An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

It was a beautiful June day in Contra Pria, Italy. Families enjoyed a picnic together, and the refreshing water served as a welcome refuge from the heat and humidity of the last weekend leading into summer.

It was Father’s Day in America, and Army Lt. Col. John Hall, a public affairs officer with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, decided to take advantage of the weather to bring his grandsons to a popular nearby swimming hole.


The tiny hamlet of Contra Pria is made up of a few houses that appear lost in the foothills of the Dolomite Mountains. The half-dozen houses follow the course of the Astico, a small river created by the melting snow of the mountains that flow down into the rocky valley creating deep chasms with frigid still waters that invite adventure seekers escaping the summer heat.

When Hall and his family arrived early on June 17, 2018, they were surprisingly greeted by Army Lt. Col. Jim Keirsey, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, and his family, who were picnicking and swimming with some friends in the remote swimming area. They introduced their children to each other who then played in the beach areas together.

“We noticed a few people jumping from the 20-30 foot cliffs that formed a small canyon along the stream,” said Hall’s wife, Laura Hall. “Jumpers would often pause for scuba divers in wet suits exploring the glacial waters that feed into the chasm below.”

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

U.S. Army Paratrooper Lt. Col. John Hall

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander C Henninger)

Deep, Frigid Water

This peaceful scene completely changed in the blink of an eye.

“The boys were taking a break from the cold water when I decided I would climb up on the cliff to see what the divers were exploring,” Hall said. “Just as they swam away, four Italian men, probably somewhere in their twenties, appeared above the river on the opposite cliff. They seemed to be daring each other to jump. Two immediately jumped and then challenged their friends. One chose not to jump at all, while the other hesitated, but after a few minutes I saw him falling through the air.”

Hall said that when the man hit the deep, frigid water, he began to thrash about, yelling for his friends to help as he repeatedly went under water. The two men who jumped in earlier leapt from the cliff to attempt a rescue, but as they swam up to him, the scene turned into what appeared to be a fight or wrestling match in the water.

Hall could see from his vantage point on the opposite cliff that the struggling man was drowning, and would possibly drown his companions, as they all began to go under water together.

“I jumped from the cliff,” Hall said.

‘That’s Just John’

“I swam over to the three men, firmly wrapped my arm around the chin of the drowning man and pulled him onto my hip. The other men briefly continued pulling at us and one another. Once we broke free, I swam the man to the cliff, pulled him around, and placed his hands on the rocks.”

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

Army Lt. Col. John Hall, a public affairs officer for the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, saves a man from drowning in the frigid waters of Pria Park.

(Army photo by Spc. Josselyn Fuentes)

One of the man’s friends swam over to help Hall hold him in place while he caught his breath. The men swam toward the water’s edge, but the group was still in deep water without a foothold. Exhausted and in shock, the man was unable to work his way along the rocky face to reach the shallow waters. As they both clung to the rock face, Hall indicated to him that he would help him climb and push him up to safety.

“Once he was safe, I swam over to a rocky outcropping and climbed to verify that he was ok,” Hall said. “Still shaking from the experience, the man turned and gave me a hug.”

“John Hall will claim he was just in the right place at the right time to save that guy’s life, and that may be partially true,” Keirsey said. “But it really takes the right person to recognize somebody is in jeopardy and then have the courage to do something about it.”

“At first, I thought he was just jumping to amuse our grandsons who were watching. When I saw him swim into a group of splashing men and pull one out, it was then that I realized that he was saving the man,” Laura said.

“I was surprised that someone who couldn’t swim well would jump into those waters, but I wasn’t surprised that John helped him,” she said. “That’s just John.”

“I am just so glad that someone was there to help him. After it was over, I couldn’t help thinking it was Father’s Day,” Hall said. “No man should lose his son on Father’s Day.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Chinese ‘re-education centers’ hold millions prisoner

In the northwest Chinese region of Xinjiang, many locals read endlessly, write often, and sing loudly.

But not by choice.

In extrajudicial indoctrination camps around Xinjiang, ethnic Uighur men and women are forced to study Chinese history, write personal reflections, and sing songs like “Without the Communist Party, there is no New China.” Many are beaten, tortured, and are unable to go home.


China considers this process “re-education.” It runs outside the court system with people dragged away for infringements like talking to a loved one overseas or having a beard, and there is no course for appeal.

A recent estimate put the number of people who have been, or are currently, interned since April 2017, in the hundreds of thousands, or even just over one million.

Though the exact total is unknown, Adrian Zenz, a social researcher at the European School of Culture and Theology, pored over local job ads and government bids to find new evidence of the system’s existence and scale.

Since 2016, there were government bids to construct or upgrade 73 facilities in Xinjiang that, despite various names, appeared as though they will operate, wholly or at least in part, as re-education centers.

Re-education centers are often disguised as vocational training hubs, as many were in these bids, but the details betray their hidden purpose.

Together, the facilities required guard rooms, video surveillance, security fences, police equipment, police living quarters, handheld security inspection devices, steel-reinforced concrete walls, and even iron chains.

