil, had 60.10 homicides per 100,000 residents.

15. Feira de Santana, Brazil, had 60.23 homicides per 100,000 residents.

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Sharpshooters in Ferguson, Missouri, wait for violence to break out at protests after the verdict was read in the the Michael Brown death case. The United States has four cities on the list of most dangerous places in the world. (image Wiki)

14. St. Louis had 60.37 homicides per 100,000 residents.

13. Cape Town, South Africa, had 60.77 homicides per 100,000 residents.

12. Aracaju, Brazil, had 62.76 homicides per 100,000 residents.

11. Belém, Brazil, had 67.41 homicides per 100,000 residents.

10. Natal, Brazil, had 69.56 homicides per 100,000 residents.

9. Valencia, Venezuela, had 72.02 homicides per 100,000 residents.

8. Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, had 82.84 homicides per 100,000 residents.

7. San Salvador, El Salvador, had 83.39 homicides per 100,000 residents.

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Protesters protecting themselves from rubber bullets on 7 June. Venezuala appeared on the worlds deadliest cities list 7 times. (Image Wiki)

6. Maturin, Venezuela, had 84.21 homicides per 100,000 residents.

5. Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, had 84.67 homicides per 100,000 residents.

4. Distrito Central, Honduras, had 85.09 homicides per 100,000 residents.

3. San Pedro Sula, Honduras, had 112.09 homicides per 100,000 residents.

2. Acapulco, Mexico, had 113.24 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Acapulco, and Guerrero state as a whole, has been shaken by spiraling narco violence for more than a year.

1. Caracas, Venezuela, had 130.35 homicides per 100,000 residents.

Official data, released by the Venezuelan government for the first time in several years, put Venezuela’s 2016 homicide rate at at 70.1 per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the highest in the world and up from 58 in 2015.

Another estimate from a nongovernment organization put the national homicide rate at 91.8 per 100,000 people.

Read more about life in Caracas here.

Articles

Poland denies existence of Nazi ghost train

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Wikipedia/Team Mighty/”Riese Rzeczka korytarz 344″ by Przykuta


After analyzing mining data, Polish experts say there is no World War II-era Nazi ghost train in southwestern Poland, the BBC reports.

In November Polish mining experts began analyzing data from the site where two amateur treasure hunters said they found “irrefutable proof” of a Nazi ghost train filled with stolen gold in late August.

Professor Janusz Madej from Krakow’s Academy of Mining said the geological survey of the site showed that there was no evidence of a train after using magnetic and gravitation methods.

“There may be a tunnel. There is no train,”Madej said at a news conference in Walbrzych, according to the BBC.

One of the treasure hunters, Piotr Koper, insists that “there is a tunnel and there is a train” and that the results are skewed because of different technology used, the Telegraph reports.

Hunting for the Nazi ghost train

In late August, two amateur treasure hunters said they found “irrefutable proof” of a World War II-era Nazi ghost train in southwestern Poland alongside a railway that stretches between the towns Wroclaw and Walbrzych.

Amid claims that the train’s existence was a hoax, the two men who said they found the train in Poland identified themselves last week as Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper on TVP.INFO, the Associated Press reports.

“As the finders of a World War II armored train, we, Andreas Richter and Piotr Koper, declare that we have legally informed state authorities about the find and have precisely indicated the location in the presence of Walbrzych authorities and the police,” Koper said in a prepared statement, according to the Associated Press.

“We have irrefutable proof of its existence,” he added.

According to Koper, he and Richter found the train by using their “own resources, eyewitness testimony, and our own equipment and skills,” the AP notes.

Along with their statement, the men released an image taken with ground-penetrating radar that purportedly showed the armored Nazi train.

Six days later, on September 1o, a second radar image purportedly showing the rumored World War II-era Nazi ghost train was published by the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wroclawska.

The ground-penetrating image appears to show a row of tanks, which supports initial reports that the train was of “military nature.”

In early September, the Polish military began began clearing trees and shrubs alongside the rumored Nazi ghost train site.

