A former Marine officer retells his journey from 'fortunate son' to hero in the Battle of Fallujah - We Are The Mighty
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A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah

Former Marine officer Elliot Ackerman is now an accomplished author living in Istanbul, but prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he considered himself a “fortunate son” of privilege who chose to serve while many of his peers did not.


“The best and the brightest didn’t show up for Vietnam. And I understand. I get that it was an unpopular war,” he told photographer Brandon Stanton for his popular Humans of New York project. “But they chose to not show up and there was a consequence for that. There were leadership failures. Standards were lowered and people were killed because of bad decisions.”

He graduated from Tufts University in 2003 and decided to join the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. He was assigned as a platoon commander in 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
Wikimedia

“I was a fortunate son of this country,” Ackerman told Stanton. “I went to a private school. I graduated from a great college. A lot of the guys who served under me didn’t have those advantages. They relied on me to make tough decisions in dangerous situations. And I’m glad I was there to make those decisions.”

One of those tough decisions came in Nov. 2004, during the bloody second Battle of Fallujah during the Iraq War. He and his platoon of 45 men moved across a highway in the middle of the night on Nov. 10 to establish a fighting position in what they called “the candy store.”

It was only about 150 meters away from the rest of his company.

“The guys were excited at first because the place was filled with chips and soda,” he said. “And we were starving and thirsty. But all hell broke loose when the sun came up.”

At dawn, the insurgents had figured out where they were and surrounded them, while opening fire on the platoon with everything they had. The Marines were getting razed by AK-47 and RPG fire from all sides, with every exit blocked.

“You couldn’t even poke your head out,” he said. “We were pinned down all day. And suddenly my company commander is on the radio saying that we’ve got to advance. And I’m shouting into the radio over the gunfire that we’re probably going to die if we leave the store. I’m shouting so loud and for so long that I lost my voice for four days. But he’s saying that we have no choice.”

He repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire while trying to pull wounded Marines to safety, and coordinated four separate medical evacuations, despite being wounded by shrapnel himself.

In order to get out, he ordered his men to set up explosives on a back wall. Once it blew, he and his men — with nearly half the platoon having been wounded — were able to escape, alive.

“Twenty-five guys were wounded, but everyone survived,” he said. “A lot of that was luck. And a lot of that was our platoon and how good those guys were. But I also feel that my decisions mattered that day. And if I had decided not to serve, and stayed home, it could’ve ended much worse. So no, I don’t have any regrets about going to Iraq.”

He was awarded the Silver Star for his heroics in the battle, along with the Purple Heart for his wounds. He later received the Bronze Star for valor in 2008 while leading a Marine special operations team in Afghanistan.

Humans of New York is featuring a number of stories from veterans on its page, in partnership with non-profit The Headstrong Project (Full disclosure: The author is a friend of the executive director).

See more of Ackerman’s story below:



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This Vietnam War veteran will make you feel all the feelings

Army veteran Tucker Smallwood is truly one of the good ones.


He was injured while serving as an Infantry Officer during Vietnam, and after months of surgeries and recovery, he extended his commitment to teach counterinsurgency tactics before finally separating.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
(Image courtesy of Tucker Smallwood)

Deep down, Smallwood is a soulful artist. An actor, writer, singer, and musician, he has made a career for himself in theater and on-screen, but it’s his writing and his music that really makes him stand out.

We Are The Mighty sat down with him to talk about his relationship with music.

“I can hear some music and know the setting behind it, and it just goes straight to my part that feels.”

He couldn’t speak when he woke up in the hospital in Vietnam, but rest assured, his voice healed and transformed into something rich and soothing.

Check out his video, not only for the Battle Mix that makes him think of his time in service, but for a performance with his acoustic guitar that will leave you wanting more:

You can also listen to Smallwood’s Battle Mix right here:
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.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah

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.

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This powerful fighter plane could destroy enemy satellites in space

In 1985, the Cold War turned 40 years old. Though the Space Race had been over for more than a decade by then, the competition between the Americans and Soviets for the domination of Earth’s orbit was intense.


Each side used spy satellites to track the military movements of their rival. The Soviet Union became so proficient at the use of satellites, it could launch many rockets into orbit, sometimes in a matter of hours.

