The US Air Force set out to return to Cold War numbers by growing nearly 25% and taking on hundreds more planes to form an additional 74 squadrons, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced on Sept. 17, 2018.
The US Air Force, which typically acquires aircraft only after long vetting and bidding processes, will attempt the radical change in short order to fulfill President Donald Trump’s vision of a bigger military to take on Russia and China.
In the US’s new National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, and Nuclear Posture Review, the Trump administration redefined the US’s foremost enemies not as rogue groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda, but China and Russia.
While the US has fought counter insurgencies against small terror groups and non-state actors nonstop since Sept. 11, 2001, the resurgence of an aggressive Russia now at war in Ukraine and Syria, and the emergence of China now unilaterally attempting to dominate the South China Sea, has renewed the US military’s focus on winning massive wars.
This chart shows how many new squadrons the Air Force wants and how they’ll be distributed. The Air Force announced a goal of 386 squadrons, up from 312. Depending on the airframe, a squadron can have 8-24 planes.
For the bomber squadrons, which include nuclear capable bombers like the B-52 and B-2, that number will grow only slightly and likely include the mysterious new B-21 Raider bomber, which no one has ever seen outside classified circles.
In the fighter jet department, it’s likely F-35s will comprise most of this growth. Aerial tankers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, likely drones, will also see a big bump.
The Air Force hopes to build the force up to 386 squadrons by 2030, but has not provided any information on how it plans to fund the venture. The US Air Force has requested 6 billion for next fiscal year, already a six percent bump over the previous year. While Wilson promised to streamline acquisition, which famously can take years and cost billions, there’s real doubts about how fast the organization can move. The US Air Force started working on the F-22 in 1981. It first flew in 1997 and first went into combat in 2014. The F-35 started in 2001 and just last year experienced its first combat in Israel’s service.
“We are not naive about the budget realities,” Wilson said at the Air Force’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference. “At the same time, we think we owe our countrymen an honest answer on what is required to protect the vital, national interests of this country under the strategy we have been given, and so we believe this is, if not the perfect answer, it is an honest answer to that question: What is the Air Force we need?”
Currently, China’s military is in the midst of building up a tremendous air force and navy while also threatening some of the US’s core interests and most promising technologies.
The biggest US Air Force defense projects involve stealth aircraft, like the B-21 and F-35. As of yet unpublished research on China’s military reviewed by Business Insider found Chinese fighter aircraft now number around 1,610 compared to about 1,960 US fighters.
China has made strides towards quantum radars designed to negate the US stealth advantage as well as a stealth fighter of its own, the J-20.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Leadership is paramount to the success of any army. Leaders not only make life and death decisions but directly control the climate and quality of life of their subordinates.
But what is the real definition of leadership? Field Manual 6-22, Leader Development, defines leadership as “the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.”
We will discuss 12 fundamental leadership principles, as well as several educational and inspirational historical examples. Experienced leaders should already practice these principles; however, I have learned through personal experience never to assume anything. Therefore, we will start the series by examining the first four leadership principles — lead from the front, self-confidence vs. egotism, moral courage, and physical courage.
1. Lead from the front
Taught to lead by example, leaders inspire their soldiers to perform deeds of heroism and sacrifice, which often requires suppression of natural feelings such as fear. Leaders do not encourage their soldiers by saying, “onward,” but rather, “follow me,” the very apropos motto of the U.S. Army Infantry School.
To inspire troops, leaders must instill a pervasive attitude to motivate their troops to advance under withering fire or hold a seemingly untenable position. To accomplish this, leaders must be present at the forward edge of the battle area so their soldiers will follow their example and respect their judgment, leadership ability, and tactical knowledge.
2. Have self-confidence, not egoism
“As I gain in experience, I do not think more of myself but less of others.” -Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
While a platoon of soldiers is wary of going into action with an inexperienced leader, a smart platoon leader can mitigate this problem by seeking instruction and mentorship from the platoon sergeant, a role that noncommissioned officers have embraced since the rise of professional armies.
Any leader worth his stuff has confidence, but excessive egotism is usually indicative of a lack of assurance. A show of bravado in advance of a mission or the face of the enemy is acceptable; however, an abundance of cockiness is liable to portend a horrible day for all concerned. Below are examples of egotism that not only affected the leaders but their troops as well.
Gen. George S. Patton
-Gen. George S. Patton knew a thing or two about projecting confidence. He could change at will and put on his “war face,” followed by a speech, filled with “blood and guts,” to motivate his men.
Patton believed he was the most distinguished soldier who ever lived. He convinced himself that he would never falter through doubt. This faith in himself encouraged his men of the Second American Corps in Africa, and the Third Army in France, to believe they could achieve ultimate victory under his leadership.
3. Moral courage
“It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare.”
Doing the right thing, regardless of the consequences, is moral courage. An outstanding example is Gen. George Washington, whose legacy as the commander of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States remains among the greatest in American history.
Washington was one of the most experienced military leaders in the Thirteen Colonies, having served with the English during the French and Indian War in 1755.
Selected as a delegate to the Continental Congress, he was selected as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in 1775. Although Washington lost most of the battles during the Revolutionary War, he kept the Army together and built a strong coalition with the French when they intervened in the war.
According to historian Gordon Wood, Washington’s most significant act was his resignation as commander of the armies — an act that stunned aristocratic Europe. Many believed Washington could have been a dictator if he had chosen so.
4. Physical courage
“There were all kinds of things I was afraid of at first, ranging from grizzly bears to ‘mean’ horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid, I gradually ceased to be afraid.” -President Theodore Roosevelt
Because the life of a soldier is fraught with danger, courage is a requirement for every military leader. soldiers, who do their duty regardless of fear and risk to life or limb, perform bravery on the battlefield. As a result, there are numerous examples of the American soldiers’ courage.
For instance, during World War II, 2nd Lt. Audie L. Murphy became (at the time) the most decorated soldier in American history. Ironically, he had been turned down for enlistment by the Marines, Navy, and Army paratroopers because of his physique.
On January 26, 1945, at Holtzwihr, Germany, Murphy ordered his men to withdraw from an attack of enemy tanks and infantry. During the withdrawal, he mounted a burning tank destroyer and fired its .50 caliber machine gun for more than an hour, killing 50 Germans, stalling the attack, and forcing the enemy to withdraw. Although wounded, he led his men in a counterattack and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions.
As role models, leaders must lead from the front and display courage to motivate their soldiers. However, it is important to maintain an acceptable level of confidence without it turning into excessive egotism. There is no “I” in team and success comes as a result of the soldiers’ trust in their leader and their ability to work together.
5. Foster teamwork
“It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” -President Harry S. Truman
When accomplishing the mission, teamwork is more important than personal recognition, thus the famous quote, “There is no ‘I’ in team.” Today’s military often functions in joint operations, which consist of other branches as well as coalition partners. Therefore, an experienced leader cannot favor individuals but must foster cooperation with all team members.
An excellent example of such leadership is General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, who despite the challenges of making multiple countries’ militaries work together during World War II, built a coalition of U.S., British, French, and Canadian forces.
“I could never face a body of officers without emphasizing one word — teamwork,” he said.
6. Have fitness and energy
“Utterly fearless, full of drive and energy, he was always up front where the battle was fiercest. If his opponent made a mistake, Rommel was on it like a flash.” -Lt. Gen. Sir Brian Horrocks
If leaders follow the principle of leading from the front, then they must be physically fit and energetic to meet the demands of leadership on the battlefield. Leaders who possess such endurance can lead a platoon of hard chargers to fix bayonets and take the high ground.
Former Olympic athlete Gen. George S. Patton advocated for fitness long before it became a standard requirement for the modern day soldier. Assuming command of the I Armored Corps on January 15, 1942, Patton laid out his expectations.
“As officers, we must give leadership in becoming tough, physically and mentally,” he said. “Every man in this command must be able to run a mile in fifteen minutes with a full military pack.”
When an overweight senior officer guffawed, Patton angrily resumed, “I mean every man. Every officer and enlisted man, staff and command, every man will run a mile! We will start in exactly thirty minutes! I will lead!”
7. Be aggressive and bold
“An army of deer led by a lion is more to be feared than an army of lions led by a deer.” -Phillip of Macedonia
A leader must be bold and aggressive. Many of history’s most triumphant generals, such as Frederick the Great and Adm. Horatio Nelson, to name a few, embodied these qualities.
-Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great built his army into the one of the most formidable in history. He was a bold general and used his infantry’s swift maneuvering to confound and crush his enemies. This was the case at three of his most significant victories: the Battle of Hohenfriedberg in 1745 and the battles of Rossbach and Leuthen in 1757.
The Battle of Prague (1757), in which Frederick invaded Bohemia during the Third Silesian War (Seven Years’ War) is a prime example of his audacity. With England as his only ally, he faced Austrian, French, Russian, Saxon, and Swedish forces, and though he came close to defeat many times, he finally won the war.
-Adm. Horatio Nelson
Considered one of the most historically audacious naval leaders, Nelson faced the “Armed Neutrality,” made up of the Russian, Prussian, Danish, and Swedish fleets, at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801.