“Our goal is to check whether there’s any hazardous material at the site,” Colonel Artur Talik, who is leading the search using ground-penetrating radar, reportedly told Agence France Presse.

Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said military chemical-weapons experts inspected the site because of suspicions the train was rigged with explosives.

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A Nazi gold stockpile in Merkers, Germany |U.S. Army

Local folklore

According to a local myth, the German train is believed to have vanished in 1945 with stolen gold, gems, and weapons while fleeing the Russians.

The only living source of the train legend, retired miner Tadeusz Slowikowski, confirmed to the Associated Press that Koper and Richter shared their findings with him before alerting authorities.

Slowikowski, who searched for the train in 2001, believes it is near the 65th kilometer of railway tracks from Wroclaw to Walbrzych.

According to the Telegraph, Koper, one of the treasure hunters, said the only way find out once and for all if there is a train — is to dig.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s explanation about drone attacks keeps getting stranger

Russia hinted on Jan. 11 that Ukraine manufactured the explosives used in an attempted drone attack on its military bases in Syria, following claims linking Turkey and the U.S. to the attack.


“Preliminary research has shown that PETN was used as a base for an explosive substance used in that ammo, which is more powerful than hexogen. The specified explosive is produced in a number of countries, including at Ukraine’s Shostka Chemical Reagents Plant,” Major General Alexander Novikov said in a Russian Ministry of Defense release.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense denied the allegations, according to Hromadske, a Ukrainian media outlet.

“This is nothing more than a regular informational attack,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Victoria Kushnir said. “We reject these allegations.”

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Captured fixed-wing insurgent drone. (Photo from Russian Air Force)

Russia’s Hmeymim Air Base and Tartus Naval Facility in Syria were attacked overnight with a swarm of 13 drones on Jan. 5 and 6, but were seemingly successfully repelled.

Moscow has since released a number of pictures of the drones, which were fixed-wing UAVs made of wood and tape and powered by small internal combustion engines seen on lawn mowers.

Russia has continuously claimed the drones came from a local force that was backed by an outside power. But experts told Business Insider that the drones could have been constructed and operated without any outside help.

“I could literally turn 10 drones on right now in a field by myself and tell them to fly to a specific coordinate,” Brett Velicovich, a leading expert in drones and author of “Drone Warrior,” told Business Insider in an email.

“Basic swarming with drones now is so easy that any kid with an internet connection can figure out how to do it,” Velicovich said.

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Explosives attached to drones used in an attack on Russian military bases in Syria. (Photo from Russian Ministry of Defense)

Russia plays the blame game

Moscow had previously hinted that the US helped target the drones, claiming that a P-8 Poseidon spy plane had “coincidentally” flown over the Russian bases around the time of the attack.

“Any suggestion the US, the Coalition or our partnered forces played a role in an attack on a Russian base is without any basis in fact and utterly irresponsible,” Defense Department spokesman Eric Pahon previously told Business Insider in an email, adding over the phone that the insinuation is “absolute bonkers.”

Moscow on Jan. 1o said that the drone attack originated from the village of Muazzara, which is located in the Idlib province of Syria.

Also Read: Russia now blames Turkey for drone attacks, not US

“The recent drone attack on Russian bases in Syria was launched from an area near Idlib, which is controlled by Turkish-backed rebel forces,” RT reported, adding that Moscow complained to Turkey about the incident.

However, Russian President Putin said on Jan. 11 that he had spoken to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and that he was confident that Turkey had nothing to with it, according to the Associated Press.

“There were provocateurs, but they weren’t the Turks,” Putin said. “We know who they were and how much they paid for that provocation.”

“We often overestimate how much governments in capitals have control over the rebel groups they sponsor,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, previously told Business Insider.

While Moscow appears to have now excluded Ankara from its list of perpetrators, it continues to insinuate that the rebels that launched the drones had outside help.