The number of satellites the Soviet Union could produce and their ability to place them in orbit so quickly was considered a dangerous threat. Figuring out how to mitigate the threat of an object in low Earth orbit was the order of the day.

Enter the F-15.

The F-15 carried an ASM-135 ASAT anti-satellite missile, a 3,000-pound, 18-foot-long projectile that the pilot would carry to the edge of space before firing at a target 345 miles above the surface of the Earth, moving at 23,000 feet per second.

They tested the tactic on P78-1, an obsolete American research satellite, in orbit since 1979.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
Maj. Wilbert ‘Doug’ Pearson successfully launched an anti-satellite, or ASAT, missile from a highly modified F-15A on Sept. 13, 1985 in the Pacific Missile Test Range. He scored a direct hit on the Solwind P78-1 satellite orbiting 340 miles above. (U.S. Air Force photo by Paul E. Reynolds)

On Sept. 13, 1985, then-Maj. Wilbert “Doug” Pearson took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., bound for the edge of the the atmosphere. Once he reached 30,000 feet, he would have 10 seconds to fire his weapon.

The Smithsonian has actual video from the fight of then-Maj. Pearson’s F-15.

Flying at just above Mach 1.2, Pearson pulled up into a 3.8 G, 65-degree climb that reduced the speed of his F-15A to just below the speed of sound. He fired the guided missile at 38,100 feet. The 2,700-pound, three-stage missile used an infrared sensor to strike its target, hitting the one-ton satellite at 15,000 miles per hour.

The flight was dubbed the”Celestial Eagle Flight” and made Pearson “the first and only space ace.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea just returned the remains of 55 Korean War dead

The remains of US servicemen who died in North Korea during the Korean War were provided to the US military on July 27, 2018, after President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to work on repatriation efforts during their June 2018 summit.

North Korea is estimated to have returned 55 sets of remains on the same day of the 65th anniversary of the armistice that paused Korean War hostilities. Around 5,300 US remains are still believed to be in North Korea.


“We are encouraged by North Korea’s actions and the momentum for positive change,” the White House said in a statement. “The United States owes a profound debt of gratitude to those American service members who gave their lives in service to their country and we are working diligently to bring them home.”

“It is a solemn obligation of the United States Government to ensure that the remains are handled with dignity and properly accounted for so their families receive them in an honorable manner.”

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah

A United Nations Honor Guard member carries remains during a dignified return ceremony at Osan Air Base, South Korea, July 27, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

The remains will be airlifted to a forensic lab in Hawaii, where the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency will perform identification tests, according to The Washington Post . The process will take several years and attempt to determine where the servicemen were missing or buried.

A formal repatriation ceremony will be held on Aug. 1, 2018, according to The White House.

Plans to return the remains appeared to be scuttled earlier in July 2018, after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned to the US after visiting North Korea for negotiations — following his visit, Pyongyang ramped up its rhetoric against the US in numerous propaganda messages and railroaded negotiations with US officials at the North-South Korean border.

If the remains are confirmed, the repatriation signals a win for Trump, who remained optimistic on their return after his first meeting with Kim at Singapore in June 2018. In a joint statement during the summit, Trump and Kim said their two countries would to work towards the “immediate repatriation” of US remains to “contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.”

“Great progress was made on the denuclearization of North Korea,” Trump said onTwitter in June 2018. “Hostages are back home, will be getting the remains of our great heroes back to their families, no missiles shot, no research happening, sites closing … Got along great with Kim Jong-un who wants to see wonderful things for his country.”

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

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China just tested a new weapon that could blind the US military

China has tested a new anti-satellite weapon, marking a new threat to American space assets like reconnaissance satellites and the Global Positioning System. The Dong Neng 3 missile was previously tested on two occasions, including this past December.


According to a report by the Washington Free Beacon, the test took place late last month, and was not successful due to a problem with an upper stage of the missile. The test was broadcast on the Internet by a number of users in China near the launch facility. This has been part of a long process as China has pushed to acquire the means to carry out warfare in space.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
Satellite image showing a Kiev-class carrier under construction. (NRO photo)

“Since the early 1990s China has developed four, possibly five, attack-capable space-combat systems,” Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center said. “China may be the only country developing such variety of space weapons to include: ground-based and air-launched counter-space weapons; unmanned space combat and Earth-attack platforms; and dual-use manned platforms.”

