Why America needs an independent Space Force - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why America needs an independent Space Force

President Trump’s recent declaration of a new Space Force was met with ridicule in many quarters. Yet, the reality is that the United States does urgently need a dedicated military space branch that is separate from its Air Force.


Space matters

While the United States has somewhat neglected its space program over the past twenty-five years, China has escalated its efforts in this area, including launching numerous manned space flights, landed a rover on the moon, and deployed multiple unmanned space stations. This has spurred a regional space race with India, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, Taiwan, and Iran and more besides. The goal for the most ambitious of these states is not merely to equal American accomplishments, but to push past them, including establishing permanently manned space stations, landing astronauts on the Moon and Mars, and building lunar habitations. If achieved, these feats could knock the United States out of the lead in space for the first time since Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the earth in 1961.

Why America needs an independent Space Force

Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin

The rise of these competitors poses real challenges for the United States, including most worryingly a possible militarization of space by unfriendly forces. China demonstrated this peril in 2007 when it used a satellite killer to destroy one of its own satellites, raising the possibility that it could deploy a battery of these kinetic kill vehicles to paralyze America’s communications grid in a future war. This is merely the tip of the iceberg of what China and others could do if they are allowed to dominate space, including constructing orbital missile platforms that could be used to intimidate or even attack the United States and its allies.

Resource competition is also a major concern, with the need to locate and tap into alternative resource pools becoming increasingly important as the world burns ever more rapidly through its remaining natural resources. The potential for the harvesting of metals, minerals, water, and other materials from the moon and asteroids by states such as China and Japan could begin as early as 2025. If the United States lags behind its rivals in building the capacity and human expertise in this area, as well as in protecting its own efforts to conduct this kind of resource harvesting, this will have a ripple effect on its ability to maintain its superpower status, both in space and terrestrially.

Finally, terrestrial communications increasingly depend upon Global Navigation Satellite Systems. America has possessed relative hegemony in this area through its Global Positioning System for decades, but this is now coming under fire from the new Chinese Beidou, European Galileo, and Russian GLONASS systems – with Japan and India in close pursuit. American can ill afford to risk having its systems potentially compromised should one or more other powers decide to try to shut its communications network down once their version is fully operational.

Why America needs an independent Space Force

American Society of International Law Space Interest Group

Space law is deficient

The United States needs to protect its interests and prevent other states from achieving dominance in space. It cannot depend upon international law acting as a check against the potential overreach and aggression of other states in this domain. One reason for this is that most space laws were drawn up during the Cold War and, as a result, are often vague towards current day issues or omit them altogether. This provides considerable leeway for the rising space states to act aggressively under the pretext of operating in legal grey zones, even if their actions go against the spirit of the law.

Even in those cases where the law is clear, the new space states may break it to achieve particularly high priority goals (even if they will never acknowledge their acts as breaches of the law). History is plagued with examples of these violations on earth, such as the recent Russian illegal annexation of Crimea and China’s decision to disregard the 2016 ruling by the International Court of Justice against its activities in the South China Sea. There is no reason to believe that states that have placed their strategic interests ahead of the law on earth in the past are likely to behave any differently in space in the future.

The limitations of international space law, along with the likely willingness of the rising space states to disregard it when advantageous to them, means that the United States needs to supplement its respect for the law with the maintenance of an effective military space force. This is essential for helping it to protect and advance its interests in space, as well as to avoid falling behind its rivals.

Why America needs an independent Space Force

(NASA photo)

Space-mindedness

Some analysts might agree with the above points but argue that this force requirement can be best met by maintaining America’s military space assets inside its Air Force.