 

(Ministry of Defense of Russia | YouTube)

 

The Russian MoD Defense Ministry spelled it out on Thursday, arguing that the complexity of the drones — which they said required “calculations and flight tests” — prove that whoever launched them were backed by an outside power.

“First of all, it is impossible to develop such drones in an improvised manner. They were developed and operated by experts with special skills acquired in countries that produce and apply systems with UAVs,” according to the MoD. “The fact that terrorists have received assembly technology and programming technology is the evidence that this threat stretches far beyond the Syrian borders.”

Experts agree: Russia is wrong

Business Insider spoke with multiple experts who all said that the drones could have been constructed and operated from a distance of more than 30 miles by rebels without any outside help.

Gorenburg, the CNA research scientist, said Russia was likely “embarrassed” by the attack and the MoD may have needed to attribute the drone strike to “a major power.”

Caitlin Lee, a political scientist at the RAND Corp., told Business Insider that GPS or a camera would be needed to operate a drone at such a distance.

“It’s not out of the realm of possibility for a non-state actor to put GPS software on a drone,” Lee said.

The Russian Defense Ministry even admitted that one of the drones had a camera on it.

Velicovich, the author of “Drone War,” said the drones could have come from ISIS, which has been increasingly active in Syria’s Idlib province.

“Wouldn’t surprise me if this was ISIS’s drone unit, which has been active for a few years now and played with similar technology under their Al Bara Bin Malik brigade,” he said.

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Briefing by Head of Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development Maj Gen Alexander Novikov (Screengrab from Ministry of Defense of Russia YouTube)

Aaron Stein, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider the same thing.

“All of the technology — the styrofoam, wood, lawn mower engines — can probably be bought in Idlib for a couple hundred dollars,” Stein said.

“It’s really embarrassing to have a bunch of junk fly through your air defenses and wreak havoc,” he said.

Articles

A brief history of the greatest military benefit ever

This article is sponsored by Grantham University


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President Roosevelt signs the GI Bill in Washington DC in 1944. (Photo: White House archives)

The original GI Bill, officially known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, was as much social engineering as it was a benefit of service. Congress was concerned about the impact millions of World War II veterans would have on the nation.

It hadn’t gone well after World War I. Discharged veterans got little more than $60 and a train ticket home, and their situation was made worse by the Great Depression. Congress tried to intervene by passing the World War Adjusted Act of 1924 (a.k.a. ‘the Bonus Act’), but it just made things worse in that — while vets were paid based on number of days served — most of them wouldn’t see a dime for 20 years. Disgruntled vets camped out around Washington DC (known as the “Bonus Army”) and refused to leave until they were paid. They were later kicked out of town following a bitter standoff with U.S. troops. The incident — ironically American troops fighting American military veterans — marked one of the greatest periods of unrest our nation’s capital had ever known.

So the return of millions of veterans from World War II gave Congress a chance at redemption. But the GI Bill had far greater implications. It was seen as a genuine attempt to thwart a looming social and economic crisis. Some saw inaction as an invitation to another depression. But the legislation wasn’t without controversy. Some shunned the concept of sending battle-hardened veterans to colleges and universities, a privilege then reserved for the rich.

Before World War II, college wasn’t an option for most Americans. Thanks to the GI Bill, millions who would have flooded the job market instead opted for education. In the peak year of 1947, Veterans accounted for 49 percent of college admissions. By the time the original GI Bill ended in 1956, 7.8 million of 16 million World War II veterans had participated in an education or training program.

The GI Bill encouraged vets to go back to school and, once they did, to move out of the city and into a new thing called “the suburbs” where they could afford to live courtesy of their no-down-payment VA home loans. No other legislation, not to mention military benefit, has shaped the nation as dramatically.

The Veterans Readjustment Benefits Act of 1966 changed the nature of military service in America by extending benefits to veterans who served during times of war and peace. At first there was some opposition to the concept of a peacetime G.I. Bill. President Dwight Eisenhower had rejected such a measure in 1959 after the Bradley commission concluded that military service should be “an obligation of citizenship, not a basis for government benefits.” President Lyndon B. Johnson believed that many of his “Great Society” social programs negated the need for sweeping veterans benefits. But, prompted by unanimous support given the bill by Congress, Johnson signed it into law in 1966.