The battle started badly for the British and the fleet commander, Adm. Sir Hyde Parker, ordered Nelson to withdraw. Nelson was informed of the signal by one of his officers and angrily responded, “I told you to look out on the Danish Commodore and let me know when he surrendered. Keep your eyes fixed on him.” He then turned to his flag captain, and said, “You know, Foley, I have only one eye. I have a right to be blind sometimes.” He raised the telescope to his blind eye and said, “I really do not see the signal.”
In the end, the British fleet won, thus making the Battle of Copenhagen one of Nelson’s greatest victories.
8. Take care of your soldiers
“The badge of rank that an officer wears on his coat is really a symbol of servitude to his men.” -Maj. Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor
A competent leader preserves combat power by putting his soldiers first and doing the most to improve their situation. You will gain soldiers’ trust by making sure they are well equipped, fed, and rested. Beyond meeting their basic needs, it is also essential to be an advocate and ensure they receive proper recognition for their achievements. The U.S. Army prioritizes this as “the mission, the men, and me.”
One of Alexander the Great’s leadership qualities was the ability to place his men first.
After covering more than 400 miles in 11 days, Alexander and his soldiers were nearly dead from thirst. Some Macedonians had brought back a few bags of water from a distant river, and they offered Alexander a helmet-full. Although his mouth was so dry that he was nearly choking, he gave back the helmet with his thanks and explained that there was not enough for everyone, and if he drank, then the others would faint. When his men saw this, they spurred their horses forward and shouted for him to lead them. With such a king, they said, they would defy any hardships.
Training and caring for your soldiers ultimately leads to unit success. It is crucial to remember there is no “I” in team and even the most well-known leaders, such as Eisenhower, needed to foster teamwork and unit cohesion to accomplish goals that would have been impossible to achieve otherwise. However, to create unity, leaders must have the determination and decisiveness to overcome challenges they and their units experience.
The General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award.
(U.S. Army photo by Maj. Brett Walker)
9. Be a student of the past
“The only right way of learning the science of war is to read and reread the campaigns of the great captains.” -Napoleon
History offers a wealth of information to those who have the foresight to examine it. In addition to obtaining vital technical and tactical knowledge, soldiers can learn by studying how past leaders performed in the fog of war.
Gen. George Patton was a consummate warrior, known for studying history and acquiring an impressive library of professional military books during his lifetime. At an early age, he chose to become a soldier. His father nurtured him in the classics, as well as the lore of the Patton family, which was composed of military leaders, including two uncles who were Confederate officers killed in battle.
Unfortunately, Patton had dyslexia, a learning disability not well known or diagnosed at the time. He realized, however, that with determination and constant effort, he could pursue military studies and achieve his goal of becoming a great leader.
He understood the military profession required immense technical competence, knowledge of weapons and equipment, tactics and operations, and maneuvers and logistics. Therefore, he expended vast amounts of time and energy in reading and making copious notes in the pages of his books, making him not only familiar with the field and technical manuals of his time, but also knowledgeable about history.
10. Be decisive
“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” -President Theodore Roosevelt
In war, lack of decisiveness can have fatal consequences. Once you make up your mind, stick to your decision. Never show yourself to be indecisive.
When Julius Caesar refused to lay down his military command and return to Rome at the end of Gallic Wars, he said, “The die is cast,” thus making it clear that his choice was irrevocable.
In 1805, during the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon’s empire was threatened by England, Russia, and Austria. During this period, Napoleon was able to compel the Austrian army to surrender without firing a shot through rapid marching and maneuvers.
As a final example, in 1862, at the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War, Confederate mines blocked Union Adm. David Farragut’s path during an attempt to attack a Confederate Navy squadron to seize three forts guarding the bay entrance. In a decisive statement, Farragut said, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”
11. Show determination
“You are never beaten until you admit it.” -Gen. George S. Patton Jr.
A leader must show determination even when others do not. This “never say die” attitude is necessary for your soldiers to be tirelessly persistent during desperate, bleak, or challenging situations.
Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, acting commander of the 101st Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, is an excellent example. In December 1944, at Bastogne, Belgium, the Germans sent a demand for his surrender. He responded by saying, “Nuts.”
To articulate the resolve and determination of his countrymen, Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, gave a number of inspiring speeches during World War II:
-Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat
“I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs — victory in spite of all terror — victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory, there is no survival.”
-We Shall Fight on the Beaches
“We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”
-Their Finest Hour
“Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”
12. Be strong of character
“Duty, Honor, Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be.” -Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Gen. of the Army Douglas MacArthur was a historical leader who embodied the definition of strong character. He was a renowned general who won many battles against numerically superior and better-equipped foes and was awarded the Medal of Honor for defending the Philippines during World War II.
MacArthur did not accept anything but the best, even during times of peace, which was evident when he trained the 1927 American Olympic team. With his commanding presence, he pulled together a strong team, retorting, “Americans never quit,” in response to the U.S. boxing team manager who wanted to withdraw from the competition due to an unfair decision.
In his acceptance speech for the Sylvanus Thayer Award, one of the most eloquent expressions of leadership principles ever delivered, MacArthur’s words speak to today’s soldiers, especially NCOs who are “warrior-leaders of strong character”:
“Duty, Honor, Country. Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be … They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the Nation’s defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid.”
It is a tremendous honor, as an NCO, to lead soldiers and along with this honor comes the responsibility to do it well. An ideal Army NCO has a sharp intellect, physical presence, professional competence, high moral character, and serves as a role model. He or she is willing to act decisively, within the intent and purpose of those appointed over them and in the best interest of the organization. They recognize organizations built on mutual trust and confidence accomplish peacetime and wartime missions.
An NCO, who is proficient in some of these 12 principles, but deficient in others, will have a detrimental effect on mission success, morale, and the efficacy of leadership. It is therefore imperative that all leaders build competency in all principles and become well rounded.
The men and women of the U.S. military have made countless sacrifices in the service of our great nation. They deserve the best leadership that we can offer, and it is our sacred duty to give it to them.
This is a letter to the military spouse that started the journey to parenthood, with hope and excitement. The one thinking this would be so easy because that’s what society has led you to believe, only to still be trying one, two, three or however many heartbreaking years later. The one who has watched countless friends bring home children during this time that feels more and more discouraged.
This is a letter to the military spouse walking down the family planning aisle looking for a pregnancy test with your fingers crossed, full of anticipation, thinking this is the month that your dreams come true and you will cross the line into motherhood. For the one looking at ovulation test kits instead of pregnancy tests thinking maybe this is what will make the difference this month in your journey. You are beginning to wonder if anything can help you. Kicking yourself each month for not just buying the 50 count test kits on Amazon because you have likely spent hundreds of dollars on tests already. But still, you buy them because you still have hope that you can be a parent one day.
To the military spouse digging through the trashcan in the hopes that the positive line appeared late because it just needed more time. Maybe it was too faint for you to see the line, or the lighting was bad when you tested so you missed it. To the one that tests again, and again. Noticing every little symptom, feeling that this time it must have happened, but the test still gives you that same soul-crushing negative.
To the military spouse that ugly cries on the toilet when your period starts yet again. You really thought this was the month that it had finally happened because Aunt Flo was late. Only she showed up with a vengeance and all you want to do is crawl into bed and hide from the world. Each agonizing cramp and trip to the bathroom is a constant reminder that this cycle was a total bust.
To the military spouse that can’t listen to one more person ask, “So when are you two having kids?” or the subtle hints from family members. Each question or comment cuts you deep down inside and makes you feel even more broken. You feel like a failure because you can’t do the one thing that seems to define womanhood. The boiling anger, resentment and jealousy you feel when you see someone that wasn’t even trying or that accidentally got pregnant. That feeling that takes over that you can’t seem to define.
To the military spouse that is at another doctor’s appointment trying to find answers. Desperately looking and waiting for them to determine the cause, the reason. Answers to why this isn’t happening as it should. Praying that there is some reason and that you aren’t left without answers. Hoping that you can pop a few pills and that will do the trick. Maybe you’re moving to plan B, C or D and you are praying that this is the right combination of medications or treatments this cycle.
To the military spouse facing postponements or cancelations in treatment cycles because of deployments, PCSes or COVID-19. Wondering if you are missing your last chance. Wondering if this is the last egg you have left. Full of questions and uncertainties. Waiting for however long with anxiety and fear. Hoping with every ounce in your body that this doesn’t ruin your chances once this delay is all over. For the one that dreads having to start all over again once you are able.
To the military spouse worrying over the financial realities that come with infertility. Worrying if Tricare will cover testing. Stressing over the cost of medications that the insurance doesn’t cover. Trying to find thousands of dollars to pay for the chance at having your own family. You have a deep biological desire to carry and give birth to a child of your own. Making the hard decisions of which treatment route to go, and how many cycle attempts you make before there is no more money left in the pot. For the ones exhausted from searching for grants, loans, any program that could possibly help with the financial burden of infertility.