Harsh Vasani from Manpaul University in India, noted that the purpose of those systems would be to “counter the United States’ conventional strength and gain strategic parity, Chinese strategists believe, Beijing will need to strike at the U.S. Achilles heel—Washington’s over-reliance on satellites for [command, control, communications, computer, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance]. Beijing plans to exploit the vulnerable space infrastructure of the United States in the case of a war.”

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
Maj. Wilbert ‘Doug’ Pearson successfully launched an anti-satellite, or ASAT, missile from a highly modified F-15A on Sept. 13, 1985 in the Pacific Missile Test Range. He scored a direct hit on the Solwind P78-1 satellite orbiting 340 miles above.(U.S. Air Force photo by Paul E. Reynolds)

The United States has carried out a number of its own anti-satellite tests in the past. Most notable was the 1980s-vintage ASM-135 ASAT missile, capable of being launched by F-15 Eagle air-superiority fighters. After a 1985 test, though, Congress prohibited further tests against satellites, and the program was ended in 1988. The ASM-135 could destroy satellites anywhere from 350 to 620 miles above the Earth.

In 2008, the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) used a RIM-161 Standard Missile SM-3 to destroy a failed satellite. Operation Burnt Frost was a success, with the failed satellite being destroyed 133 nautical miles above sea level. China and Russia protested the operation.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
This image shows the interception of a satellite by a SM-3 missile fired by the cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70) in 2008. (US Navy photo)

American defense officials claim that the United States has “very robust” capabilities in space. But Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten says that China and Russia have been developing space-warfare capabilities.

Hyten noted that Chinese and Russian threats to American space systems will be “a much nearer-term issue for the commander after me, and for the commander after that person, it will be more significant because the gap is narrowing quickly” between American capabilities and those of China and Russia. A 2013 test of an earlier missile in the Dong Neng series reached up to 18,600 miles over the earth.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
Gen. John E. Hyten, USAF, commander of United States Strategic Command. (DOD photo)

“It’s not very complicated. You treat it as a war-fighting domain. And when you do that, the answers are not that complicated. You have to have increased maneuver capabilities on our satellites. We have to have defensive capabilities to defend ourselves. These are just war fighting problems,” he said.

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Why WWII soldiers nicknamed the Sherman tank ‘death trap’

The Sherman tank was a powerful force to be reckoned with on the battlefields in WWII; it was fast and mobile and it shelled out plenty of firepower.


It provided just enough cover for American ground troops as it stomped through the German front lines. The Sherman was designed to patrol over enemy bridges and it was easily transported on railroad cars.

Related: 9 tanks that changed armored warfare

When the U.S. decided to invade Europe, General Patton selected the Sherman as his particular tank of choice and wanted as many to roll off the assembly lines as possible. Nearly fifty thousand were produced between 1942 and 1945.

Weighing in at 33 tons, it sustained a speed of 26 miles per hour and housed 2 inches of armor. Many saw the image of the Sherman tank to be invincible just like the American war effort, but the brave soldiers who served as tank crew members believed that it had too many engineering flaws and was far inferior compared to the German’s Tiger and Panther tanks.

The Sherman tank was equipped with a fully-transversing 75mm turret short barrelled gun that fired a high explosive shell 2,000 feet per second. Compared to the German tanks that shot accurately at 3,500 feet per second, the enemy’s armor piercing ammo was 2-3 times more effective.

It was recommended that to defeat the Germans, the tank crew had to speed up and flank around their battlefield rivalry and get within 600 yards range to be effective.

Captain Belton Y. Cooper, author of Death Traps and a member of the 3rd Armor Division maintenance unit, recounts knowing how inferior the Sherman was after seeing its physical destruction firsthand. He knew it was no match for the Nazi’s arsenal.