Critics within the veterans’ community and on Capitol Hill charged that the bill did not go far enough. At first, single veterans who had served more than 180 days and had received an other than dishonorable discharge received only $100 a month from which they had to pay for tuition and all of their expenses. Most found this amount to be sufficient to pay only for books and minor fees, but not enough to live on or attend college full-time. Veterans of the Vietnam War felt slighted that the bill did not provide them with the same educational opportunities as their World War II predecessors. Consequently, during the early years of the program, only about 25 percent of Vietnam veterans used their education benefits.

The United States military moved to an all-volunteer force in 1973, and veterans continued to receive benefits, in part as an inducement to enlist. The GI Bill was again revamped in 1984 by Mississippi Congressman “Sonny” Montgomery, which is why that version is known as the “Montgomery GI Bill.” The Montgomery GI Bill was complicated and required that service members forfeit $100 a month in order to receive their education benefits.

In 2008 Senator Jim Webb began working legislation for a more comprehensive benefit in the spirit of the original GI Bill. The bill was officially called the “Post 9-11 GI Bill,” but it was more commonly referred to as the “new GI Bill.”

The new GI Bill provides for tuition, a book allowance, and a housing allowance. To qualify for the benefit, a veteran must have served at least 90 days of active duty service post-9/11, or have served 30 days and was discharged due to a service connected injury or illness. Veterans will be paid a monthly housing allowance based on the military’s Basic Allowance for Housing rate for an E-5 with dependents. (The living allowance can range from $1071/month in Bellville, OH, to $3,744/month in New York City.) The last and most novel feature of the Post 9/11 GI Bill is that currently serving troops have the opportunity to transfer education benefits to a spouse or a child.

Like any major legislation, the Post-9/11 GI Bill had some growing pains, most notably payments from the VA were slow in getting to colleges and in some cases veterans had to reach into their own pockets for periods of time to keep from getting disenrolled, but ultimately the benefit has proved to be a worthy heir to the original GI Bill, a benefit for both the veterans and the nation that will leverage their education and skills.

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Grantham University was founded in 1951 by WWII Veteran Donald Grantham to provide other veterans a way to better their lives through distance learning. Today, Grantham continues this commitment by offering military students targeted, online degree programs in the most convenient, flexible and affordable manner possible. For more information go to Grantham University’s homepage.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Are US troops overpaid?

A new study on the military’s pay and compensation system asks a surprising question: Are troops getting paid too much?

Service members have typically earned about 70% of the salaries for civilians with similar skill sets, when factoring in their housing and allowances to offset food costs. That’s the level of compensation researchers found the military would need to offer to recruit and retain the right quality and quantity of personnel, according to a new report from RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank.

But troops’ compensation has jumped beyond that 70th percentile mark for both officers and enlisted troops, according to RAND. Over the course of the 2000s, military pay relative to civilian pay “increased substantially,” the report’s author wrote.


Now that enlisted troops are earning closer to 90% of what their civilian counterparts make, and officers about 83%, she says it’s “raising the question of whether military pay is set too high relative to civilian pay.”

The report, which Military Times first wrote about, looks at how the military’s pay system could be improved to support recruitment, retention and performance. Beth Asch, a senior economist at the RAND Corporation, doesn’t make a determination about whether troops are overpaid, but rather recommends the levels be assessed.

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(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leland White)

“Given that military pay is above the 70th percentile benchmark and has been for some time, the important question is whether this benchmark is still relevant or whether military pay is set too high relative to civilian pay,” Asch wrote.

In addition to their pay, troops also live on base at no cost or receive a non-taxable housing allowance if they reside off post. That amount is determined by pay grade, geographic location and family size. Active-duty troops may also draw stipends to offset food costs.