“Many of these facilities are heavily secured, to an extent that they do not just aim to keep potential intruders out, but to keep those inside under tight surveillance.” Zenz told Business Insider.

Twenty bids listed new or upgraded monitoring or video surveillance. One bid from January 2018, wanted 122 cameras to cover the whole facility without leaving any “dead angles.”

One center required security nets, the renovation of a guard room, and “four watchtowers.” Another, submitted on April 25, 2018, requested an 86,000 square-foot “underground facility.”

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

These security features, according to Zenz, confirm reports that vocation centers frequently function as internment camps, though many facilities likely sit on a continuum.

“All we know is that a substantial number of facilities, likely capable of holding at least several hundred thousand, are geared more towards the re-education side. Some are explicitly and directly marked as re-education facilities. More than likely, facilities with a stronger vocational training focus can likewise hold several hundred thousands,” said Zenz.

“Some even specifically state that they are designed to perform ‘re-education.’ An official government notice from April 2017, pertaining to these facilities in a particular prefecture mandated that training topics include military drill, Chinese language, legal knowledge, ethnic unity, religious knowledge and patriotic education.”

Job ads are also a huge giveaway

As easy as it may be to silently whisk away thousands of people to new re-education centers, skyrocketing prisoner would also require a huge recruitment drive.

According to Zenz, from May 2017, counties with large ethnic minority populations “initiated a wave of recruitments” for so-called education and training centers.

But ads for such staff were often listed in the same ads as open police positions, and some ads even preferred recruitees with a military or police background.

Other job ads conflated the two roles, hiring “training center policing assistants.” If the staff were being hired to work at a regular vocation center the high number of security personnel would be “difficult to explain,” said Zenz.

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man
Armed Police soldiers in the street of Urumqi.

Ads also frequently lacked required skills or qualifications that would normally be crucial to providing vocational training. Many required only a middle-school education whereas other provinces, where few Uighur would live, usually require at least a bachelor degree.

In one Xinjiang country, where Uighurs make up 95% of the population, 320 jobs available at a “training center” had three criteria: have a middle-school education, be loyal to the Chinese Communist Party, and be part of the ethnic majority Han.

Re-education isn’t the only problem Uighurs face

In an attempt to crack down on religious extremism, authorities in Xinjiang have targeted almost any form of religious expression by Uighur Muslims.

Women have been banned from wearing burqas and veils. Residents were barred from fasting during Ramadan with restaurants ordered to stay open despite religious obligations. And in 2016, millions of Xinjiang residents were ordered to surrender their passports and must seek permission to travel abroad.

Authorities have installed surveillance apps on residents’ phones and begun collecting DNA samples, fingerprints, iris scans, and blood types from all Xinjiang residents aged between 12 and 65. They have also collected voice samples that may be used to identify who is speaking on tapped phone calls.

There’s also 40,000 facial-recognition cameras that are being used to track, and block, the movement of Uighurs in the region.

Xinjiang is considered by experts to be a testing ground for what the US State Department has described as “unprecedented levels of surveillance.”

The concern is Xinjiang could also be a testing ground for a nationwide re-education system.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran’s government rejects negotiation offer from Trump

Iranian officials have sharply rebuffed U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to meet with his Iranian counterpart to discuss ways of improving ties between the two countries, saying such talks would have “no value” and be a “humiliation.”

Trump said on July 30, 2018, he would be willing to meet President Hassan Rohani with “no preconditions,” “anytime,” even as U.S. and Iranian officials have been escalating their rhetoric following Washington’s withdrawal in May 2018 from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.


Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on July 31, 2018, that Trump’s offer was at odds with his actions, as Washington has imposed sanctions on Iran and put pressure on other countries to avoid business with the Islamic republic.

“Sanctions and pressures are the exact opposite of dialogue,” ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Fars news agency.

“How can Trump prove to the Iranian nation that his comments of last night reflect a true intention for negotiation and have not been expressed for populist gains?” he added.

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council of Foreign Relations.

The statement echoed earlier comments from Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council of Foreign Relations, as saying there was “no value in Trump’s proposal” given Iran’s “bad experiences in negotiations with America” and “U.S. officials’ violations of their commitments.”

Fars also quoted Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli as saying the United States “is not trustworthy.”

“How can we trust this country when it withdraws unilaterally from the nuclear deal?” he asked.

The United States has also vowed to reimpose sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the nuclear agreement until Tehran changes its regional policies.

“I’d meet with anybody. I believe in meetings,” Trump said at the White House during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Trump added that he believes in “speaking to other people, especially when you’re talking about potentials of war and death and famine and lots of other things.”

Asked whether he would set any preconditions for the meeting, Trump said: “No preconditions, no. If they want to meet, I’ll meet anytime they want,” adding that it would be “good for the country, good for them, good for us, and good for the world.”

Such a meeting would be the first between U.S. and Iranian leaders since before the 1979 revolution that toppled the shah, a U.S. ally.