To the military spouse avoiding social media because it is flooded with the gut-wrenching reminder that you are childless. That each pregnancy announcement, gender reveal and newborn photoshoot you scroll past is a stab at your empty womb. Maybe you have resorted to unfollowing or even unfriending friends and family because it hurts too much to see their posts. While deep down you truly are happy for them, your feelings of jealousy, sadness and rage take over and it’s easier to not be reminded.
To the military spouse attending a baby shower that is politely smiling and limiting conversation because on the inside you are struggling. Struggling to fight back the flood of tears and overwhelming sadness. Wondering if you will ever get to experience this for yourself or if you will always be barren. Looking for the quickest route to the door or bathroom in case the flood of tears starts to stream and the last thing you want is to cause a scene.
To the military spouse that got her positive test after all the struggles and heartache to have it all ripped away. For the ones that saw a heartbeat and thought they were in the clear this time. Or you thought this time it would be different, that this time you wouldn’t miscarry, but then everything came crashing down around you. Maybe you only know the devastating realities of pregnancy loss and long to be the one that experiences the joys of bringing home a child.
To the military spouse that feels alone, broken, weary, or even depressed: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. For the one that feels all these and more month after month, or year after year. To the one that has days where getting out of bed feels impossible. For the one that can’t face the world or function for days at a time. Let me say it again: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. One in 8 couples face the same problems with infertility.
To the military spouse facing infertility: This does not define you. This is not who you are. This is not your fault. Your worth is not any less, nor does it make you any less of a woman. This is not a measure of your success. You are not broken or damaged. You are strong. The pain you feel is real and it is okay to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. And it is okay for you to talk about it. Be a voice and share your story so others can see that they are not alone. You get to decide on your journey, just know that there is a whole military spouse community right here with you to support and encourage you because you are not alone and it is okay to talk about it.
April is Infertility Awareness Month and this is National Infertility Awareness Week. For resources about infertility, please visit: https://infertilityawareness.org/. And from our hearts to yours: You are not alone.
The 60th Maintenance Squadron is the first field unit in the Air Force to be certified with an industrial-sized 3D printer that is authorized to produce nonstructural aircraft parts.
The Stratasys F900 3D printer, which is capable of printing plastic parts up to 36-by-24-by-36 inches, uses a material called Ultem 9085 that is more flexible, dense and stronger than typical plastic.
The printer, which is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Air Force Advanced Technology and Training Center, offers new opportunities to create needed parts while saving time and money.
“It brings us a capability that we’ve never had before,” said Master Sgt. John Higgs, 60th MXS aircraft metals technology section chief. “There’s so many possibilities available to us right now. We’re just scratching the surface.”
Technicians are able to download blueprints from an online database that the University of Dayton Research Institute has approved.
A Stratasys F900 3D printer prints aircraft parts, Aug. 15, 2019, Travis Air Force Base.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)
“The Joint Engineering Data Management Information Control System is where we go to download already approved blueprints,” Higgs said. “Now, the University of Dayton Research Institute is working with the engineers to get those parts they developed into JEDMICS.”
The first approved project was printed on the Stratasys F900 Aug. 12, 2019, and will replace latrine covers on the C-5M Super Galaxy. Typically, parts that don’t keep the aircraft from performing their mission don’t have as high as a priority for replacement.
“The latrine covers we just printed usually take about a year from the time they’ve been ordered to the time they’ve been delivered,” Higgs said. “We printed two of the covers in 73 hours.”
Getting the printer operational was no easy task. It took eight months to get the system fully operational.
“There were facility requirements that had to be met, and then installation and certification processes to complete,” Higgs said. “After, we needed to decide who could operate the printer, then have a UDRI instructor certify them.”
Three members from the 60th MXS were chosen to be the first technicians trained in the Air Force for the initial certification. One of them, Tech. Sgt. Rogelio Lopez, 60th MXS assistant aircraft metals technology section chief, has been with the project since its inception.
Latrine covers, the first aircraft parts authorized for use after being printed on the Stratasys F900 3D printer are on display Aug. 15, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Louis Briscese)
“UDRI has not trained or certified anyone else at the field level except the three of us here at Travis Air Force Base,” Lopez said. “Now that we’re signed off on our training records, we’re the only ones who can operate, maintain and print on the Stratasys F900.”
Now with parts in production, all the hard work is paying off. There’s a new sense of urgency within the organization.
“It’s exciting because the Air Force is implementing new technology at the field level,” Lopez said. “The Air Force continues to encourage airmen to be innovative by finding new ways to streamline processes and save resources.”
And since Travis AFB is the only field unit that is currently operational, requests from outside the organization are already coming in.
“We already have a list from the Air Force level to help them print and to backfill some supplies,” Higgs said. “This will ensure other bases can replace items sooner than expected with our help.”
Ultimately, the maintenance shop wants to use the printer for more than just aircraft parts.
“We have the capability to print parts on a production scale for a lot more customers,” Higgs said. “The overall goal is to generate products for every organization to support whatever needs they may have.”
It was a cold February in 2014 when I was staying at a tiny U.S. Army installation right near the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea with the rest of my company. We hadn’t been there long before we got our first mail drop, right before Valentine’s Day. Some of us got care packages, but everyone in my platoon got a letter.
These letters were sent by elementary school kids back in the States — probably around third grade — and they were just as you’d expect: immaculate spelling, artwork that rivaled the classic greats, and fine calligraphy. Jokes aside, receiving that letter put me in an interesting head-space.
At that point, the war in Iraq had mostly died down. Marines were still being sent to Afghanistan, but just a handful of months prior, we were reflecting upon the 12th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks that kick-started the whole shebang.
1st platoon, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in South Korea. C. 2014.
What I realized then and there is that, just a decade earlier, I was the elementary school kid writing a letter to some service member who was, at that time, fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, I was even younger than whoever penned my letter when I saw the events of that fateful September day repeated on the news. The kid who wrote the letter in my hands now wasn’t even around in 2001.
It never occurred to me, especially back at the turn of the century, that I would one day enlist to fight in the same war that started when I was a kid.
When I was growing up, you’d hear this left and right: “Don’t join the military, you’ll go to war and die.” I always dismissed it as ignorant. After all, my father fought in the war before this one and he came back, didn’t he? But, at the time, half of that statement was true. If you enlisted immediately after 9/11, there was a near guarantee you’d go to war.
That sentiment followed me through boot camp.
I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17 and I was still sure I’d go to war. But, with time comes change — and that’s exactly what happened. From the time I went to MEPS and had an old guy tell me to turn my head and cough to the time I walked across the parade deck at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, everyone said I would go to war. My recruiter, my drill instructors, everyone.
But once I got to the School of Infantry, things had mellowed out a bit.
I never went to war. In fact, a lot of people I served with never did. The crazy thing is that it was the reason we enlisted. We were kids when 9/11 happened and we grew up during the war that it spawned. We had time to grow angry about what had happened and we enlisted for a lot of the same reasons as our predecessors.
Marine Corps Ball in 2014. That’s me on the left.
What blows my mind the most, however, is that I completed my service over two years ago and that war is still going on, even if the Marine Corps infantry isn’t actively involved. Meanwhile, that kid who wrote me the letter is probably sitting in a high school classroom learning about 9/11 as a historical event — not as something that happened to them.
The National Defense Strategy document released in January 2018 emphasized dynamic force employment as a method to maintain the US Navy’s combat capabilities while changing the duration and intensity of its deployments.
It was intended to be “strategically predictable, but operationally unpredictable.”
According to Adm. James Foggo, head of US naval forces in Europe and Africa and the chief of NATO’s Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, it’s already working — leaving Russia guessing about what the Navy is doing.
The USS Harry S. Truman transits the Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 12, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)
When asked for an example of the successful use of dynamic force employment on the latest episode of his podcast, “On the Horizon,” Foggo pointed to the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group’s recent maneuvers.
“They were originally not scheduled to be in the European theater for the entire deployment. We had other plans,” Foggo said. “But because of dynamic force employment, they came here. They immediately proceeded to the eastern Mediterranean and conducted strike missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.”
“Then they moved to the Adriatic, and this was interesting because it was a move coincident with Vice Adm. Franchetti’s command of BaltOps 2018 in the Baltic Sea,” he said, referring to Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of the US 6th Fleet, which operates around Europe.
“So the Harry S. Truman, to my knowledge, is the first carrier to participate in a BaltOps operation with airpower from the Adriatic.”
A US sailor takes a photo of Jebel Musa from the flight deck of the USS Harry S. Truman, Dec. 4, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Joseph A.D. Phillips)
Baltic Operations, or BaltOps, is an annual US-led exercise that was one of more than 100 NATO exercises in 2018, held during the first half of June 2018. After that, Foggo said, the Truman strike group returned to US for about a month.
“I don’t think anybody, let alone the Russians, expected that, and that kind of puts them back on their heels,” he added.
“In fact, we were starting to see some articles in Russian media about the carrier heading back into the Mediterranean, but she didn’t go there. She went up north. She went to the Arctic Circle.”