This was the same logic that was advanced regarding the Air Force itself during the early 20th century, at which time America’s air assets were housed primarily in the Army and to a lesser degree the Navy. Keeping America’s military air assets split between the Army and Navy was a bad idea because it inherently shepherded the use of air power towards the accomplishment of ground and maritime goals. This prevented America’s air power from achieving its full potential by hampering the appearance of a more comprehensive approach towards airpower at tactical, operational, and strategic levels, often referred to as “Air-Mindedness.” The narrow-sightedness of this approach was finally recognized and corrected in 1947 when the U.S. Air Force was created as a separate branch.

Today, most of America’s military space assets operate as Air Force Space Command in the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). This places them as a branch of the Air Force, operating under a broader combined command that involves seven different mediums. This may be admirably inter-service in intent, but subordinating America’s military space assets to other entities in this way limits the ability of space power specialists to develop a “Space-Mindedness” in the same way that keeping America’s air assets within the Army and Navy hindered the development of “Air-Mindedness.” This curtails America’s space assets from being able to concentrate on pivotal new space challenges, such as space-to-space (rather than just space-to-ground) interactions with rival powers and the defense of American military and civilian equipment in orbit and beyond.

America’s military space assets have also been bedeviled by a constrained ability to represent their importance to the government and the public directly. Despite protestations that the Air Force already does space, it allocates surprisingly few resources to this area: Space Command consists of just 38,000 personnel and an estimated budget of billion. This can be compared to an overall Air Force tally of roughly 320,000 personnel and 5 billion. By standing as an independent agency, the Space Force could lobby more effectively for space to feature higher on the Pentagon’s agenda and for it to be allocated the budget that the domain deserves.

Why America needs an independent Space Force

Apollo 11: Buzz Aldrin on the Moon

Misplaced critiques

Despite these advantages, considerable opposition has been voiced against moving America’s military space assets out of the Air Force. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that considerable clamor also broke out against the idea of an independent Air Force before 1947.

Some of the backlash is probably fuelled by the well-known maxim that government agencies inherently resist efforts to slim themselves down. Resistance also likely stems from a habitual attachment to known structures and systems, along with the other inevitable causes of reticence towards change that afflict most organizations facing major shake-ups. These reasons are insufficient to reject the creation of a separate Space Force, but they do speak to the need for the transition to carefully planned and sensitively handled.

There is also a fear that an independent Space Force might become parochial and that coordination between the new agency and the Air Force would suffer. This concern has some merit, but it is still flawed. When the Air Force was detached from the Army back in 1947, inter-service rivalries did occur, but the two branches have worked on ironing these out, and cooperation has improved. They certainly have a better relationship now than they would have done if one had continued to be hierarchically superior to the other. There is no reason to believe that an independent Space Force would abandon its ties with the Air Force, but the two agencies would want to acknowledge the concern and work to ensure that inter-agency coordination endures and even grows after the split.

We live in a world where China, India, and other powers are rushing to the Moon and beyond with their space programs. The United States cannot depend exclusively upon international space law to preserve its leadership in this domain, but must instead create an independent Space Force that can work holistically to protect and advance American interests in space.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Marine Corps wanted to shoot down Hinds with Cobras

The Hind Mi-24D was an odd but deadly amalgamation of troop helicopter transport and attack helicopter. While it was ostensibly built to transport a squad of infantry and then protect it, American chopper pilots were worried about what would happen if they ran into the attack helicopter and its massive gun and were forced to fight it in the air.


One Marine Corps pilot, Lt. Col. Richard L. Phillips, took a long look at the problem and put together a proposal in 1979 to make his service’s Cobra helicopters a lethal counter to the newest Hinds. Some of his suggestions would go to change the Cobra program forever.

Why America needs an independent Space Force

An AH-1 Super Cobra fires rockets in training.

(U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Dean Verschoor)

The first thing to understand about a Hind D vs. Cobra fight is that neither of the platforms was actually designed for air-to-air combat. Cobras were initially designed for the Army to use in protecting ground troops and Huey utility helicopters from surface threats. Hinds were made to drop off troops like Hueys and then provide close combat attack support from the air like Cobras.