Hamid Aboutalebi, a senior adviser to Rohani, tweeted on July 31, 2018, that “respecting the Iranian nation’s rights, reducing hostilities, and returning to the nuclear deal” would pave the way for talks.

Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted deputy parliament speaker Ali Motahari as saying that the U.S. pullout from the nuclear accord meant that “negotiation with the Americans would be a humiliation now.”

“If Trump had not withdrawn from the nuclear deal and had not imposed sanctions on Iran, there would be no problem with negotiations with America,” Motahari added.

Iran’s leaders had previously rejected suggestions from Trump that the two countries negotiate a new nuclear deal to replace Iran’s 2015 agreement with six world powers.

“We’re ready to make a real deal, not the deal that was done by the previous administration, which was a disaster,” Trump said in July 2018.

Trump has consistently opposed the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program. His administration argues the agreement was too generous to Iran and that it enabled it to pursue a more assertive regional policy.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered his own interpretation of Trump’s latest comments on Iran, setting out three steps Iran must take before talks take place.

“The president wants to meet with folks to solve problems if the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to making fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their maligned behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation,” Pompeo told the CNBC television channel.

Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, insisted that the United States would not be lifting any sanctions or reestablishing diplomatic and commercial relations until “there are tangible, demonstrated, and sustained shifts in Tehran’s policies.”

“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course,” Marquis said.

In suggesting talks with Iran, Trump has maintained that it would help Tehran cope with what he describes as the “pain” from deepening economic woes as the United States moves to reimpose economic sanctions against Iran.

The looming sanctions, some of which will go into effect within days, have helped trigger a steep fall in the Iranian rial, with the currency plummeting to a new record low of 122,000 to the dollar in black-market trading on July 30, 2018.

The rapid decline in the value of the currency sparked street protests in Tehran in June 2018.

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

Articles

The Air Force is joining the race to bring back American rocket superiority

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man
Flickr


For the last decade, Russian-made engines have been propelling US national security satellites into space.

While this has proven to be a good approach in the past, the time has come for a new breed of rocket engine that’s American-made.

On Feb. 29, the US Air Force — who runs the national security launch missions — announcedthat it will invest up to $738 million to put an end to America’s reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines.

RD-180 engines currently power the Atlas V rocket, which is owned and run by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) aerospace company.

And over the last 10 years, the Atlas V has helped ferry expensive and sensitive national security payloads into space for the Air Force.

But in recent years, as political tensions grew between the US and Russia, ULA’s use of the RD-180 engines has come under fire.

After the Crimean crisis in 2014,Congress called to permanently terminate the Air Force’s reliance on Russian-made rocket engines by building a program that would see functional, American-made rocket engines by the end of 2019.

Now is the right time

As part of its announcement on Feb. 29, the Air Force said it will award ULA up to $202 million, which will go toward the construction of ULA’s new Vulcan rocket — scheduled to launch for the first time in 2019.

Vulcan is expected to run on rocket engines designed and constructed by the American aerospace company Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man
Blue Origin

But Blue Origin isn’t the only company working on taking back America’s role as a leader in rocket propulsion systems.

In direct competition is the rocket propulsion manufacturer company Aerojet Rocketdyne, which just got a major vote of confidence.

The rest of that $738 million the Air Force is willing to invest — which equates to a whopping $536 million — was dedicated to Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Right now, Aerojet is constructing its AR1 rocket engine, which the company says could be used to propel the Atlas V, Vulcan, as well as other rockets currently under development.

While ULA has contracted with Blue Origin to build its BE-4 rocket engines for the Vulcan rocket, ULA also has a contract with Aerojet, as back up.

If Blue Origin’s efforts to build the BE-4 rocket engine falter, then ULA will turn to Aerojet’s AR1 to power the Vulcan.

ULA and Aerojet have until Dec. 31, 2019 to design, build, and test its new engines.

“While the RD-180 engine has been a remarkable success with more than 60 successful launches, we believe now is the right time for American investment in a domestic engine,” Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and chief executive officer, said in a release.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy SEAL describes being wounded in search for Bergdahl

A retired Navy SEAL wounded in the search for US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who walked away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009, testified about the harrowing firefight that ended his career.


Speaking at Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing Oct. 25, Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch choked up when describing how enemy combatants shot a trained dog that was with the team before shooting him just above his right knee.

“I really thought that I was going to die,” Hatch said.

Hatch walks with a limp after undergoing 18 surgeries to repair his leg.

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man
Bowe Berghdal. Photo from US Army

The former Navy SEAL, forced to retire from the military after nearly 26 years of service because of injuries sustained while searching for Bergdahl, said he had known days before that the search was going to be hazardous.

Also Read: SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

“Somebody’s going to get killed or hurt trying to get that kid,” he recalled saying to his teammates.

Trump motion still pending

The hearing started with a surprise, as the judge, Colonel Jeffery R. Nance, said he was not yet ready to rule on the defense’s argument that recent comments by President Donald Trump had made a fair hearing impossible.

“I’m still considering it,” Nance said.

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man
President Donald Trump’s remarks on Bergdahl may affect the sentencing now that he is the Commander in Chief. Photo from White House Flickr.