The Truman left its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, at the end of August 2018, and about six weeks later it became the first US aircraft carrier since the early 1990s to sail into the Arctic Circle.
“It was our intent at that time to put her into the Trident Juncture [live exercise], and she was a force multiplier,” Foggo said, referring to NATO’s largest military exercise since the Cold War.
“This is the first time that we’ve operated north of the Arctic Circle with a carrier that high up in latitude since the end of the Cold War,” Foggo added. “I think that she proved through dynamic force employment that she can be strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable.”
An F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 19, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
The Truman strike group eschewed the traditional six-month deployment that carrier strike groups have normally undertaken, sailing instead on two three-month deployments.
Between April and July 2018, it operated around the 6th Fleet’s area of operations, including strikes against ISIS in Syria, as mentioned by Foggo.
After five weeks in Norfolk, it headed back out, operating around the North Atlantic and the Arctic — forgoing the traditional Middle East deployment.
Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said at the end of November 2018 that the first dynamic-force-employment deployment had gone “magnificently” and that the strike group had carried out more types of missions in more diverse environments that wouldn’t have been possible with a normal Middle East deployment.
Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, joins sailors for a Thanksgiving meal on the USS Harry S. Truman, Nov. 22, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Sarah Villegas)
“I would say that the Navy by nature is predisposed to being dynamic and moving around. It is very good to kind of get back into that game a little bit,” Richardson told the press in the days before Thanksgiving 2018.
The stop in Norfolk July 2018 was a working visit for the Truman and the rest of its strike group.
The strike group departed the 6th Fleet area of operations on Dec. 11, 2018, and returned to Norfolk on Dec. 16, 2018, marking the transition from its deployment phase to its sustainment phase, when the group’s personnel will focus on needed repairs and maintaining their skills.
In July 2018, “we came back in working uniform and we got to work,” Rear Adm. Gene Black, the commander of the Truman strike group, said in late November 2018, according to USNI News. “This time we’re going to have the whole homecoming with Santa Claus and the band and the radio station, and all the good stuff that comes with that.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There can be no doubt that terrifying things can happen in times of war. However, in most cases it can at least be counted on that the enemy one faces is a living human being.
What happens when other, more supernatural forces creep into war zones? What are soldiers to do when faced with mysterious phantoms, ghosts, apparitions and entities against which they have no experience and which they have not been trained to fight? War zones have attracted tales of hauntings and supernatural phenomena since time unremembered, and certainly one of the more modern such places of paranormal terror is the desolate battlefields of the war in Afghanistan. This is a place that is not only plagued by fighting and violence, but also apparently strange forces that have shown some soldiers here that human enemies are not always the only thing to be scared of in these bleak, violent wastelands.
Several mysterious reports came from a United States Marine who had just come back home after serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The witness tends to be quite secretive about his role in the war, only stating that his unit was “relatively safe,” and only suffered two non-combat related casualties. The witness claims to have had a couple of potential encounters with ghosts during his service, and one of them occurred as he was sitting with some superiors and colleagues within a makeshift office in the desert which had three rooms. There were reportedly four other people in the cramped room with him when, as he was standing near the backdoor, he noticed his Lieutenant step through the door and enter a small adjoining contractor’s office. He saw the man clearly, but at this point there was nothing particularly strange about it, and the witness explained “he was wearing a FROG suit and everything. Nothing unusual about him. Even had the moustache.”
Just 30 seconds later a call came through asking for the Lieutenant and the witness went to the contractor’s office to fetch him. Strangely, the room was completely empty – nobody was there. Since there was no other door out of the office, the witness asked if anyone had noticed the Lieutenant leave, but nobody had, even though there were four others in the enclosed space and it seemed that somebody would have noticed such a thing. The witness went to the rear door of the office they were in and looked around but there was no one there either. Even a look outside showed no signs of anyone. It was as if the Lieutenant had just disappeared into thin air. The witness explained:
I said ‘Disregard Sgt., nobody is around, looks like I was seeing things.’ Then, my roommate a fellow Lance says to me “That’s bull****, you and I both know somebody is in that room,” and I just said “Nope. You saw it too. Someone walked in, and nobody came out, but nobody is there.
Another incident in the very same office happened one evening at around 10PM. The witness claims that he was alone after working late and on his way out when the door to the contractor’s room opened by itself and stayed open. He went to investigate and shone a flashlight about into the dim space but no one was there. He said that at the time he had a very strange feeling like he was being watched and that it was quite unsettling. The very same witness claimed to have seen other strange things during his tour. He also says that there was a mysterious heat signature that would be seen on infrared equipment wandering and pacing around out in the desert outside in the dark, yet when it was observed with different cameras or the naked eye, nothing was there and there was no response when they called out into the night.
Another witness who reported strange, ghostly figures in the desert claimed that his unit was plagued by a mysterious phantom that would appear around the outskirts of their camp and vanish in the blink of an eye. The first time it appeared was a little after dusk, a couple hundred yards from their position. One of the men, described as a “random PVT,” told the others that there was a person out in the wilderness just standing there. The witness looked and at first couldn’t see anything but after a moment could make out a dark blob in the vague shape of a person. The Sergeant apparently was called over and saw it too. When asked where the figure had come from, the private explained that it had “just popped up.” Whoever was out there there was just standing motionless with its back to them. The witness described the eerie scene and what happened next:
So we watch this “person” for about 3hrs, who just stands there, motionless, with its back to us. You could put optics on it and see it was a person, adult male, average height and build. Best part: we “borrowed” a thermal monocular and this f*cker doesn’t register in it. ZERO F*CKING HEAT SIGNATURE. Then randomly, just poof, gone. Random PVT spends the next 6 weeks telling everyone about the ghost we saw.
Around 6 months later, the same witness was out on patrol when two of his unit reported seeing two figures standing on top of a berm a couple of hundred yards away. Anticipating an enemy IED (Improvised Explosive Device), they stopped the vehicle and examined the figures, which appeared to be men just standing with their backs to them. They were motionless and would not respond when called to, just like the strange phantom previously seen 6 months earlier. The Lieutenant called it in and some of the men got out to go investigate. The witness would explain what happened next thus:
We dismount, LT calls over terp asks if he knows what’s up. Terp gives blank stare and shrugs. LT decides we should go have a look-see and do some hearts-and-minds sh*t. I stay in the truck (which feels like 140 f*cking degrees), 20min goes by LT comes back with weird look on his face and says ‘we’re outta here.’ Later that day I asked another guy WTF happened, he says they get within 50yds of aforementioned “persons” and, presto, gone. I ask “what do you mean, gone?” and he just looks at me with this blank stare and says “gone. They were there, and then they weren’t. Weird huh?’
In another account, a marine who served in Afghanistan and Yemen from 2009-2013 relates an odd experience. One evening at 1AM, the witness had just finished setting up a patrol base with four members of his squad while the other seventeen men slept. In front of the patrol base was a huge, open field and to the left was, rather spookily, an Afghan cemetery. As the witness was looking out over the field on watch duty, he claims that a rock came hurtling through the air to land at his feet. Thinking this to be peculiar he peered out into the darkness over the field, which was wide open with no blind spots or hiding places, but he couldn’t see anyone there nor any movement. As he was looking, another rock reportedly was tossed in his direction from the field. The witness put on night vision equipment but could still see no one there, and infrared turned up no heat signatures either. The night was completely quiet and that field was totally empty. Yet another rock would be lobbed at him as he tried to figure out what was going on, and the whole thing was quite unnerving. The marine would say of the eerie incident:
At this point I’m kinda freaked out. This happened right after my team leader died. So I was freaked out and nothing to rule out what threw rocks at me because no one was there.
Equally as bizarre as any of these accounts of strange intruders is that of another soldier who was operating with a special forces squad in the mountains of Afghanistan with the mission of setting up a hide-to-survey in a village several miles away that was believed to be harboring a Taliban person of interest who the military had been tracking for years. The squad’s main goal at the time was to observe the village for a few days for any suspicious activity or persons, as well as to collect any useful information that could be later used in a raid. To this end they set up a team of six men at the base and two others whose job was to creep in closer to observe from a different vantage point.
Things went well at first, but on the second day the squad began having trouble maintaining radio contact with the observation team and the TOC (Tactical Operations Center). They found that transmissions were plagued by static and sometimes would not go through at all. It was chalked up to the magnetic content of the rocks in the area and the witness and some of the men went out to re-position the Satcom in order to get a better signal. As they were doing this at around dusk, one of the soldiers said he spotted a man wearing a white robe who looked to be flitting and running through the rocks outside of the village. When this was reported the men were immediately suspicious, and the witness would say:
There was something odd about the way he described it, but we were more worried about being compromised. Needless to say, we folded up our sh*t and got ready to move out. We weren’t going to end up in some Lone Survivor type clusterf*ck. We were the f*ck out of there. So at this point it’s late dusk, and we were moving pretty quick. Everyone is on high f*cking alert, we are a small element in a remote area without ready access to any kind of quick reaction force and we had no reliable comms.