“We lost 648 tanks totally destroyed in combat, another 700 knocked out, repaired and put back into action,” Cooper says. “That’s 1,348 tanks knocked out in combat. I don’t think anyone took that kind of loss in the war.”
(HistoryAndDocumentry, YouTube)
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6 military developments from WW1 that made warfare more deadly

Sometimes the span of years can be summed up in one quote.


“One really clear way of understanding the shift in World War I in terms of technology is that soldiers rode in on horses and they left in airplanes,” military historian Dr. Libby H. O’Connell told the History Channel.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
World War I saw counties mobilize their industry to produce materials needed for the conflict, (Youtube screenshot)

The fact is, World War I wasn’t just about turning out the instruments of death rapidly but instead, new death dealing technology evolved from the slogging stalemate of the trenches. Some of the technologies that helped end the war didn’t even exist when it started in 1914.

Here are some of the most notable developments.

1. Aircraft

In the early part of World War I, bombing attacks were carried out by dropping mortar rounds from planes. There were various ingenious methods being used to mount machine guns so they wouldn’t shoot off a propeller.

By the end of that war, though, the interrupter gear had been perfected, making the fighter a dominant part of aviation. From the ad hoc arrangement of dropping mortar rounds, large, multi-engine bombers delivered massive payloads on target. The aircraft was a proven weapon of war by the end of World War I.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
SPAD XIII at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

2. Submarines

Viable submarine technology was in its infancy in World War I. The basics of the diesel-electric boat were worked out, though, and in 1914, an obsolete submarine, the U-9, sent a message by sinking three British armored cruisers in about an hour. That submarine displaced about 600 tons, had four torpedo tubes and eight torpedoes. By the end of the war, German submarines displaced 1,000 tons, had six torpedo tubes and 16 torpedoes.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
German U-boats in Kiel. U-20, which sank the Lusitania, is second from the left in the front row. (Library of Congress photo)

3. The machine gun

Hand-cranked Gatling guns had emerged during the American Civil War, but they were still very clumsy affairs. It was Hiram Maxim, though, who came up with the design that would turn the battlefields of World War I into a charnel house. The frontal charges, like Joshua L. Chamberlain’s at Little Round Top, became more about death than glory.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
British soldiers fire the Vickers Machine gun during the Battle of the Somme. (Photo: United Kingdom)

4. Tanks

With the rise of the machine gun, troops needed a way to punch through defensive lines. Ideas for the tank had been kicked around, but short-sightedness meant practical designs didn’t arrive on the battlefield until the Battle of the Somme in 1916. By 1918, both sides had tanks, even though Germany’s inventory was very limited.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

5. Chemical Warfare

Another idea to break the deadlock of the trenches was the use of poison gas.  While it was effective early on, eventually gas masks were developed to protect troops from toxins. Chemical weapons remain a threat on the battlefield today, with sarin gas recently being used during the Syrian Civil War.

However, unexploded World War I chemical munitions also remain a threat across France and Belgium, according to a 2015 Daily Mail article on the Battle of Verdun.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
Photo colorized by Open University. Original black and white photo copyright Library and Archives Canada.

6. Howitzers

The howitzer came about because the artillery of previous eras, mostly focused on providing direct fire, proved inadequate against troops dug into the trenches. The howitzer came into its own in World War I and was able to provide the long range of cannons with a trajectory able to drop the shell in on enemy troops like a mortar. Today, most artillery pieces used by military forces are howitzers.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
WWI doughboys with a 155mm howitzer. (National Archives)

So, with that in mind, take a look at the HISTORY video below to learn more about the deadly military technology of World War I.

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The fascinating story behind the military’s use of the 21-gun salute

Becky R. asks: Why do they use 21 guns in the 21 gun salute?


The 21-gun salute that we know today has its roots in the ancient tradition of warriors demonstrating their peaceful intentions by resting the point of their weapons on the ground.