The defense has argued that the president seemed to endorse previous assertions, made when he was a presidential candidate, that Bergdahl was a traitor and deserved execution. As commander in chief, he is the superior officer of all the military officials responsible for disciplining Bergdahl.

Questioned by reporters last week about Bergdahl, Trump said he couldn’t say more on the case, “but I think people have heard my comments in the past.”

Last week, Bergdahl pleaded guilty at a court-martial hearing to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The latter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing is expected to extend into next week.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 ways a grunt’s resume is more valuable than a POG’s

One of the biggest drawbacks of being in the combat arms is a perceived lack of post-service opportunities out here in the civilian world. A recently released grunt might take a look through job listings, see a laundry list of requirements, become convinced that applying is a pointless effort, and send themselves into a downward spiral. We’ve seen it happen too many times — we all know a brother- or sister-in-arms who has fallen down this hole.

This misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is, there really isn’t much of advantage to being a former POG over being former infantry when it comes time to find a job. Unless that guy who was a computer analyst in the Army is specifically going into a civilian computer analyst job, you’re both on even footing.

In fact, when you cut away the military jargon from your resume and translate your skills into something a civilian employer can read, the grunts actually have the upper hand, based solely on the day-to-day lifestyle of combat arms troops.


This article isn’t meant to discredit a support troop’s career path. All troops can pull useful information out of this article, but it’s intended mostly for the grunts who don’t realize their true potential.

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

It’s best if you let your resume do the talking…

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

Your awards are proof for all the “fluff” in your resume

Let’s be honest; everyone is going to add some decorative fluff their resume. Employers expect this and have to weed through said fluff to get the heart of the issue. Even if you don’t embellish a little on your resume, prospective employers will assume you’re fluffing it up. It’s just how these things go.

Typically, grunts don’t have awards tossed to them like candy, so when they get one, it means something. So, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Go ahead and mention why you were given the award; that’s the real impressive part.

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

Deployment stories usually do well with civilians who have no idea what life in the military is actually like.

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Your deployment history can solidify your communication skills

Writing about your deployment history is, in a word, complicated. Unfortunately, there’s a stigma associated with veterans of combat zones. Some employers unjustly see veterans as unqualified because they assume we all have post-traumatic stress and are difficult to work with — despite the fact that that’s discrimination clearly forbidden by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Still, civilian employers, no matter the industry, are looking for three key traits in an employee: Communication skills, leadership potential, and management ability. There’s no question that a deployment checks these three boxes. If you’ve deployed, then you have a proven ability to “communicate with a team and higher-ups under extremely stressful conditions.”

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

They don’t need to know about your salty attitude until you’ve been on board for several months.

(Meme via CONUS Battle Drills)

Your leadership skills are needed for promotion in civilian workplace

Employers want a new hire for one of two reasons: They’re either looking to fill a vacancy to complete a specific task or they’re trying to bring someone on for the long-haul, someone who will rise within the ranks and remain loyal to the employer.

Support guys, like that Army computer analyst from the earlier example, might be a shoe-in for that one entry-level position, but it’s the grunt they’ll be looking at for the long-term. Grunts take on leadership roles from the first moment they’re assigned a boot private to babysit watch over. What the civilian employer wants to hear is that you “oversaw and aided in the growth of subordinates over the course of several years.”

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

Civilians won’t know that you were volun-told or needed to make rank. It just sounds extremely impressive to the uninformed.

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Your military schooling is tangible proof of management skills

In every complete resume, the final portion is reserved for educational history. Typically, this is where an applicant lists their high school diploma and college degrees, but it’s also used for technical schools and any kind of additional education. Good news, grunts: this is also where you put those random schools you were sent to.

Officer Candidate School and NCO Academies definitely count. Put those on there. Plus, most NCO schools are given overly “hooah” names. Go ahead and tell me what sounds better: “Warrior Leader Course” or “Los Angeles City College?”

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

Follow wherever your heart takes you. You’ll find someone out there willing to pay you money to do it.

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

Your college degree will cover down on anything else missing on the resume

At the end of the day, your military experience looks good and it makes for a great topic of discussion during the interview, but you can’t expect anything more than a foot in the door if you don’t meet the required qualifications.

Thankfully, using that GI Bill that you earned can help boost your odds in any field you’re pursuing. Once you’ve finished your degree, the job market is ripe for the picking, and your military service will give you an edge over the competition.

For further instruction on how to best translate your military history into a fantastic civilian resume, please check out this article by the folks over at Zety. They’re professionals who dedicate themselves to this very subject. It’s a great read.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Midway’ movie takes war in the Pacific seriously

This Veterans Day, moviegoers everywhere can witness the most pivotal Pacific battle in World War II: “Midway.” The production reminds viewers just how precariously America’s future teetered in the early 1940s, and what cost, sacrifice and luck was required to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Patriot, White House Down, Independence Day: Resurgence) waited ten years before embarking on the heroic story, written by U.S. Navy veteran Wes Tooke. The ambitious storyline begins in earnest in Asia the 1930s, and follows the war in the Pacific through the Midway battle that ultimately changed the tide of war.