The team continued their hasty trek back towards their outpost, and the witness took up the rear, walking backwards and making sure they weren’t being followed or leaving a clear trail, his gun trained on the darkness the whole time. As he did this he spotted a fleeting glimpse of something white moving in the distance, although he could not be sure just what it was or if it was following them. Oddly, he would later report that at the time he had begun to sense the smell of freshly baked bread permeating the air and a sudden onset of a feeling of peace and relaxation, which he sensed was emanating from the direction they had come from. This sensation was so profound that he actually slowed down, and thoughts danced through his head of running over to this comfortable place he felt pulling at him from where they had been. He shook off this daze and reported to the other men what he had seen and that he thought they were possibly being trailed, to which an officer replied that he had seen something white moving as well. The witness would say:
I asked my dudes to keep their eyes open for anything, because I thought I had seen someone trailing us. Our senior scout piped in “That’s strange mom, (I was mom, long story) I thought I saw some dude in white on the ridge in front of us.” At this point all the hairs on my neck are standing up. Everything felt strange. The air felt heavy, and sort of sweet. The silence hummed loudly.
With the night steadily moving in, a sense of urgency, panic, and dread set in and the men picked up the pace, even though they were already exhausted from hauling their heavy packs over the uneasy, rugged terrain. As darkness creeped over the landscape to slowly envelope them in pitch blackness, they put on their NODS (night vision goggles), turning the world into a green haze. The night was incredibly silent, even more than usual, and there was no movement out there in the mountainous moonscape bathed in the green cast of the night vision goggles. But this eerie silence would not last, and this is when things allegedly got very strange indeed. The witness describes it best:
Hallucinations happen. But what happened was beyond comprehension. First, we heard a sound like a huge airplane taking off. A loud low buzz that slowly increased in pitch. We had to yell over comms to hear each other. Everywhere I looked, I kept seeing what looked like glowing eyes staring back at me, but once i would center my focus on where I saw them, they would disappear. We were f*cking panicked. Everyone was holding their rifles at the high ready, we were expecting some kind of ambush attack and we started talking out the RP we would meet at if we needed to start a peel and move. Then it all just stopped. Everything got dark. The only thing I could hear was my breath and the blood pumping in my head. We stopped, dug into the side of the mountain, and performed SLLS (Stop look listen Smell) for about 10 minutes. Nothing. Not even bugs. The air and the land were silent.
Baffled, frightened, and overcome with fatigue, the men quickly resumed their trudge through the wilderness back to their camp, very aware that something very possibly malignant and beyond their experience was out there in the dark somewhere. As they scrambled over loose rock and through scrub and brush the witness claims that he suddenly noticed on a parallel hillside the very clear sight of a man dressed in light colored robes, which seemed to be slowly making his way towards their position. Bizarrely, it seemed that that the stranger was just passing through any obstacles he came across as he moved slowly but inexorably closer. The witness would describe the rest of the surreal encounter thus:
He seemed to melt over and around the rocks, it was f*cking unnatural the way he was moving. Through the NODS, his eyes glowed. I scoped up on him, and saw that he was looking directly at me. It was pitch black, there is no way he could have saw us from that distance without any kind of night optics. Suddenly, he stopped. He picked up one of his limbs and held it in the air, almost like he was waving at me. Then the arm melted back into his form, like it wasn’t an arm at all, but some kind of extendable proboscis that was meant to look like an arm from a distance. I was about to ask the guy’s if they could see him, when he suddenly disappeared.
The witness also saw lights flickering in the distance near the town, which he presumed to be the enemy closing in on the area where the booming sound had originated. The team moved on and managed to make it back to their recovery location. They went on to recount their strange experiences and were reportedly told that it was probably all attributable to weariness, panic, and adrenaline. The whole thing was more or less forgotten until a few days later, when the story would take another weird turn. According to the witness:
The reason we did the observation was so we could bring the intel back for a raid that was to be conducted. The raid was ‘successful’, in the sense that finding a deer hit by a car is a successful deer hunt. Apparently, the team that moved into the village found it completely abandoned. They also found several men in the area where I had seen the lights the night we were hauling ass out of there. The corpses had been ripped to shreds, and based on the sheer amount of blood, the general consensus was that there were more men that were killed there than just the bodies that were found. It went in the official records as a successful raid with several enemy KIA’s. Unofficially? No one has any idea what killed them. All I know is whatever it was…it chose. It chose those men and not us.
Whatever that “it” was remains unknown. Another account that most certainly belongs here is one given by a commenter on another article of mine on mysteries in the war in the Middle East. It is an account that seems hard to really categorize, but seeming to deal with ghosts, demons, or some other supernatural beings. The commenter, Jerry Aberdeen, related a truly bizarre experience that happened to him when he was stationed in Mosul, Ninewah Province in 2004, and it is so intriguing and fitting that I felt compelled to share it here. Jerry Aberdeen explains his very weird story thus:
I was attached to 2/3 INF 3 SBCT at FOB Patriot. A call went out on the radio that FOB Diamondback (the airfield) was under attack. Everyone on every FOB from, Courage, Blickenstaff, Patriot and Marez jumped into the closest vehicle and headed to the airfield to counter the attack. I was in a vehicle with some other infantry guys, an engineer and a PsyOps guy. When we got to the airfield we saw some dudes trying to climb over the wall. The gunner opened up on them and the rest of us took up a position in a ditch on the other side of the road and opened fire. There were three of us side by side, the engineer, the PsyOps guys and myself. We fired and one guy and he dropped from the top of the wall (hard to tell who actually shot him). Right after he fell there was stream of black smoke coming out of him. The engineer made that comment that he must have been wearing a suicide vest and it malfunctioned. A few seconds later the black smoke grew larger and started to take a human looking form. What happened next all three of us saw and there was no doubt. The now fully materialized black smoke was standing upright and now had red smoky glowing eyes and a weird looking mouth. The damn thing actually smiled at us and turned to, sort of run but it just dissipated after it took a few steps. Very hard to describe how it all happened. All three of us just looked at each other wide eyed for a second or two. After it was all over we only spoke about once then never again.
So far here we have been looking at assorted isolated incidents of the strange and supernatural, but the war in Afghanistan also seems to have certain places that draw in such bizarre tales. One such place is a lonely outpost called Observation Point Rock, also known as simply “The Rock,” which sits exposed around 20 meters (65ft) above the desert and situated near what appears to be a looming, giant rock, but which is actually the ruins of a caved-in, ancient mud fort, complete with arrow slits and the crumpled remains of turrets. Captured from the Taliban in 2008, the isolated outpost typically holds a small contingent of U.S. Marines to keep watch and guard it, and in addition to its reputation as being a harsh, forbidding place full of dust and grit and sporadic rocket attacks by Taliban fighters, it has also gathered about it an even more sinister reputation of being an intensely haunted and cursed one.
Almost as soon as the Marines moved in there were strange stories and dark rumors swirling about the place. It was said that Taliban fighters had been buried alive in the caves below, and that there were numerous bodies of Russian soldiers buried here during the failed Soviet invasion of these lands. One group of Marines digging a trench claimed to have come across a human leg bone, which led to the discovery of another piece of human remains, followed by another and another, including skulls and whole desiccated corpses and skeletons, which were all believed to have possibly been Russian since a stake with Russian writing was found. They would later find out that a contingent of Russian soldiers had been supposedly executed there in the 1980s after being found by the Taliban while using the rock as a hideout. Also among the macabre remains were found shards of ancient pottery long buried within the dry earth with more inscrutable, unknown origins.
With the creepy ambiance and all of the bodies said to be entombed here it was perhaps no surprise that weird reports would start popping up amongst those stationed here in these badlands. Noises with no discernible source, objects moving on their own, strange lights, disembodied cries or screams, the sound of footsteps or crunching gravel even when there was no one there, the sudden onset of heavy feelings of dread … the men serving here were often plagued with various strange phenomena. Electrical equipment was also said to often malfunction here, and that fresh batteries had a habit of going dead within minutes. On some occasions, machine gun fire or incoming rockets could be heard, but nothing was hit and none of the guns had been fired. There were cases of movement seen on the perimeter only to turn up no trespassers on thermal equipment and no footprints. A Sergeant Josh Brown, 22, once said of Observation Point, “The local people say this is a cursed place. You will definitely see weird-ass lights up here at night,” and another soldier named Lance Corporal Austin Hoyt, 20 has said:
This place really sucks. The Afghans say it’s haunted. Stick a shovel in anywhere and you’ll find bones and bits of pottery. This place should be in National Geographic — in the front there are weird-looking windows for shooting arrows. You know, they say the Russians up here were executed by the Mujahidin.
Strange phenomena were said to have been going on before they had even arrived. The British soldiers who had occupied the base before them also supposedly had experienced such strangeness, and even warned the American troops of what to expect when they got there. They claimed that lights prowled the bleak landscape, that phantoms and shadows moved about in the desert which were only briefly glimpsed by infrared cameras before vanishing, that there were dancing lights that could be observed through night vision goggles, that there were often noises and voices from nowhere, screams or shrieks out in the desert at night, and that to touch any relics or bones found there was to invite great misfortune.