The notion of making a soldier’s weapons useless to show that he came in peace continued even as warfare changed over the centuries. Gunpowder and cannons became commonplace among militaries and private forces, both on land and at sea around the 14th century. In order for a ship entering a foreign port to show those on shore that they came in peace, the captain would have his crew fire the guns. This rendered the weapons inoperable for a period of time, with early guns only being capable of firing a single shot before crews needed to reload them.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah

Traditionally when a British ship entered into a foreign port, it would fire its guns seven times. The reason for the seven shots is widely debated to this day. One theory states that the majority of the British ships at this point only carried seven guns and so firing seven shots became the standard to signal those on shore that the ship was now unarmed. Ships carried enough gunpowder and ammunition to reload multiple times, but beyond symbolism, the idea here was that the lengthy process of reloading would allow the soldiers onshore more than enough time to disable the ship with their own weapons if needs be.

Another proposed theory for the number seven relates to the Bible. After creating the world, the Bible states that God rested on the seventh day (or for the seventh “event”- there is some debate over the “day” vs. “event” translation). So it has been theorized that the number could have been chosen in reference to its Biblical significance, perhaps of resting with the ship coming to port after a long journey. Yet another theory stems from the pervasive superstitious nature of sailors combined with the historic notion in certain regions that the number 7 is sacred, and that odd numbers are lucky and even unlucky. In fact, for a time it was common to use an even number of shots to signify the death of a ship captain when returning from the voyage the death occurred on.

Whatever the underlying reason, the guns onshore would return fire as a form of welcome once the incoming ship finished firing the seven rounds. However, the shore bound guns fired three rounds for every one fired by the incoming ships, putting the total number of shots fired at twenty-one in these cases. As with the “7” number, it’s not known precisely why in the regions that used this number scheme that they chose a 3 to 1 ratio.  What is known is that as time went on where this was practiced, it became traditional for the ships themselves to start firing off 21 shots as well, perhaps due to the ships becoming larger and being equipped with more guns, with the captains ostensibly preferring a 1 to 1 salute.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
Photo: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Oscar L Olive IV

This then brings us to when firing the 21 shots became considered a type of official salute, rather than a symbolic way to indicate peaceful intentions.  This seems to have started around 1730 when it became a recognized salute to British government officials. Specifically, the British Navy allowed its ships and captains the option to perform the 21-gun salute as a way to honor members of the British Royal Family during select anniversaries. About eighty years later, in 1808, the 21-gun salute officially became the standard salute to honor British Royalty.

While the British Navy adopted the 21-gun salute in 1808 as the standard, other nations, such as the United States, didn’t adopt it until much later. In fact, the United States War Department decided in 1810 to define the “national salute” as having the same number of shots as there were states in the nation. That number grew every year that a new state joined the Union.  Needless to say, this quickly became a cumbersome way to salute the United States and its dignitaries.

That said, the United States did make the “Presidential Salute” a 21-gun salute in 1842, and in 1890 officially accepted the 21-gun salute as the “national salute.” This followed the 1875 British proposal to the United States of a “Gun for Gun Salute” of 21-guns to honor visiting dignitaries.  Essentially, the British and French, among other nations, at this point were all using 21 guns for their salutes, but the U.S. system required many more shots for their dignitaries.  Besides needing to fire off more cannons, this also potentially signified greater honor to the U.S. dignitaries than to those of other nations. Thus, the British proposed a 1 for 1 shot, with 21 being the number, which was accepted by the U.S. on August 18, 1875.

The 21-gun salute still represents a significant honor today. In the United States, the 21-gun salute occurs to honor a President, former president, or the head of foreign state. It can also be fired in order to honor the United States Flag. The salute also occurs at noon on the day of the funeral of a President, former President, or President-elect along with on Memorial Day.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
Photo: US Navy

You may have noticed that there’s no mention of the 21-gun salute occurring during military funerals and that’s a common misconception. Known as the “3 Volleys,” the salute that occurs during soldiers’ funerals follows a battlefield tradition where both sides stopped fighting so that they could remove their dead from the field. The series of three shots, or volleys, let the other side know that the dead had been taken care of and that that battle could resume. Therefore the number of volleys is more important than the actual number of shots. Even the United States Army Manuel’s section on the Ceremonial Firing Party at a funeral named the number of riflemen as between five and eight, rather than an exact number.

Bonus Facts:

  • When ships were engaged in battle during the 14th century, the common practice was that the captured or defeated ship needed to expend all of its ammunition in order to make it helpless in the presence of the other ship and signify surrender.
  • A 62-gun salute was fired upon the birth of Prince George of England. The 21-gun salute was increased to 41-guns because the guns were fired from a royal park or residence and an additional 21-guns were added in order to pay respect to the city of London.