The Marine Corps SeaCobras and later SuperCobras were stronger than their Army counterparts thanks to the addition of a second engine and an improved main gun. The Army would later adopt the Marine’s 20mm main gun on later Cobra models instead of the 7.62mm miniguns and 40mm grenade launchers that they had originally mounted.

But while that 20mm main gun was great for wiping out enemy armored vehicles and light bunkers, its rate of fire was limited to 670 rounds per minute in order to keep it from moving the Cobra too much while it was firing. Meanwhile, the new Hinds had a large, multi-barreled gun that Phillips and others were worried had a higher rate of fire and higher muzzle velocity.

Why America needs an independent Space Force

​The Mi-24 is a great helicopter that, despite a rocky start, rose to be a major threat to U.S. forces in the Cold War.

(Rob Schleiffert via flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0)

It would later turn out that the Soviets were using a Yak-B main gun with 12.7mm rounds that had a muzzle velocity of 810 meters per second, less than the 1,050 m/s of the Cobra’s M195 20mm gun. But the Yak-B on the Mi-24D could fire up to 4,500 rounds per minute while the Cobra was limited to 670.

Worse, the Russian pilots were training for air-to-air combat in the Hind. When Phillips and others started matching Hinds and Cobras in simulators, it became apparent that victory or defeat in a one-on-one fight would be decided by pilot experience and main gun capability. And the Marines thought they were behind in both training and armament.

But Phillips thought it was likely that Cobras and Hinds would meet in future conflict, and that the Marines would need to up-arm their Cobras or else buy more and deploy them in larger teams so they could win through superiority of numbers.

Obviously, the Marines would prefer to win through excellence rather than throwing unsustainable numbers of pilots and helicopters at the problem. So Phillips proposed two fixes for the armament and one fix for training.

First, his simulation experience against the Hind showed that an air-to-air battle between it and a Cobra would be over quickly. Often, the helicopters settled their conflict in a single pass as one or the other shot down the enemy with a burst from the main gun. To make the Cobra more successful, he wanted to give it a higher rate of fire and muzzle velocity with improved ammunition or even a new gun. Also, an improved sighting mechanism would increase Marine chances.

But he also wanted to add an entirely new weapon onto the helicopter: air-to-air missiles. This is one of the adoptions the Marine Corps would later make, deploying Sidewinder missiles on the helicopter in 1983, four years after Phillips’ paper was written and submitted to the U.S. Army War College.

Why America needs an independent Space Force

The AH-1Z Viper has an even better version of the 20mm Gatling guns used on the AH-J SuperCobra.

(Lance Cpl. Christopher O’Quin)

But Phillips also wanted to change training and briefings to address the air-to-air threat. The Russians were training specifically on combat against helicopters, and he wanted the Marines to do the same. And one step further, he wanted transportation helicopters to carry some weapons for self-defense against the Hind, and he wanted those helicopters’ crews to discuss air-to-air procedures before any mission where enemy aircraft could be in play.

All of this combined would have made it to where up-armed Cobras would escort lightly armed transportation helicopters into combat and, if an enemy Hind were spotted, the entire flight would work together to bring down the Russians before the Hind could win the day.

Luckily for everyone involved, the fight never went down. But if it had, those Sidewinder missiles and better training would likely have saved Marines and troops from the other three branches forward as Hinds fell to the snakes in the grass.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Memesday! Thirteen of our favorites are below. Feel free to plaster your favorites all over our Facebook page.


1. That’s the sergeant major’s grass and you’re just lucky you won’t have to guard it.

Why America needs an independent Space Force
But once it comes in a little more, you will be grooming it.

2. Mk-19s are for when you don’t like an entire geographic area.

Why America needs an independent Space Force
It will occasionally take care of buildings you don’t like, too.