Although the tales of the supernatural surrounding the haunted base are numerous, some stand out as particularly creepy. One Corporal Jacob Lima had a few spooky stories to tell concerning the Observation Point Rock. In one account he claimed that one night he was startled by a chilling scream coming from one of the men. When Lima ran to investigate, he found a Corporal Zolik cowering in fear at his guard post. Zolik claimed that as he had been sitting there, he had felt breath on his ear and heard a clear voice whisper something in Russian. The man was so terrified that he begged Lima to stay with him until his shift was finished. As they waited there together Lima said on several occasions they heard footsteps up on the observation post above them, even though no one else was there. At one point during the night Lima was scanning the area with thermal imaging and allegedly saw what looked like another soldier with “balled fists” standing out in the desert. As he tried to discern whether it was friend or foe, the mysterious figure vanished into thin air right before his eyes. The whole incident was enough to make Zolik desperately requested a transfer out of there. Interestingly, other men also frequently reported hearing disembodied whispers in Russian around the outpost.
On another occasion, Lima was on watch and suddenly heard a dog that was kept there, named Ugly Betty, barking wildly at something. Thinking it could be the enemy, Lima put on his night vision goggles and scanned the night for movement, which turned up what appeared to be a figure in the distance. Not sure what he was seeing, he switched to thermal imaging and tried to find the figure again but it was gone. When he went back to night vision he was able to see the mysterious figure again, which had inexplicably closed a large distance in just moments. A switch back to thermal once again turned up no heat signatures at all, even though Lima was sure that the whatever-it-was was still there. At some point in all of this switching between thermal and night vision, he lost sight of the figure altogether, at which point he claims he felt a heavy tap on his shoulder. When he turned around there was supposedly no one there. Somewhere out in the night, the dog was still barking.
Observation Point Rock is not the only supposedly haunted military outpost in Afghanistan – another notorious one is called Forward Operation Base Salerno. The location of the base already lends itself well to spooky tales, as on its outskirts is an old Afghan graveyard, which is overlooked by two high watchtowers. Indeed, it is these towers that are said to be intensely haunted by what appears to be the spirit of a little girl, said to be sometimes heard or seen wandering around aimlessly either in the towers themselves or in the area around them.
One frightening report concerns two paratroopers with the 2nd Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment named Painter and Jackson, who one night were on watch duty when they were startled by a blood curdling, shrill laugh emanating from their radio, so high-pitched as to almost cause pain. The laugh was described as sounding like that of a little girl, and Painter would claim that “No grown man in the Army could have made it.” When the unearthly laugh stopped, the two men radioed to others on watch but it turned out that no one else had heard a thing. The very next evening, the two men were on watch duty again in the same place, still rather unnerved by what had happened the night before. As they sat there in the dark, they claim that they heard movement and footsteps in the tower, particularly on the trap door that led to another level, even though they were the only ones there. The room also allegedly suddenly became very cold for no apparent reason.
This was unsettling enough, but then there came a call over the radio from the other watch tower, claiming that they were detecting a small, 3-foot-tall figure wandering around in the dark outside. Creepily, although no details of the strange phantom could be seen, what did appear to be clear was that whatever it was reportedly seemed to be waving at them. Jackson says he went out onto the balcony to investigate but saw nothing but the desolate nighttime landscape and that graveyard out in the murk. A scan of the surroundings with thermal imaging equipment also turned up no heat signatures of any kind. After that, the scared men reluctantly continued the rest of their shift with no further such phenomena. Interestingly, although this incident was indeed frightening, neither of the men felt that the ghost was malevolent, but rather that it seemed to just want to play.
In this case the figure had been small but rather indistinct, yet other stories add more eerie detail. On another occasion that supposedly happened years earlier, two Marines were in one of the watch towers when they looked out and clearly saw through their night vision goggles a young girl walking along in the desert night with a goat, but when they took the goggles off the both the girl and the goat were gone. As soon as they put the goggles back on the girl was back, this time shockingly standing on the watchtower balcony, much to the horror of the guards. The event was so upsetting that these toughened Marines were supposedly reduced to tears and refused to go back to the tower. This is not even an isolated incident, and there have been other sightings of a ghostly little girl out walking abut, either by herself or with a goat, both always undetectable by thermal imaging or night vision.
Adding to ghostly lore of Forward Operating Base Salerno is the account of an Airman who had done two deployments in Afghanistan and had spent much of that time stationed at the base, where he stayed at a compound designated for aviation personnel. One night, he says he was out with another person from his platoon to go visit a friend of theirs who was doing guard duty at one of the towers. The friends spent some time chatting and, by the time they left the guard, it was quite late and the moonless night was pitch black, making it hard to get back to their compound since they did not have night vision goggles with them. They got lost and decided to head back to the guard tower to ask for directions back. As they set out into the night again towards the compound, they claim they heard a rustling and footsteps like someone coming up behind them, but when they looked, no one was there. This would happen several times as they picked up their pace and finally reached their destination. Could this have been the same spectral little girl? The mysteries of this place have yet to be explained, and there have been so many strange, unexplained phenomena at Forward Operating Base Salerno that it has become almost legendary in the region among military personnel.
What lies behind cases like these? Is there anything to them, or is this all the result of a scared mind seeing the world through the cracked sense of stress, horror, fatigue, and hallucination? There are many who say that this is precisely what it is. However, although I can see this being the case with lone, isolated individuals, it becomes harder to explain in these terms when the apparition is seen and experienced by several men at once. Is this possible that it is just a mass hallucination where each one sees exactly the same thing at exactly the same time down to every detail? Is this something that truly happens with mere hallucinations? There is also the fact that they may be lying, which is a possibility, but then again we are dealing with men with more on their mind, like staying alive and combating the enemy, than coming up with fanciful tales for the amusement of it all. Then there is the possibility that something truly strange is really going on, but what that could be remains evasive.
In the end, it certainly seems that war zones can attract just as many strange specters, phantoms, and assorted entities and spooky tales of hauntings as any old derelict house or secluded, darkened forest. In fact, some of the most haunted places in the world are places that have been cast under the shadow of violent battle and strife, whether that is happening now or a dark piece of history from centuries ago. War zones and battlefields consistently draw to themselves such eerie stories, as if they are not only collecting ghosts in the sense of memories of a bloody past, but also literal ones as well. Is it because places so saturated with killing, anguish, and horrific struggle somehow tether the spirits of the dead to them? Does all of this negative energy manifest itself in some bizarre and mysterious fashion beyond our understanding? Is it because the gruesome horrors of war have managed to pervade the landscape and etch themselves onto the very fabric of reality, like light onto film, with events and individuals playing back like a video? We may never know the answers to questions such as these, but one thing that becomes apparent when looking at these accounts is that sometimes those in the field face terrors both human and otherwise, and must come face to face with fear both living and dead.
Weitz died at his retirement home in Flagstaff, Arizona, on Oct. 23, said Laura Cutchens of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. No cause of death was given.
A NASA biography says Weitz was among the class of 19 astronauts who were chosen in April 1966. He served as command module pilot on the first crew of the orbiting space laboratory known as Skylab during a 28-day mission in 1973.
Weitz also piloted the first launch of the ill-fated shuttle Challenger in April 1983. The five-day mission took off from the Kennedy space Center in Florida and landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The Challenger was destroyed and seven crew members killed during its 10th launch on January 28, 1986.
In all, he logged 793 hours in space and retired as deputy director of the Johnson Space Center in May 1994.
Weitz was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, on July 25, 1932, and graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in aeronautical engineering in 1954, according to NASA. He then joined the Navy, serving on a destroyer before being chosen for flight training and earning his wings as a Naval Aviator in September 1956. He served in various naval squadrons, including service in Vietnam, before joining the Astronaut Corps.
According to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, Weitz returned to the Navy after his mission on Skylab mission and retired as a captain in July 1976 after serving 22 years. He then came out of retirement to re-join NASA.
“Paul Weitz’s name will always be synonymous with the space shuttle Challenger. But he also will be remembered for defying the laws of gravity – and age,” said Curtis Brown, board chairman of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and an astronaut and veteran of six space flights. “Before it became commonplace to come out of retirement, Paul was a pioneer. He proved 51 was just a number.”
The foundation is supported by astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Space Shuttle, and Space Station programs and annually provides scholarships for 45 students.
China is not an enemy, but it is certainly an adversary of the United States, and the Defense Department’s 2018 report to Congress examines the trends in Chinese military developments.
Congress mandates the report, titled “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.” While the report highlights military developments, it also addresses China’s whole-of-government approach to competition.
China’s economic development is fueling extraordinary changes in relationships it maintains around the world, according to the report. On the face of it, China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative sounds benign – it looks to build infrastructure for developing countries and Chinese neighbors.
Chinese leaders have funded serious projects as far away as Africa under the initiative. They have built roads in Pakistan and made major inroads in Malaysia. China has a major stake in Sri Lanka. Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Laos and Djibouti also are involved.