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This article originally appeared at Today I Found Out. Copyright 2015. Like Today I Found Out on Facebook.

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This carrier pigeon saved a battalion in World War I

By fall of 1918, the Allies were pushing back the Germans all along the Western Front. In September, the Allies launched the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the final offensive of World War I. But the Germans were not yet beaten and were still fighting to bring a satisfactory end to the war, as the men of the 77th Division were soon to find out.


The 308th Infantry Regiment of the 77th Division’s 154th Infantry Brigade were assigned to take a mill as well as vital road and rail ways that would deny Germans in other sectors the ability to resupply. All along the line a no retreat order was in effect. Major General Alexander, commander of the 77th Division, was particularly adamant, insisting that anyone calling out to fall back should be shot.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah

Maj. Charles Whittlesey, commanding 1st Battalion, 308th Infantry, took this to heart. Whittlesey, a Harvard educated lawyer, would lead his men from the front. When the 308th‘s attack began at 7 am on October 2, 1918, American forces all along the front advanced towards their objectives. Whittlesey was leading a force consisting of six companies (A, B, C, E, G, H) from the 308th, K company from 307th, as well as C and D companies of the 306th Machine Gun Battalion. By the night of October 2nd, Whittlesey’s force reached and secured their objective, Hill 198, when disaster struck on their flanks.

Just as Whittlesey received word that his men captured Hill 198, he was disturbed by just how quiet it was around his position. When he realized he could not hear action from where the 307th was supposed to be, he remarked later “either they had broken through the line as well and reached their objective over there, or they had been licked and fallen back. The former would be good news for the 308th … The latter, however, was unthinkable; orders forbade it.” Also unknown to the men of the 308th was that a strong German counterattack had driven back French and American forces securing the 77th‘s flanks, leaving Whittlesey’s command isolated behind German lines.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah
Maj. Whittlesey

The men began digging in a position that came to be known as ‘the pocket’ on top of Hill 198. Though it was defensible, the Germans held a nearby hill that overlooked the pocket, as well as a position in a ravine that cut off the path of retreat. The next day Whittlesey sent out numerous runners in an attempt to reestablish contact with friendly forces but not a single one returned. Whittlesey also sent carrier pigeons but they were shot out of the sky by the Germans. The Americans were completely cut-off and surrounded. An attempt by a single company to break out failed with heavy casualties.

On October 4th the situation worsened for the isolated men. Besides German attacks they were also subjected to friendly fire. History is unclear how exactly it happened but what is known is that the men of the Lost Battalion came under fire from their own artillery. Virtually out of options, Maj. Whittlesey wrote a note and sent out his final carrier pigeon, Cher Ami, to stop the shelling of his own troops.

“We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it.”

The bird flew off through the artillery barrage and was then targeted by the Germans. Whittlesey watched as the bird took fire and fluttered to the ground. As his heart sank, he saw Cher Ami regain flight and fly past the Germans on its way to headquarters. When Cher Ami arrived at the 77th Division headquarters it was found that the pigeon had been shot through the breast, blinded in one eye, and the leg holding the message was hanging on by a tendon but Whittlesey’s message had arrived ending the friendly fire.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah

 

Even though the artillery fire stopped, the Americans still did not know exactly where the Lost Battalion was. To make matters worse, the Germans continued attempting to annihilate the Americans and attempts to resupply the force by air were unsuccessful. Their supplies dwindling. The only water source required crawling under fire to a creek. Bandages were being removed from the dead to be used on the wounded. The Lost Battalion held out for nearly a week before they were finally relieved by forces from the U.S. 82nd Division. Of the 554 men who were originally encircled, only 194 were able to walk out on their own after the battle, the rest had all been killed, wounded, or captured.

The Lost Battalion received five Medals of Honor, including Maj. Whittlesey’s, along with 28 Distinguished Service Crosses. Whittlesey was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel immediately upon returning to American lines. In 1921, he and other Medal of Honor recipients were pallbearers for the Unknown Soldier. Unfortunately, Whittlesey was deeply troubled by his experiences and disappeared from a passenger ship in November 1921 in an apparent suicide.