The narrative chiefly follows the experiences of two principal characters: Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton (the U.S. Pacific Fleet Intelligence Officer) and Lt. Dick Best (naval aviator and commanding officer of Bombing Six squadron). As with the actual war, numerous other characters help the story take shape. Historic figures like Nimitz, Doolittle, Halsey, McClusky and others played critical roles in the war, and resultantly in the movie.

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

Actor Woody Harrelson observes flight operations with sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, Aug. 11, 2018, as aircraft trap, or recover, while returning from a mission.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joseph Miller)

The movie timeline has a fever-pitch parade of battles from the attack on Pearl Harbor through the the climactic fight at Midway a mere seven months later. Those portrayed are originally imperfect versions of themselves, who grow personally and professionally. Along the way they are confronted with unimaginable challenges and choices, often with historic consequences.

“I wanted to showcase the valor and immense courage of the men on both sides, and remain very sensitive to the human toll of the battles and war itself,” said Emmerich.

Hallowed grounds

Just as the project was being “green lighted,” Emmerich visited historic Pearl Harbor in June 2016. While there, he saw first-hand the historic bases, facilities and memorials that remain some 75 years on. Home to the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Oahu was the target of the infamous Dec. 7 attack. The island also hosted the headquarters where much of the early Pacific war planning occurred and where information warfare professionals partially broke the Japanese code. Ultimately, this was the location from which Adm. Chester Nimitz made the decision to risk what remained of the Pacific Fleet in the gamble at Midway in June 1942.

Emmerich personally toured the waterfront, including Battleship Row and the harbor where much of the fleet was anchored that fateful Sunday morning. He went on to visit the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island, which includes a dedicated Battle of Midway exhibit. His visit was curated by the facility’s historian and author Mr. Burl Burlingame, who has since passed away. Burlingame provided rich accounts of the opening months of the war, including the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway. Emmerich also got a behind-the-scenes look in the historic aircraft hangar there.

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

More than 200 extras in period dress on location during the filming of the major motion picture “Midway.”

(U.S. Navy photo by Mr. Dave Werner)

The tour continued along Ford Island, which included stops at the original USS Arizona Memorial; a Navy seaplane ramp (with Pearl Harbor attack bomb and strafing scars); the Army seaplane ramps (also with strafing scars); and the USS Oklahoma and USS Utah Memorials.

Emmerich and his party then conducted windshield tours of the USS Missouri; the Pacific Fleet Headquarters compound at Makalapa – which included the historic Nimitz and Spruance homes; the temporary office space from which Adm. Kimmel watched the attack on Pearl Harbor unfold; and the famed Station HYPO, profiled throughout the movie Midway, where its operators broke enough of the Japanese code to enable the ambush at Midway.

The visitors were able to glimpse the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Dry Dock One. In the of Spring of 1942, a battered and bloodied USS Yorktown aircraft carrier limped back to Pearl Harbor following the Battle of Coral Sea. Despite extensive damage, the ship remained in dry dock only three days as shipyard works swarmed aboard to get her back in the fight. Initial repair estimates actually forecast three months to get her operational. The “Yorktown Miracle” resulted in the aircraft carrier being available to join the Midway fight a few days later.

After a full day of exposure to the places and legends who won Midway, the task of pulling it together for one movie might intimidate even the most seasoned directors. Not Emmerich.

“I was really impressed with his enthusiasm for the history and his determination to get it right. You could see the wheels turning in his head with each visit – it was like the movie was coming alive in his mind,” said Dave Werner, who escorted Emmerich and his group during the visit.

Script reviews

Once the Department of Defense approved a production support agreement with the movie’s producers, the writers got busy working to get the script as accurate as practicable. Multiple script drafts were provided to the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). Those same historians viewed the rough and final movie productions.

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, left, and actor Woody Harrelson discuss the life and career of Adm. Chester Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander during World War II.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki)

The “Midway” movie writers and producers worked tirelessly with the Navy in script development and during production to keep the storyline consistent with the historic narrative. In a few small instances, some events portrayed were not completely consistent with the historical record. Revising them would have unnecessarily complicated an already ambitious retelling of a series of complicated military battles. The production was representative of what unfolded in the opening months of WWII in the Pacific and does justice to the integrity, accountably, initiative and toughness of the sailors involved.

The naval historians who reviewed the production were impressed.

“I’m glad they did a movie about real heroes and not comic book heroes. Despite some of the ‘Hollywood’ aspects, this is still the most realistic movie about naval combat ever made and does real credit to the courage and sacrifice of those who fought in the battle, on both sides,” said the director of NHHC, retired Rear Adm. Sam Cox, who personally supported each phase of the historical review.

The commitment to getting it right matriculated to the actors honored to represent American heroes.

Harrelson as Adm. Chester Nimitz

Woody Harrelson plays the role of Adm. Chester Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander who assumed command after the attack on Pearl Harbor, through Midway and remained in command until after the end of the war. Harrelson bears an uncanny resemblance to Nimitz in the movie.