SEE ALSO: 17 photos that show why troops absolutely love the .50 caliber machine gun

3. Armories makes no sense to airmen (via Military Memes).

Why America needs an independent Space Force

4. Sailors are the world’s most glorified travel agents (via OutOfRegs.com).

Why America needs an independent Space Force
The anchors sail away while the Marines go to play.

5. The Devil Doge (via Marine Corps Memes).

Why America needs an independent Space Force
Prepare to be bit.

6. You train like you fight …

(Via Coast Guard Memes)

Why America needs an independent Space Force
… in ankle deep water.

7. When you learn your last unit was f-cked up (via Marine Corps Memes).

Why America needs an independent Space Force

8. It’s a time-honored tradition (via Military Memes).

Why America needs an independent Space Force
It’s not comfortable, but it’s time-honored.

9. Give your driver dip and energy drinks.

Why America needs an independent Space Force
But, choose the energy drinks carefully.

10. How you know your unit needs more range time (via Sh*t My LPO says).

Why America needs an independent Space Force
They may need a new range safety first though. The old one had a heart attack.

11. Why you get up at zero-dark-thirty for an afternoon mission (via Marine Corps Memes).

Why America needs an independent Space Force
There will be a few more delays before anyone actually steps off.

 12. When “personalizing” your vehicle, don’t use military patterns (via Sh*t My LPO says).

Why America needs an independent Space Force
That’s as bad as putting your entire military career in stickers on your back window.

13. The Air Force has so many sprinkles you can shower food in them (via OutOfRegs.com).

Why America needs an independent Space Force
But, they’re totally a military branch and not a kid’s birthday party. Totally.

NOW: That time the Nazi’s planned to blow up Hoover Dam

OR: 6 of the most badass US military test pilots

Articles

This Iraq war veteran has been running with the bulls since 2007

A former Army officer has been running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain since 2007 — all while filming a documentary on the event which was released last month.


Each year in July, Pamplona hosts a fiesta that brings together approximately one million people for a massive party, but most people know the city for just one reason: the crazy event that sees people running as bulls chase them from behind.

Dennis Clancey, a West Point-educated Army officer who served in the Iraq War, wanted to document the run, while trying to understand why some people risk their lives in this way each year.

“This is beyond me just asking them what it is like to run,” Clancey told The Chicago Sun-Times. “The film is an accurate stamp of what it means to be a runner. The experienced runners are running out of a sense of obligation. They run in part to protect other runners. If someone falls, you do what you can to distract the bulls and protect your fellow runners.”

Clancey self-funded his documentary — called “Chasing Red” — from 2007 to 2011, until he met a fellow filmmaker who helped him put together a trailer for the project. The trailer helped generate interest in the project, and led to a successful backing on Kickstarter that helped raise nearly $23,000.

“It’s a character-driven documentary following eight runners,” Clancey told Outside Magazine. “They each have their own goals and aspirations and we follow them in their pursuits of those dreams.”

The film is now available to rent or download. Here’s the trailer:

NOW: This powerful film tells how Marines fought ‘one day in hell’ in Fallujah

Articles

One woman remains in Marine Special Ops training

Five days into the first U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command assessment and selection course to admit women, one female Marine has washed out and one remains.


Capt. Nicholas Mannweiler, a spokesman for the command, told Military.com that two women, a staff sergeant and a corporal checked in Aug. 9 at the command’s headquarters near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and began the first 19-day phase of assessment and selection on Aug. 11.

Related: First female Marine to attempt infantry course dropped on final attempt

The staff sergeant washed out of the course the following day during a timed ruck march, Mannweiler said. The news was first reported by Marine Corps Times.

Why America needs an independent Space Force
Marines with the Lioness Program refill their rifle magazines during the live-fire portion of their training at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, July 31. | Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jennifer Jones

Both the corporal and the staff sergeant came from administrative military occupational specialties, Mannweiler said. He did not disclose their identities or ages.

Mannweiler said he couldn’t say how many started the AS class for operational security reasons, but noted that 32 Marines, including the female staff sergeant, have departed the course so far.