People’s Liberation Army troops demonstrate an attack during a visit by Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to China, Aug. 16, 2017.
(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The Chinese government seeks to overturn the established international order that has kept the peace in the region since World War II and allowed Asian countries to develop.
But “One Belt, One Road” money and projects come with strings. The “one road” leads to China, and nations are susceptible to Chinese influence on many levels – political, military, and especially, economic.
In 2017, China used its economic clout in South Korea as a bludgeon to get Seoul to not allow the United States to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system in the country as a counterweight to North Korea’s nuclear missile program. The Chinese government informally lowered the boom on South Korea economically to influence the THAAD decision.
South Korean cars and other exports were embargoed. About a quarter of all goods South Korea exports goes to China, so this had an immediate effect on the economy. In addition, tourism suffered, as nearly half of all entries to South Korea are from China, and South Korean retail stores in China were crippled.
The South Korean government decided to allow the THAAD to deploy, but China’s economic muscle movement had to be noted in other global capitals.
South China Sea
“In its regional territorial and maritime disputes, China continued construction of outposts in the Spratly Islands, but also continued outreach to South China Sea claimants to further its goal of effectively controlling disputed areas,” the DoD reports says in its executive summary. In other words, China is using military power and diplomatic efforts in tandem to claim the South China Sea.
The People’s Liberation Army has come a long way from the human-wave attacks of the Korean War, and Chinese leaders want to build a military worthy of a global power. “Chinese military strategy documents highlight the requirement for a People’s Liberation Army able to secure Chinese national interests overseas, including a growing emphasis on the importance of the maritime and information domains, offensive air operations, long-distance mobility operations, and space and cyber operations,” the report says.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis meets with China’s Defense Minister Gen. Wei Fenghe at the People’s Liberation Army’s Bayi Building in Beijing, June 28, 2018.
(DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
Chinese military planners looked at what the United States accomplished in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991 and charted their way forward. The PLA is fundamentally restructuring to challenge and beat any military in the world.
The PLA – still the largest force in the world – actually cut people to streamline command and control and modernize forces. The Chinese seek to win at all levels of conflict, from regional conflicts to wars with peer competitors. “Reforms seek to streamline command and control structures and improve jointness at all levels,” the report said. The PLA is using realistic training scenarios and exercising troops and equipment regularly.
China is investing billions in new capabilities including artificial intelligence, hypersonic technology, offensive cyber capabilities and more. China also has launched an aircraft carrier and added many new ships to the PLA Navy. The Chinese Navy is more active and making more port calls than in years past. Further, the PLA Marine Corps is expanding from 10,000 personnel to 30,000.
The PLA Air Force has been reassigned a nuclear mission, giving China a nuclear triad — along with missile and subs — for the first time.
Cyber operations play a significant role in the Chinese military. The PLA has a large corps of trained and ready personnel. Cyber espionage is common, and there are those who believe China was able to get plans of the F-35 Thunderbolt II joint strike fighter, which they incorporated into its J-20 stealth fighter.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Aug. 17, 2017.
(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The U.S. National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy recognize that China and Russia are strategic competitors of the United States. Still, the United States must engage with China, and maintenance of cordial military-to-military relations is in both nations’ best interests.
“While the Department of Defense engages substantively with the People’s Liberation Army, DoD will also continue to monitor and adapt to China’s evolving military strategy, doctrine and force development, and encourage China to be more transparent about its military modernization,” the report says.
The United States military will adapt to counter and get ahead of moves by any competitor, DoD officials said.
For the first time, Moody’s 23rd Maintenance Squadron’s propulsion flight accomplished an unprecedented feat by ensuring every TF34 engine in their fleet is repaired to serviceable status.
This readiness level relinquishes the need for the flight to perform maintenance on their current A-10C Thunderbolt II engine assets. While they normally maintain the 74th and 75th Aircraft Maintenance Unit’s engines in support of Moody’s close-air support mission, the backshop will now centralize their TF34 repair efforts to assist other bases and Major Commands to include Reserve and National Guard units.
This has allowed the 23rd MXS to play a vital role in helping secure an Air Force-wide 200 percent ‘war-ready’ engine status, the highest in the TF34’s 40-year history.
“I’m excited for every member of this team,” said Master Sgt. Cevin Medley, 23rd MXS propulsion flight chief. “This is my third base and engine backshop. Repairing an entire TF34 engine fleet to serviceable status (with zero required maintenance) is something I have only “heard” about in my 17 years.
“This (accomplishment) is important because it not only allows us to meet our minimum deployment requirements, but we also can support other operations if every (Moody AFB) A-10 aircraft were to be tasked to deploy,” Medley added. “Since our ‘war-ready’ engine levels have been so high, we have been able to help the rest of the Air Force’s TF34 community with their due engine repairs.”
The 23rd MXS propulsion flight manages WREs, which are engines that are ready to be installed on the A-10. Of their entire fleet, 14 are spare WREs, which surpasses Air Combat Command’s required level of five spare WREs. The flight’s 280 percent spare WRE rate has enabled the backshop to currently perform no current maintenance on their assets and have rebuilt seven engines in total from outside Moody.
Airman 1st Class Jordan Vasquez, 23rd Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, inspects the fuel lines of an A-10C Thunderbolt II TF34 engine, May 16, 2018, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Eugene Oliver)
The road to pursue this challenge wasn’t easy. An innovative process, known as the Continuous Process Improvement, positioned the flight to have a chance at history. In 2017, approximately 20 civilians and Airmen from almost every enlisted rank implemented ideas to help the flight better maintain the TF34 engine.
“(2017’s) Continuous Process Improvement event allowed us to identify waste in our streamline,” said Medley. “This enabled us to shave an average of 58 work hours off each engine visit. This allowed us to go from six awaiting maintenance engines, which is the amount of engines we didn’t have the manning to work because we were repairing other engines in 2016, to where we are today.”
In order to reach new heights in maintenance proficiency, many small changes were made. The flight refocused training for new Airmen on common problems, began pre-ordering commonly needed engine parts, enhanced cross-unit and internal communication and even added updated photos to technical orders.
For Senior Airman Dakota Gunter, 23rd MXS aerospace propulsion technician, these new improvements paid big dividends for the backshop’s operations.
“The Continuous Process Improvement not only helped us (reduce) time on engine rebuilds, it also made the job a lot easier,” said Gunter. “Our processes have gone a lot smoother with everything from checking out tools to (performing) and documenting maintenance. Teamwork has been key during all of this, with everyone playing a key part to ensure the job is complete.”
According to Medley, the cohesion and continued support of not only the 23rd MXS, but the 23rd Maintenance Group supervision proved invaluable. He hopes to sustain their achievements and continue to assist in getting the rest of the Air Force’s TF34 fleet to match Moody’s readiness.
In a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan March 16, President Donald J. Trump asked for a defense budget increase of $30 billion for the Defense Department in this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, to rebuild the armed forces and accelerate the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The fiscal 2017 budget amendment provides $24.9 billion in base funds for urgent warfighting readiness needs and to begin a sustained effort to rebuild the armed forces, according to the president’s letter.
“The request seeks to address critical budget shortfalls in personnel, training, maintenance, equipment, munitions, modernization and infrastructure investment. It represents a critical first step in investing in a larger, more ready and more capable military force,” Trump wrote.
The request includes $5.1 billion in overseas contingency operations funds so the department can accelerate the campaign to defeat ISIS and support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, he said, noting that the request would enable DoD to pursue a comprehensive strategy to end the threat ISIS poses to the United States.
At the Pentagon this afternoon, senior defense officials briefed reporters on the on the fiscal 2017 budget amendment. The speakers were John P. Roth, performing the duties of undersecretary of defense-comptroller, and Army Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, director of force structure, resources and assessment on the Joint Staff.
“Our request to Congress is that they pass a full-year defense appropriations bill,” and that the bill includes the additional $30 billion, Roth said.
“We are now approaching the end of our sixth month under a continuing resolution,” he added, “one of the longest periods that we have ever been under a continuing resolution.”
The continuing resolution run for the rest of the fiscal year, Pentagon officials “would find that extremely harmful to the defense program,” Roth said.
“We are essentially kind of muddling along right now in terms of … borrowing resources against third- and fourth-quarter kinds of finances in order to keep things going,” he said. “But that game gets to be increasingly difficult as we go deeper into the fiscal year.”
Under a continuing resolution, the department has to operate under a fiscal 2016 mandate, creating a large mismatch between operations funds and procurement funds, Roth explained. The department can’t spend procurement dollars because there’s a restriction on new starts and on increasing production, he said, “but we have crying needs in terms of training, readiness, maintenance … and in the operation and maintenance account.”
The continuing resolution expires April 28, “so before then, we would want a full appropriation and, of course, a full appropriation with this additional $30 billion,” he said.
Roth said much of the money in the fiscal 2017 request is funding for operations and maintenance.
“We’re asking for additional equipment maintenance funding, additional facilities maintenance, spare parts, additional training events, peacetime flying hours, ship operations, munitions and those kinds of things,” he told reporters. “This is the essence of what keeps this department running on a day-to-day basis. It keeps us up and allows us to get ready for whatever the next challenge is.”