In preparing for the role and while in Pearl Harbor, Harrelson called on Rear Adm. Brian Fort, who was (at the time) the commander of Navy Region Hawaii. Harrelson wanted to understand the decisions the fleet admiral took in those critical months, and also wanted to get a sense of the type of naval officer and man Nimitz was. Calm and understated, and renowned for his piercing blue eyes, Nimitz was a quiet, confident leader. And he demonstrated a remarkable threshold for taking calculated risks. Committing his remaining carriers to the Midway engagement was chief among them.

An Army paratrooper jumped off a cliff to save a drowning man

Actor Woody Harrelson, second from left, poses for a photo with sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) while observing flight operations with sailors.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joseph Miller)

“Adm. Nimitz came in at an extremely difficult time for the Pacific Fleet. It was really important for Harrelson to understand not just the man, but the timing of his arrival and the urgency of the situation for the Navy and nation,” said Jim Neuman, the Navy Region Hawaii historian who arranged the meeting between Rear Adm. Fort and Harrelson. Neuman also served as the historical liaison representative on multiple sets during the filming.

Harrelson also got underway on the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in August 2018 while the ship operated in the eastern Pacific Ocean. While embarked Harrelson got a close look at air operations at sea. He observed the launching and recovery of various naval aircraft, as well as seeing the navigation bridge and other areas critical in ensuring the ship operates safely. Harrelson was also exceedingly generous with his time to interact with sailors, stopping to talk with them, sign autographs and even played piano at an impromptu jam session.

During the visit, he saw first-hand what “Midway” depicts throughout: Navy teams work very closely together to make the impossible become possible.

The Midway battle pitted four Japanese aircraft carriers against three American carriers. Preparing, arming, launching and recovering aircraft from a ships at sea is no easy task. Adding the uncertainty and urgency of war only complicates an already highly complex operation.

Having credible combat power win the fight was only one aspect of winning Midway. Having them in the right location, at the right time, was the work of the information warfare professionals.

Wilson as Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton

Patrick Wilson, who serves in the role of Lt. Cmdr Edwin Layton, the U.S. Pacific Fleet intelligence officer, took great care in accurately portraying his character. He called on the Pacific Fleet’s intelligence officer, just-retired Navy Capt. Dale Rielage. The two toured an unclassified area outside of the still highly-classified offices at the Pacific Fleet. The outer office space is adorned with storyboards that remind the Navy information warfare professionals there just how critical their work was in winning Midway and the war in the Pacific. Also located there is the Pacific Fleet intelligence officer portrait board – with Layton’s picture being the first in a line of dozens of officers who have served in the 75 years since.

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Patrick Wilson, right, who portrays U.S. Pacific Fleet intelligence officer Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton in the upcoming movie “Midway,” tours U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters. Here he tours an unclassified outer office dedicated to heritage of the World War II information warfare specialists who helped win the war in the Pacific.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mr. Dave Werner)

After the brief tour, the two sat down and compared notes about Layton’s education, his experiences in Japan and elsewhere before the war, his relationship to Nimitz, and what the relationship was like between the Pacific Fleet staff and the code breakers in Station HYPO. No detail was too small, including typical protocol concerning how staff might have reacted when a senior officer such as Adm. Nimitz entered the office. Wilson’s command of Layton’s history was impressive and exhaustive, and his portrayal in the movie reflects it.

In fact, the research he and others put into the script and portrayals made “Midway” a compelling and believable representation of how information warfare professionals literally helped save the world 75 years ago. In today’s connected 21st-century information landscape, the importance of naval information warfare professionals are even more important to today’s security.

“We were thoroughly impressed with the amount of research he had conducted on his own, and it’s evident he is committed to honoring Layton’s legacy. Besides that, he was a really just a good guy and earnestly interested in learning more about Layton and the history,” said Werner, who escorted Wilson during the visit to the staff.

“Midway” opens in theaters everywhere on Nov. 8, 2019.

This article originally appeared on United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

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MATTIS: The Iraq war was a ‘strategic mistake’

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary called the invasion of Iraq a “strategic mistake” at a conference last year, in an audio recording obtained by The Intercept.


In a wide-ranging speech at an ASIS International Conference in Anaheim, California that covered everything from Iran, ISIS, and other national security issues, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis told attendees: “We will probably look back on the invasion of Iraq as a mistake, a strategic mistake.”

Also read: General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis got Trump to rethink his position on torture in under an hour

The assertion is not particularly controversial, given the faulty intelligence that led to the invasion, the many missteps afterward, and the unraveling of a country that eventually gave birth to the terrorist group ISIS.

But it is interesting as it’s the first known instance of Mattis portraying the invasion in a negative light, especially given his leadership of 1st Marine Division in 2003, which he led across the border and, eventually, into Baghdad.

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General Mattis speaks to Marines in 2007. | U.S. Marine Corps photo

“I think people were pretty much aware that the US military didn’t think it was a very wise idea,” he said. “But we give a cheery ‘Aye aye, Sir.’ Because when you elect someone commander in chief — we give our advice. We generally give it in private.”