The first phase of assessment and selection tests physical fitness and a range of aptitudes to ensure Marines are physically and mentally prepared for what will be 10 months of intensive follow-on training to become Marine Raiders. Alongside physical training, Marines receive classroom instruction in land navigation skills, MARSOC and special operations history, and nutrition and fitness.

In January, Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, then the commander of MARSOC, called AS Phase 1 a holistic profile for the Marines who qualify to enter the training pipeline.

Military.com broke the news in March that a female staff sergeant had been accepted for AS, just months after a mandate from Defense Secretary Ash Carter had required all military services to open special operations jobs and other previously closed fields to women.

Osterman said then that MARSOC leadership had leaned into the new reality, reaching out to all eligible female Marines through the command’s recruiting arm to give them the opportunity to apply.

The current AS phase is set to conclude Aug. 22. If the female corporal in AS can make it through this phase, she will enter a second, more secretive three-week AS phase. Following that is MARSOC’s individual training course, which covers survival, evasion, resistance and escape [SERE], special reconnaissance, close urban combat, irregular warfare and more over the course of nine intensive months.

Those who wash out of AS have up to two chances to re-enter the pipeline, Mannweiler said, as long as they have enough time left on their contracts and until their next promotion, and the command has enough boat spaces to accommodate them.

While MARSOC recruiters have received interest from other female Marines, the command is not currently processing any other applications from women, Mannweiler said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon chief worries military doesn’t say ‘no’ enough on risky training

Secretary of Defense James Mattis said September 18th that he’s going to look into the possibility that the military’s “can do” attitude may be responsible for the recent spate of deadly training accidents.


Almost 100 service members have been killed in training accidents since June, which reflects a definite spike in recent years, and Mattis said he’s examining whether military leaders have pushed troops beyond what they’re able because of a desire to always say “yes” to operational demands.

Also read: Mattis hints at secret ‘kinetic’ military options for North Korea

“I would say, having some association with the U.S. military, we’re almost hardwired to say “Can do.” That is the way we’re brought up,” Mattis said. “Routinely, in combat, that’s exactly what you do, even at the risk of your troops and equipment and all. But there comes a point in peacetime where you have to make certain you’re not always saying, ‘We’re going to do more with less, or you’re going to do the same with less.'”

Why America needs an independent Space Force
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Mattis noted, however, that the military applauds people who decline to continue training precisely because they feel their troops aren’t prepared.

“But my point is that we always look for this and we reward people for raising their hand and saying, ‘No more. I’ve got to stop.’ We’ve had people actually stop training where they thought their troops needed to rehearse before they went forward,” Mattis said. “And that’s not that unusual, tell you the truth. So I am not concerned right now that we’re rewarding the wrong behavior.”

So far, in response to the collisions involving the destroyers USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald, the Navy has relieved six senior officers of duties, including the commander of the 7th Fleet, which is located in Japan. The Navy stated that the 7th Fleet commander was removed because of a loss of confidence in command ability.

Mattis was similarly noncommittal about whether there was a direct line from sequestration and budget cuts to training accidents, but pledged to look into that possibility.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Inside Delta Force, the secretive Army Special Forces soldiers

The 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (SFOD-D) unit, otherwise known as Delta Force, is a highly selective, extremely secretive unit under the Joint Special Operations Command.

Since its inception in 1977, it has been involved in several high-profile and high-risk operations, like the 1993 mission in Somalia that inspired the movie “Black Hawk Down,” as well as classified operations the public will likely never know about.

Here’s what is publicly known about Delta Force.


Why America needs an independent Space Force

Graduates of one of Delta Force’s Operator Training Courses in 1978. Blue Light would be disestablished that same year

(US Army photo)

Delta Force is the Army’s secretive, elite special operations group. Along with the Navy SEALs, it is the most highly trained special operations force in the US military and the world.