Troops are also eligible for military-provided health care, but those benefits aren’t factored into the military compensation totals referenced in this study. There are other benefits and advantages, too, that may draw people to the military that are not factored into the calculation, including skills training, guaranteed employment on multi-year contracts and free post-secondary education through the post-9/11 GI Bill, among others.

Of course, military service also comes with unique challenges and risks — including deployments, mandatory moves and far less employment flexibility than the civilian world offers.

As military pay improved, so did the quality of troops, Asch said — that is, in all the services but the Army.

“The reason why the Army did not increase recruit aptitude as military pay rose relative to civilian pay is an open question,” she wrote.

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(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Shawn Weismiller)

One possibility, Asch wrote, was that the introduction of the post-9/11 G.I. Bill cut out the Army’s ability to provide education benefit “kickers” to recruits entering selected occupations. Since all recruits got access to post-9/11 education benefits, the Army might have struggled to attract some high-quality prospects, she said.

Aside from recruiting, Asch discusses how military pay affects retention and performance. Rather than simply relying on step increases when troops pick up new rank, Asch says a more flexible system could incentivize hard work.

“The primary source of flexibility and efficiency in the military compensation system turns out to be only a small fraction of cash compensation,” RAND’s key findings state. “Special and incentive pays are not as efficient as they could be in providing incentives for retention and performance.”

The think tank recommends improving how incentive and special pays are handled to “increase flexibility and efficiency.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Nellis airmen rescue civilian woman after she escaped from on-base attacker

Security Forces airmen at Nellis Air Force Base responded to an early morning call from flightline airmen who were refueling a government vehicle. They found a woman who had been raped and assaulted in a van parked on the base – and her attacker was still there.

That’s what airmen are telling a popular Air Force culture page on Facebook.


Multiple sources tell Air Force amn/nco/snco that at 5 a.m. local time, airmen on Nellis noticed a woman approaching them on Dec. 4, 2018, at the on-base government vehicle refueling station. Dressed much too lightly for the cold weather, she told them she had just been assaulted inside a nearby white van and escaped her attacker and asked them for help.

The woman, who was said to be a civilian and had no connection to the base, was wandering around for 20 or so minutes before coming across the airmen.

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Nellis Air Force Base flightline airmen discovered the woman at around five in the morning, while moving to gas up their GOV.

(U.S. Air Force)

Within minutes, Air Force Security Forces arrived on the scene to take her statement and the statements of the airmen who found her as she walked. Witnesses told the Air Force culture Facebook page Air Force amn/nco/snco that the woman was from Mesquite, Nev., some 70 miles away. She allegedly told Security Forces she was kidnapped by a Russian man and driven to the base in a nearby parking lot, where she was sexually assaulted.

She also told the police the van was still parked there. Security Forces locked down the base and then responded to reports of a white van parked in the lot of the Nellis Dining Facility. How the van was able to get on the base isn’t known.

Nellis Air Force Base Public Affairs has not yet responded to phone calls for confirmation. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department could not be reached. This post will be updated when possible.

Sources tell Air Force amn/nco/snco that the two had been in the parking lot for more than an hour before the man, who the escaped victim said spoke with a Russian accent, fell asleep. When she woke up, he was still asleep, so she escaped and began looking for help. She had never been on the base before and didn’t know where to go. That’s when the airmen came across her.

The woman was handed over to female Security Forces airmen and taken to the Medical Group, where a sexual assault response coordinator and medical team was waiting. Witnesses say the Security Forces officers who interviewed them for statements left the gas station for the DFAC, sirens blazing.

Articles

BRRRRRT: Congress wants the Air Force to keep the A-10 aircraft that troops totally love

After months of impassioned pleas from troops on the ground, hand-wringing from Air Force leadership, and a blur of questions from Congress about the Air Force’s plans for the future, lawmakers have decided enough is enough: the A-10 Thunderbolt II will stay in the USAF arsenal.