The officials said full support from Congress is key to improving warfighter readiness, providing the most capable modern force, and increasing the 2011 Budget Control Act funding cap for defense.
The U.S. Army has dropped Smith Wesson from its Modular Handgun System competition, according to a Sept. 23 report Smith Wesson Holding Corporation made to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Smith Wesson, which was partnered with General Dynamics, was one of five gun makers competing to replace the Army’s M9 9mm pistol.
“We and our partner in the pursuit of the U.S. Army’s Modular Handgun System, or MHS, solicitation to replace the M9 standard Army sidearm have been notified by the Department of the Army that our proposal was not selected to advance to the next phase of the competition,” according to the SEC report.
TheFirearmBlog.com was the first to report the news about Smith Wesson.
As far as we know, the Army is still evaluating striker-fired pistols from Glock, Sig Sauer, Beretta and FN Herstal, according to a source familiar with the competition.
It will be interesting to find out why Smith Wesson didn’t make it to the next round of MHS.
“We are assessing our options in response to the notification and remain focused on achieving our long-term strategy of organically and inorganically expanding our product offerings in the consumer market for shooting, hunting, and rugged outdoor enthusiasts,” Smith Wesson officials said in the SEC report.
From action-packed eyewitness accounts such as Guadalcanal Diaryto devastating Holocaust memoirs like The Diary of Anne Frankand Nightto the thrilling espionage tale of Operation Mincemeat, World War II is the subject of some of the most fascinating and influential nonfiction books ever written. Every year, seemingly dozens of new titles emerge to offer fresh perspectives and uncover fascinating details about the deadliest conflict in human history. These nine classics cover the war from the Eastern Front to the South Pacific and investigate its murky origins and complex legacies. Make your next great read one of these essential World War II books.
By John Hersey
Originally published in the August 31, 1946 issue of The New Yorker, this compassionate and richly observed portrait of six survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima caused an immediate sensation. It was the first–and only–time the magazine had devoted an entire issue to a single article. Newsstands sold out within hours, and radio stations interrupted their regular programming to broadcast readings of the complete text.
More than a year after the Japanese city was destroyed, Americans were getting the first full account of the horrors of nuclear warfare. Hersey described stone facades permanently etched with the silhouettes of vaporized people and soldiers whose eyes were melted by the atomic flash. Widely recognized as one of the earliest examples of New Journalism (the style of reporting made most famous by Joan Didion), Hiroshima profoundly impacted the debate over nuclear weapons and played a key role in the healing process between America and Japan.
2. With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa
By E.B. Sledge
With brutal honesty and lucid prose, Eugene Bondurant Sledge provides a grunt’s-eye view of infantry combat in the Pacific Theater of World War II. Nicknamed “Sledgehammer” by his comrades, Sledge fought with the 1st Marine Division in the grueling battles of Peleliu and Okinawa. Using notes he secretly kept in a pocket-sized New Testament, Sledge describes the terror of life on the front lines and documents acts of savagery committed by both sides. But he also admires the courage of his fellow soldiers and pauses, when he can, to observe his natural surroundings–an interest that would lead to a later career as a biology professor. With the Old Breed was one of the main sources for Ken Burns’s documentary The Warand helped to form the basis for the HBO mini-series The Pacific.
3. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
By William Shirer
First published in 1960, this National Book Award winner and New York Times bestseller traces the rise and fall of Nazi Germany from Adolf Hitler’s birth in 1889 to the end of World War II in 1945. As a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and one of “Murrow’s Boys” at the CBS Radio Network, Shirer reported from Berlin and Vienna in the years before the war and followed the German Army during the invasion of France.
After the war, he drew on his own experiences and a wealth of newly available documents, including the diaries of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and General Franz Halder and testimony from the Nuremberg trials, to write this 1,250-page volume. The book was a huge commercial success, selling one million hardcover copies and going through twenty printings in its first year. Although its scholarly reputation is often debated, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich remains one of the most influential tomes about World War II to this day.
By Art Spiegelman
This Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel recasts the Holocaust with Nazis as cats, Jews as mice, and Poles as pigs. Originally serialized in the alternative comics magazine Raw, the story moves back and forth between present-day Rego Park, New York and Nazi-occupied Poland. In New York, cartoonist Art Spiegelman tries to mend his fractured relationship with his father, Vladek, by drawing a book-length comic based on Vladek’s wartime experiences. In Poland, Vladek and his wife, Anja, endure forced relocation to the Sosnowiec Ghetto; the death of their first son, Richieu; and imprisonment in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Hailed by The Wall Street Journal as “the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust,” Maus elevated the critical reputation of comics and inspired countless artists, including Chris Ware, Alison Bechdel, and Marjane Satrapi.
5. The Longest Day
By Cornelius Ryan
Based on interviews with more than 1,100 D-Day survivors, The Longest Day is the definitive account of the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Ryan experienced the battle firsthand as a 24-year-old reporter for the Daily Telegraph. When the bomber he was flying in was hit and had to return to England, he jumped into a patrol boat and returned to cover the fighting on the French beaches. Fifteen years later, Ryan set out to tell “what actually happened, rather than what generals or others thought happened.” The result is a masterpiece of military history packed with novelistic details, from the U.S. paratrooper who won $2,500 at cards on the eve of the battle but deliberately lost it all so as not to run out of luck to Field Marshal Rommel’s reason for being 600 miles away when the invasion began–he was bringing his wife her birthday present.
6. In the Garden of Beasts
By Erik Larson
This #1 New York Times bestseller is the riveting story of William E. Dodd, the American ambassador to Germany from 1933 to 1937. Dodd, a history professor, was not Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first choice for the job, and he arrived in Berlin with little appetite for the endless socializing expected of a diplomat and little sense of the dangers posed by Germany’s newly-appointed chancellor, Adolf Hitler.
While Dodd struggled to find his place, his 24-year-old daughter, Martha, took to her glamorous new life with verve. Beautiful and sexually adventurous, her high-profile paramours included Rudolph Diels, the chief of the Gestapo, and Boris Winogradov, an attache to the Soviet Embassy who recruited her as a spy. Part political thriller, part family drama, In the Garden of Beasts brings fresh perspective to the question of why it took the world so long to recognize the threat of the Third Reich.
7. An Army at Dawn
By Rick Atkinson
While most American history buffs are well versed in the Allied push across Europe after the Normandy landings and the key battles for control of the Pacific, the North African campaign is a less familiar subject. Drawing on personal diaries and letters from soldiers as well as official documents kept in British, American, French, Italian, and German war archives, Rick Atkinson corrects the record in this Pulitzer Prize-winning history, the first volume in The Liberation Trilogy. From the amphibious invasion of Morocco and Algeria in November 1942 to the Allies’ watershed victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein and the US Army’s coming-of-age at the Battle of Hill 609 in Tunisia, An Army at Dawn seamlessly integrates big-picture military strategy with boots-on-the-ground perspective. Atkinson is particularly insightful on the clash of egos between the old-school British commanders and their upstart American counterparts.
8. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943
By Anthony Beevor
With more than one million casualties, the five-month siege of Stalingrad was the bloodiest battle of World War II and a decisive turning point in the fight for Europe. Antony Beevor, a former British Army officer, brilliantly balances the huge scale of the conflict with a soldier’s-eye view of some of the most horrific conditions in the history of modern warfare.
He begins with Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union that was plagued by bad weather, long supply lines, and difficult terrain, and analyzes how the Luftwaffe’s carpet bombing of Stalingrad helped to create the treacherous, rubble-strewn conditions that allowed Soviet snipers to wage a gruesome war of attrition. Most captivatingly, Atkinson portrays Stalingrad as the terrifying outcome of totalitarianism: Hitler lived in a fantasy world and refused to listen to German officers who tried to save the Sixth Army from complete destruction, while Stalin’s demands for total obeisance resulted in the executions of 13,500 Red Army soldiers.
9. Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization
By Nicholson Baker
In this highly unusual and captivating work, novelist Nicholson Baker tells the story of the buildup to World War II in vignettes. Each short piece contains a fact or a quotation drawn from primary sources including newspaper articles, radio speeches, personal diaries, and government transcripts.
Through the steady accumulation of detail, Baker suggests that Allied leaders were not as reluctant to enter the global conflict as most historians contend. He goes back to as far as 1920 to quote Winston Churchill on the proposed bombing of civilian targets in Iraq (“I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes”), then skips ahead to the prime minister’s preferred military strategy in 1941: “One of our great aims is the delivery on German towns of the largest possible quantity of bombs per night.” Turning to the American scene, Baker draws from sources suggesting that Franklin D. Roosevelt may have deliberately goaded the Japanese into bombing Pearl Harbor so the US could enter the war.
Some scholars were harsh in their judgment of Human Smoke, but by returning to the primary material, Baker rescues pacifism as an honorable concept and reminds readers that when military leaders rush to apply new technologies to warfare, it is often civilians who suffer the most.