Delta Force, headquartered at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, draws candidates from throughout the military, including the Coast Guard and National Guard, but mostly selects from the Army. Many of the operators likely come from the Army Rangers and the Green Berets.

The classified group was established in 1977 by Col. Charlie A. Beckwith, who wrote a memoir about founding the elite group called “Delta Force,” according to We Are The Mighty.

Beckwith saw the need for a force that could mobilize quickly to fight unconventional threats — a force like the British Special Air Service, with which he served as an exchange officer in 1962.

Why America needs an independent Space Force

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a video released in April 2019.

Delta Force’s operations are often secret, but we do know that the unit was involved in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Delta Force was famously involved in the 1993 operation to capture Somali militia leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid in Mogadishu and the subsequent effort to rescue Army pilot Michael Durant after his helicopter crashed during the mission.

Five Delta operators were killed in that incident, as well as 14 other US troops. Several hundred Somali fighters and civilians were also killed.

Delta was also involved in a failed effort to retrieve hostages from the US Embassy in Iran in 1980.

Delta Force has been heavily involved in the war in Afghanistan and both Iraq wars and was instrumental in capturing Saddam Hussein.

Delta pulled out of Iraq when US forces there left in 2011, but it has been a consistent presence in the fight against ISIS in the country, Wesley Morgan wrote in The Washington Post in 2015.

Delta Force had close ties with the Iraqi Kurds who were fighting ISIS and operated in Syria, including killing high-ranking ISIS leader Abu Sayyaf there in 2015, Morgan wrote.

Why America needs an independent Space Force

(Photo from Kill bin Laden)

There were approximately 1,200 Delta Force operators as of 2017.

Source: Insider

Why America needs an independent Space Force

Col. Charles Beckwith, who started Delta Force.

Delta Force, also called The Unit or Task Force Green, is a counter-terrorism Special Missions Unit under Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC.

The military doesn’t officially acknowledge Delta Force, but its existence is well known. Many of its operations are classified and will likely never be known to the public.

In addition to physical qualifications, Delta Force operators must be psychologically fit to conduct grueling operations.

After recruits pass the physical and psychological portions of the assessment, they are taught skills like marksmanship and covert trade craft — CIA tactics like dead drops and other espionage methods — during a six-month Operator Training Course, former operator Eric Haney says in his book, “Inside Delta Force.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why a judge willingly shared this green beret’s jail sentence

Joe Serna escaped death so many times while deployed with the Army’s Special Forces. He was blown up by explosive devices on multiple occasions over three combat deployments to Afghanistan. One threw him from his vehicle, another nearly drowned him in an MRAP in an irrigation canal, and a Taliban fighter detonated a grenade in his face. Like many combat veterans of his caliber, both mental and physical wounds followed him home.

After his medical retirement, alcohol-related events landed him in hot water with the law until the day he violated his probation and ended up in front of North Carolina Judge Lou Olivera.


Why America needs an independent Space Force

Serna’s MRAP was thrown into a canal by an IED in 2008. Three other soldiers drowned, including one who rescued Serna.

(Joe Serna)

In 2016, Serna’s record of offenses and failure to follow his probation put him in front of a North Carolina Veterans Treatment Court, a system of justice designed to hold returning veterans accountable for their behavior while accepting the special set of circumstances they might be struggling with in their daily life. Veterans Treatment Courts demand mandatory appearances, drug and alcohol testing, and a structure similar to the demands of the service.

Related: ‘The West Wing’ cast reunites in new PSA supporting Veterans Treatment Courts

Judge Lou Olivera was presiding over Cumberland County, North Carolina’s veterans treatment courts. Olivera is a veteran of the Gulf War and is especially suited to handle cases like Serna’s. The judge ordered the green beret to spend 24 hours in jail for his probation violation, not anything unusual for a judge to do. What Olivera did next is what makes his court exceptional.