Mattis, like many other generals before the war, offered his advice to his boss Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the problems of going into Iraq. This frank advice is expected of high-ranking military officers, but ultimately it’s up to the civilian leadership to make the decision.

Still, seven retired generals eventually came out publicly against Rumsfeld in 2007 in what was dubbed “the generals’ revolt.” Mattis, still on active duty at the time, was not among them.

He was asked specifically about whether there was a scenario in which he may have retired in protest during a talk in San Francisco in April 2014. Mattis allowed some unethical orders and other scenarios that would lead him to do so, but he said, “you have to be very careful about doing that. The lance corporals can’t retire. They’re going. That’s all there is to it.”

He added: “You abandon him only under the most dire circumstances, where the message you have to send can be sent no other way. I never confronted that situation.”

Since retiring from the military in 2013, Mattis has given a number of speeches while working as a fellow at Dartmouth and Stanford. In July 2014, for example, he told students at Stanford: “There is no strategy right now for our engagement with the world. We need to know the political end state for what we want to achieve.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Damages for the sailors killed on the USS Cole goes to the Supreme Court

In 2000, the USS Cole arrived at the port of Aden, Yemen to refuel. The destroyer was part of the the U.S. Navy mission of enforcing sanctions against Iraq. It was only scheduled to stop for four hours. She would not leave Aden under her own power.

On Oct. 12 at 12:15 local time, a rubber dinghy outfitted with a small motor came alongside the Cole and detonated a 400-700 pound shape charge of C4 against the hull of the destroyer, ripping into the engines, mess areas, and living quarters of the ship and tearing a 40-by-60 foot hole in the side. The attack killed 17 sailors and wounded another 39.

It was the deadliest attack against U.S. sailors in 13 years.

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At the time, it was assumed that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist group were responsible. The FBI had just charged him with masterminding the 1998 embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, 12 of which were Americans. But the Cole bombing was never conclusively linked to bin Laden.

Instead, a federal judge ruled in 2007 that the country of Sudan was liable for the bombings. Families of the fallen sailors allege that the attack would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Sudanese government, which they say provided key training bases to al-Qaeda operatives as well as technical and financial support to bin Laden.

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(FBI)

Osama bin Laden spent five years in Sudan after moving there from Afghanistan in 1991. He invested heavily in Sudan’s infrastructure before he was expelled in 1996. Sudan says it was his expulsion from Sudan that turned him into the world’s most wanted terrorist and, before that, he was little more than a businessman.

The judge awarded $8 million to the families through the Death on the High Seas Act, much of which was taken from Sudanese assets frozen in the United States. That act did not allow compensation for mental anguish.

In 2010, fifteen of the injured sailors and their spouses sued the Sudanese government for the same reason. Since Sudan did not appear in court to defend itself, the sailors were awarded $317 million in damages. The government in Khartoum says it was never notified of the lawsuit through the proper channels under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the settlement is a violation of international law. The Trump Administration agreed with the FSIA standards.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the award in 2015. In June 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. There is no word on when the U.S.’ highest court will hear the arguments.

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Two flightline personnel at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, pay their last respects to the five sailors killed in an apparent attack on the USS Cole as they are escorted from the C-17 Globemaster III that arrived from Yemen.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Keith Reed)

By 2008, all those convicted for the bombing of the Cole either escaped custody in Yemen or were freed outright by Yemen — all except Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the attack. He was captured in Dubai in 2002 and is being held at Guantanamo Bay, though his involvement is questionable. One CIA agent called him an “idiot” who “couldn’t comprehend a comic book.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

John Krasinski will make you forget all about the old Jack Ryan

Actor John Krasinski has been on a steady five-year come up. Even before acclaim was heaped onto both his acting and directorial performance in the 2017 horror movie A Quiet Place, Krasinski had successfully stepped out of the shadow of his more awkward and decidedly less muscular role as Jim Harper on The Office. Give him props, you can only count on one hand how many actors left The Office and convincingly did something that wasn’t comedic. Now Krasinski is doubling down on his newly badass vibes in the first trailer for his new show Jack Ryan where he plays the titular character.



Jack Ryan is set to debut on Amazon Prime and is yet another take on the character from author Tom Clancy’s classic spy novels. Though the character of Jack Ryan has been played by a bunch of actors— Chris Pine in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit; Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears; Alec Baldwin in The Hunt For Red October, and most notably Harrison Ford in Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games— no one but Ford has ever mustered a performance that was compelling enough to warrant more than one shot at playing Ryan. Krasinski though, he might have what it takes.

www.youtube.com

See, the cool thing about Krasinski as an actor sort of mirrors the cool thing about Jack Ryan as a character. Jack Ryan is an ex-soldier, yeah, but by profession, he’s an analyst— the guy who tries to dodge boring meetings, not bullets. But in the novels, Ryan is constantly thrust out of his comfort zone and forced to carry on like a spy, which, even for a soldier, is not remotely the same. HEll, in one of Clancy’s books Ryan even become president of the United States. The duality of Ryan as this brilliant desk jockey with a badass streak in him is what makes the character so good. Similarly, as an actor, Krasinski can be convincingly comical, normal-looking, and smart while also (per his performance in 13 Hours) having the ability to come off like he could kill you with a spork.