Cher Ami, the carrier pigeon that saved the men from their own artillery, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with an Oak Leaf Cluster for heroic service at Verdun and in the stopping the artillery barrage in the Argonne Forest. The bird died in 1919 and was stuffed for display at the Smithsonian.

The story of the Lost Battalion was made into a movie in 1919 and again in 2001.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch Taliban drug labs get the A-10’s BRRRRRT

The Air Force recently released two new videos of A-10 Warthogs taking out Taliban narcotics production facilities in Afghanistan, as the Trump administration continues to quietly ramp up the US’ nearly 17-year war in the country.


The videos are rather shocking. One shows several missile strikes that turned the black and white video nearly all-white for a few seconds before flames can be seen rolling up.

Also read: Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back

“The Taliban have nowhere to hide,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support in Afghanistan, said in February 2018, after the Air Force dropped a record number of smart bombs from a B-52 on Taliban training facilities.

“There will be no safe haven for any terrorist group … We continue to strike them wherever we find them. We continue to hunt them across the country.”

 

 

But a BBC study published in late January 2018 showed that the Taliban operates in about 70% of Afghanistan, and fully controls about 4% of the country.

The Taliban’s numbers have also reportedly grown three-fold in the last few years. In 2014, the Taliban’s forces were estimated to be about 20,000. Currently, they’re estimated to be at least 60,000-strong.

Related: Watch an A-10 light up a Taliban vehicle in Afghanistan

The US announced in November 2017 that it would begin targeting the Taliban’s revenue sources, much of which is opium and heroin, with airstrikes.

“October and November 2017 were two of the deadliest months for civilians,” according to the latest SIGAR report. “Press reports stated several civilians were killed during the November 2017 bombings.”

These casualties “could erode support for the Afghan government and potentially increase support for the insurgency,” the SIGAR report said.

 

 

Around the same time that Nicholson announced that the US would hit the Taliban “where it hurts, in their narcotics financing,” Afghan farmers told Reuters that drug labs only take about three to four days to rebuild.

Analysts speaking to Reuters characterized the US’ strategy in Afghanistan as a pointless game of “whack-a-mole.”

More: Watch what it’s like to be the target of an A-10

On March 13, 2018, Defense Secretary James Mattis said that the US is seeing signs that the Taliban are interested in returning to the negotiating table with Kabul.

“Mattis offered few details about the Taliban outreach and it was unclear whether the latest reconciliation prospects would prove any more fruitful than previous, frustrated attempts to move toward a negotiated end to America’s longest war,” Reuters reported.

Articles

This is how Rome’s Praetorian Guard held so much power

Few military units have ever had the effect on world history as did the Praetorian Guard. From the foundation of the Roman Empire until the reign of Constantine in 306, the Praetorians protected – and sometimes controlled – the leader of the most powerful empire on Earth.


Like other elite guard units to come, the Praetorian were loyal to the Emperor personally, not necessarily to Rome. At least, that’s how it started under Caesar Augustus.

Over the centuries, the unit began to slowly corrupt. It soon became comprised of members of noble families who conspired against the Emperor, even assassinating a number of them.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah

They weren’t limited to the role of a mere guards.The Praetorian Guard fought in wars, in the Colosseum and other games, were a secret police force, and acted as volunteer firefighters for Rome. They would assist the regular firefighters in fighting larger fires.

After a number of assassinations, the Praetorian took their meddling in government a little too far. They were bound to butt heads with some Roman Emperor – without being able to kill him first. That emperor was Constantine I.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah

The Praetorian Guard backed a pretender to the Roman throne. You can tell the pretender to a throne as opposed to the real Emperor because the pretender is usually filled with knives, spears, or poison.

Constantine defeated armies belonging to the General Licinius and Senator Maxentius and – unfortunately for the Praetorian – they backed Maxentius. Constantine liquidated and disbanded the Praetorian Guard, burned their barracks, and sent survivors to the far reaches of the Empire.