Olivera convinced Serna’s jailer, also a veteran, to allow the judge to share Serna’s sentence. Judge Olivera was volunteering to be a battle buddy for the green beret while he did his time. The judge drove Serna to the neighboring county lockup, where jail administrator George Kenworthy put them both in jail for the night.

He did his duty,” Serna told People Magazine. “He sentenced me. It was his job to hold me accountable. He is a judge, but that night he was my battle buddy. He knew what I was going through. As a warrior, he connected.”

Serna had no idea Judge Olivera planned to share his sentence as the two drove to the Robeson County, N.C. jail. Olivera knew of Serna’s combat records, and that the green beret spent a night in a submerged in an MRAP, struggling to stay in an air pocket, with the bodies of his drowned compatriots around him. So a night spent in a cramped box seemed like a harsh sentence that could trigger harsher thoughts, but the judge knew the soldier had to be held accountable. So he decided he wouldn’t be alone in the box.

Joe was a good soldier, and he’s a good man,” Olivera said. “I wanted him to know I had his back. I didn’t want him to do this alone… I’m a judge and I’ve seen evil, but I see the humanity in people. Joe is a good man. Helping him helped me. I wanted him to know he isn’t alone.”
MIGHTY CULTURE

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Withers – I Can’t Write Left Handed

www.youtube.com

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

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

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

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

Why America needs an independent Space Force

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

Withers opened the song with a spoken intro….

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

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

Why America needs an independent Space Force

I can’t write left handed

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

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

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

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

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

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MIGHTY TRENDING

The oldest living Marine just turned 105

On July 31, 2020, the town of Stockton, California held a drive-by birthday celebration for a distinguished resident of The Oaks at Inglewood assisted living facility. A parade of local residents and first responders turned out to greet Marine Maj. Bill White a very happy 105 birthday.


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Maj. White in January (Pegasus Senior Living)

“Feels just as good as it did at 104,” Maj. White said.

The outpouring of fanfare and support were a testament to Maj. White’s positive spirit and service to the nation. For his family members, who haven’t been able to visit him much because of the coronavirus pandemic, the celebration was a touching display.

“It’s very heartwarming and very just—it does get to you that there are so many people that love him and appreciate him for his service,” said Maj. White’s daughter Mary Huston.

Maj. White enlisted in the Marine Corps in October 1934. Before the outbreak of WWII, he was stationed in Shanghai. During the war, he fought on Iwo Jima where he earned a Purple Heart for wounds suffered from a grenade. Maj. White continued his service after the war, spending 30 years in the Corps.

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Maj. Bill White in his Marine dress white uniform (Bill White)

Maj. White’s dedication to service continued after the military. He served as a police officer and started a family. One of his favorite hobbies is scrapbooking.

“This started way back,” Maj. White said. “My mother, parents taught me to conserve and observe memories as much as possible.”

Maj. White made headlines back in February when he put out a call asking for Valentine’s Day cards to add to his collection of memories. He launched “Operation Valentine” the month before with a goal of 100 cards. By the end, Maj. White’s call had gone viral on social media and he received more than half-a-million cards and gifts from around the world including a special note from NASA and President Trump.

Like any good Marine, Maj. White keeps his uniform in good order and likes to wear it for special occasions. Looking sharp in his dress blues, Maj. White revealed that the secret to his longevity is keeping his mind sharp by reading. “Right now I’m trying for 106,” he said. “One at a time.”


MIGHTY TRENDING

Lee Harvey Oswald suspiciously contacted the KGB


  • The CIA intercepted a phone call from Lee Harvey Oswald to the KGB’s department in charge of “sabotage and assassination” before Oswald murdered John F. Kennedy.
  • Oswald had tried to defect to the Soviet Union years earlier but was denied citizenship.
  • The CIA did not conclude that Oswald killed Kennedy on the KGB’s instructions.