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Smiles all around! (U.S. Air Force Photo)

On Monday, The House Armed Services Committee released its $612 billion Fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which contains a provision called “Prohibition on Availability of Funds for Retirement of A-10 Aircraft,” which obliges the Secretary of the Air Force to:

“commission an appropriate entity outside the Department of Defense to conduct an assessment of the required capabilities or mission platform to replace the A-10 aircraft.”

This means the Air Force’s can no longer ignore Congressional concerns about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and how it can fill the A-10’s close-air support (CAS) role. The provision in the new defense budget means the Air Force will have to actually hire an independent researcher from outside of DoD and acquire hard data on how to replace the A-10, instead of just asserting everything is fine and forcing Airmen to say nice things about the $1.5 trillion F-35.

In the meantime, the Air Force must maintain a mission-capable 171 A-10s and Congress provides $467 million for it in the 2016 bill.

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Armored vehicle post-A-10 Close Air Support.

The John Q. Public blog, run by retired Air Force officer Tony Carr, went through the ten paragraphs of the Congressional directive in detail, where Congress list the ways the A-10 bests the F-35 (without mentioning the F-35), directing the Air Force to study and answer for things like the “ability to remain within visual range of friendly forces and targets to facilitate responsiveness to ground forces and minimize re-attack times … the ability to operate beneath low cloud ceilings, at low speeds, and within the range of typical air defenses found in enemy maneuver units …  the ability to deliver multiple lethal firing passes and sustain long loiter endurance to support friendly forces throughout extended ground engagements.”

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Not only does the provision make the Air Force answerable for attempting to shelve its only CAS solution, it also takes back a compromise between the service and Congress made last year, which allows the Air Force to mothball 36 A-10s and move their maintenance and funding to other areas.

The House of Representatives issued a fact sheet specifically slamming the Air Force for trying to kill the A-10 with an adequate replacement.

“Rigorous oversight, endorsements from Soldiers and Marines about the protection only the A-10 can provide, and repeated deployments in support of OIR have persuaded many Members from both parties that the budget-driven decision to retire the A-10 is misguided…” it reads. “The NDAA restores funding for the A-10 and prohibits its retirement. Unlike past efforts to restore the platform, the NDAA identifies specific funding to restore personnel, and preserve, the A-10 fleet.”

While this sounds like good news for A-10 supporters, the fight isn’t over yet. According to DoD Buzz, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said he is recommending President Obama veto the bill, which is being voted on by the House on Thursday.

NOW: The awesome A-10 video the Air Force doesn’t want you to see

OR: Here’s why the Warthog is the greatest close air support aircraft ever

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Syrian government has retaken all of Damascus from ISIS

The Syrian military said it has taken an enclave in Damascus from Islamic State (IS) militants that gives it full control of the capital for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.

The recapture of IS-held pockets in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk and the nearby Hajar al-Aswad district in southern Damascus on May 21, 2018, came after a massive bombing campaign that decimated the remains of the residential area where about 200,000 Palestinian refugees used to live.


The camp has been largely deserted following years of attacks and the last push on the Yarmuk camp came after civilians were evacuated overnight.

State TV showed troops waving the Syrian flag atop wrecked buildings in a destroyed neighborhood.

The gains by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces also allowed allied militia groups to secure areas outside the city near the border with Israel.

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Bashar al-Assad

The Iranian-backed militias, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah, have been key — along with Russian air power — in aiding Syrian government forces to recapture huge areas around Damascus and in the country’s northern and central areas.

Iranian officials have pledged to remain in Syria despite calls by the United States, Israel, and others for it to remove its fighters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told Assad at a meeting in Sochi in May 2018, that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to withdraw their troops from Syria.

Putin’s envoy to Syria, Aleksandr Lavrentyev, said Putin was referring to, among others, Iranian forces.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran on May 21, 2018, with the “strongest sanctions in history” if Tehran doesn’t change course and end its military involvement in other Middle East countries.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters shortly before Pompeo spoke that Iran’s presence “in Syria has been based on a request by the Syrian government and Iran will continue its support as long as the Syrian government wants.”

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

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