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MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Under increased standards, Army is already more deployable

To support the ongoing efforts to reduce the number of non-deployable soldiers, Army leaders released a new directive designed to encourage soldiers to reach deployable standards outlined in the directive.

If standards are not met within six months, a soldier could face separation.

Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley prepared the directive, which took effect Oct. 1, 2018.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Calloway, director of military personnel management, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, presented the new directive Nov. 15, 2018, in a media briefing at the Pentagon.


The number of soldiers in non-deployable status has been reduced from 121,000 (roughly 15 percent of the total force) to less than 60,000 this past year. In October 2018 alone, the Army posted a reduction of 7,000 non-deployable members.

Calloway said the separated members came from across the force, including unsatisfactory soldiers in the Army Reserve and National Guard and some who were pending separation.

The effort followed the release of a new directive by Defense Secretary James Mattis February 2018 to raise standards for deployable troops across the four military branches, improving readiness and lethality.

The directive highlights two distinctions: for the first time, the Army defines deployability plainly in written form. And the directive marks a culture change that encourages greater accountability among soldiers to maintain readiness and empower commanders.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah

Deployers from Headquarters Company, 89th Military Police Brigade, unload their equipment into their temporary lodging quarters at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in support of Operation Faithful Patriot, Oct. 29, 2018.

(Photo by Senior Airman Alexandra Minor)

“The culture change is particularly important,” Calloway said. “We’re not only defining the deployability and the directive, it’s the first time we’ve ever put on paper what constitutes deployability.”

The directive enables commanders to closely examine non-deployable soldiers on a case-by-case basis.

“The first actions that senior leaders are taking is to ensure commanders understand their authorities; how to use them and that they are supported by senior leadership,” said Diane Randon, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.

To be certified as deployable, Soldiers must be:

  • legally, administratively and medically cleared for employment in any environment;
  • able to operate in harsh environments or areas with extreme temperatures;
  • able to carry and employ an assigned weapon;
  • able to execute the Army’s warrior tasks;
  • able to operate their duties while donning protective equipment such as body armor, helmets, eye protection gloves and chemical or biological equipment.
Finally, soldiers must pass the physical fitness test or be able to meet the physical demands of a specific deployment.


Soldiers who do not meet the standards of the new criteria, or soldiers who become permanently non-deployable after the date of the new directive, will be considered unqualified to serve in any military branch. Soldiers who remain in non-deployable status because of administrative reasons have six months to meet the requirements or face separation.

Calloway noted that the new directive does not apply to all of the remaining 60,000, including those who remain in non-deployable status due to medical reasons. The general estimated about 70-80 percent of the 60,000 remain non-deployable for medical reasons, and another portion for legal reasons.

Wounded warriors who have continued active duty and those on certain types of medical profiles will not be subject to the new directive. Only commanders at the O-6 level and above in a soldier’s chain of command can waive one or more of the six requirements.

Exemptions to the requirements include ex-prisoners of war who were deferred from serving in a country where they were held captive, trainees or cadets who have not completed initial entry training, and Soldiers who are temporarily non-deployable because they received a compassionate reassignment or stabilization to move them closer to an ill family member.

To help soldiers meet deployability standards, Calloway said, the service already has measures in place to reduce non-deployables and injured soldiers beginning in basic training.

A former Marine officer retells his journey from ‘fortunate son’ to hero in the Battle of Fallujah

U.S. Army recruits practice patrol tactics while marching during U.S. Army basic training at Fort Jackson.

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

Soldiers must meet physical and psychological standards based on their desired career fields. The Army has also began to implement holistic health and fitness measures in its training.

“You can never get 100 percent on [reducing the number of non-deployables],” Calloway said. “But the goal is … to get it as low as possible.”

In the past, Calloway said Army leaders used a conservative approach to reporting non-deployables. By upholding stricter standards and holding Soldiers accountable to maintain qualifications for deployability will not only change culture but raise morale and enthusiasm to uphold standards.

In recent selection boards for officers competing to be battalion and brigade commanders, candidates were required to certify that they are deployable and had to pass a physical fitness test. Randon hopes soldiers will see the increased standards at those levels of command as motivation.

“It really is a mindset of inspiring and motivating soldiers to be accountable and to be classified as deployable,” she said.

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