Newly released documents from the CIA show that the spy agency intercepted a phone call from Lee Harvey Oswald, John F. Kennedy’s assassin, to the KGB department in Moscow that handled “sabotage and assassinations.”

Just over a month before Oswald assassinated Kennedy on November 22, 1963, the CIA intercepted a phone call he made to Valeriy Vladimirovich Kostikov.

Also read: This is where you can read the newly released JFK documents

The CIA identifies Kostikov as an officer in the KGB’s 13th department, which is “responsible for sabotage and assassination.”

Oswald asked Kostikov whether there was “anything new concerning the telegram to Washington,” and Kostikov told him there was not.

That telegram, though not explained in the CIA document, most likely had something to do with Oswald’s 1959 attempt to defect to the Soviet Union by traveling to Moscow. The Soviets denied his bid for citizenship but allowed him to stay in the country for a few years.

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Lee Harvey Oswald (undated image wikicommons)

The CIA document does not conclude that Oswald acted against Kennedy on Russian instructions or with help from the KGB.

Peter Savodnik, the author of “The Interloper: Lee Harvey Oswald Inside the Soviet Union,” told The Atlantic in 2013 that Oswald, who joined the US Marine Corps at 17, had moved with his mother 20 times during his childhood and most likely sought to live in Moscow to gain some feeling of permanence.

Savodnik maintains that instead of grooming Oswald as a potential agent against Moscow’s rivals in Washington, Soviet authorities sent him to live hundreds of miles away in Minsk, Belarus, because it was “sleepy and boring and quiet.”

Here’s how to read the new trove of previously classified documents on JFK’s assassination.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

China virus deaths top 1,000, senior chinese officials ‘removed’

China has “removed” a number of senior officials over their handling of a novel respiratory virus, state media reported, as the death toll reached more than 1,000.


The National Health Commission reported 108 new fatalities from the coronavirus on February 11, bringing the total death toll in China to 1,016.

There are now a total of 42,638 confirmed coronavirus cases in mainland China as well as 319 cases in 24 other countries, including one death, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Chinese health officials.

In Hubei Province, the epicenter of the epidemic, 103 people died and 2,097 new cases were reported, the health commission said early on February 11.

According to state broadcaster CCTV, the Communist Party secretary for the Health Commission of Hubei Province and the head of the health commission were among those who were “removed” following a decision by the province’s party committee — the most senior officials to be sanctioned.

The two will be replaced by the deputy director of China’s National Health Commission, Wang Hesheng.

However, removal from a certain position does not necessarily mean the person will be fired, as it can also mean demotion.

China’s most senior medical adviser on the outbreak, Zhong Nanshan, said numbers of new cases were falling and forecast the epidemic would peak this month.

“I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April,” added Zhong, 83, an epidemiologist who won fame for his role in combating an outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which killed hundreds worldwide in 2002-2003.

However, the WHO has said the spread of the pathogen among people who have not been to China could be “the spark that becomes a bigger fire” and the global community must not let the epidemic get out of control.

Ukraine’s embassy in China said on February 10 that it was sending a chartered plane to Wuhan — the provincial capital of Hubei — to airlift 50 citizens to Kyiv.

Once in Ukraine, the evacuated Ukrainians will be quarantined for 14 days.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases on a cruise ship with 3,700 passengers and crew on board quarantined in the Japanese port of Yokohama has doubled to 135.

Two Ukrainians, a 25-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman who worked in the kitchen of the Diamond Princess ship, have tested positive for the virus aboard the ship. A total of 25 Ukrainians work on the ship.

While visiting a hospital treating infected patients in Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping on February 10 called the situation in Hubei “still very grave” and that “more decisive measures” were needed to contain the spread of the virus, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

A WHO-led international team of experts landed in Beijing the same day to investigate the epidemic. It is headed by Bruce Aylward who oversaw the organization’s 2014-16 response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

There are 168 labs worldwide that have the technology to diagnose the virus, according to the WHO.

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

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