Similar to the Chris Pine and Ben Affleck entries into the Jack Ryan canon, the show for Amazon will be an origin story that shows Ryan make his first transition from behind his desk to behind enemy lines as a spy. Unlike other takes on the character though, this will be an episodic show which is good for Krasinski. Because it’s a show, he’ll have the space to come up short sometimes or not always hit the mark, but also to redeem himself episodes later. Movies are so much less forgiving in this regard, you just don’t get another chance at anything if it doesn’t work. Still, Krasinski has proven himself more versatile in the second act of his career, and Jack Ryan looks to be another exciting entry in it.

Jack Ryan debuts on Amazon Prime Video on Aug. 31, 2018.

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

Articles

This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project

In 2016, an Iraqi-American artist sat down with Bahjat Abdulwahed — the so-called “Walter Cronkite of Baghdad” — with the idea of launching a radio project that would be part documentary, part radio play, and part variety show.


Abdulwahed was the voice of Iraqi radio from the late 1950s to the early 1990s, but came to Philadelphia as a refugee in 2009 after receiving death threats from insurgents.

“He represented authority and respectability in relationship to the news through many different political changes,” said Elizabeth Thomas, curator of “Radio Silence,” a public art piece that resulted from the meeting with Abdulwahed.

Thomas had invited artist Michael Rakowitz to Philadelphia to create a project for Mural Arts Philadelphia, which has been expanding its public art reach from murals into new and innovative spaces.

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Bahjat Abdulwahed, Michael Rakowitz, and Hayfaa Ibrahem Abdulqader. Courtesy photo via VOA News.

After nearly five years of research, Rakowitz distilled his project into a radio broadcast that would involve putting the vivacious and caramel-voiced Abdulwahed back on the air, and using Philadelphia-area Iraqi refugees, and local Iraq war veterans as his field reporters. It would feature Iraqi music, remembrances of the country and vintage weather reports from a happier time in Iraq.

“One of the many initial titles was “Desert Home Companion,” Rakowitz said, riffing on “A Prairie Home Companion,” the radio variety show created by Garrison Keillor.

Rakowitz recorded an initial and very informal session with Abdulwahed in his living room in January 2016. Two weeks later, Abdulwahed collapsed. He had to have an emergency tracheostomy and was on life support until he died seven months later.

At Abdulwahed’s funeral, his friends urged Rakowitz to continue with the project, to show how much of the country they left behind was slipping away and to help fight cultural amnesia.

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Michael Rakowitz. Courtesy photo via VOA News.

Rakowitz recalibrated the project, which became “Radio Silence,” a 10-part radio broadcast with each episode focusing on a synonym of silence, in homage to Abdulwahed.

“The voice of Baghdad had lost his voice,” Rakowitz said, calling him a “narrator of Iraq’s history.”

It will be hosted by Rakowitz and features fragments of that first recording session with Abdulwahed, as well as interviews with his wife and other Iraqi refugees living in Philadelphia.

Rakowitz and Thomas also worked with Warrior Writers, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia that helps war veterans work through their experiences using writing and art.

The first episode, on speechlessness, will launch Aug. 6. It will be broadcast on community radio stations across the country through Prometheus Radio Project.

One participant is Jawad Al Amiri, an Iraqi refugee who came to the United States in the 1980s. He said silence in Iraq has been a way of life for many decades.

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Radio Silence Session with Michael Rakowitz, April 2017, Philadelphia, PA. Photo via Warrior Writers.

“Silence is a way of survival. Silence is a decree by the Baath regime, not to tell what you see in front of your eyes. Silence is synonymous with fear. If you tell, you will be put through agony,” he said at a preview July 25 of the live broadcast. He said he saw his own sister poisoned and die and wasn’t allowed to speak of it.

When he came to the US in 1981, his father told him: “We send you here for education and to speak for the millions of Iraqis in the land where freedom of speech is practiced.”

Lawrence Davidson is an Army veteran who served during the Iraq War and works with Warrior Writers also contributed to the project. He said the project is a place to exchange ideas and honestly share feelings with refugees and other veterans.

The project kicks off on July 29 with a live broadcast performance on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall — what Rakowitz calls the symbolic home of American democracy. It will feature storytelling, food from refugees and discussions from the veterans with Warrior Writers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is building a massive amount of warships

The U.S. Navy’s 2016 shipbuilding plan called for 355 ships needed to compete in an increasingly contested international environment. The acting Secretary of the Navy has promised the Navy’s new plan will be complete by Jan. 15, 2020, but by all accounts, the number of ships will be reduced to 304, allotting for the construction of 10 new ships per year, fewer than the 2016 assessment.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy is increasing its naval presence – at a massive rate.


The People’s Liberation Army Navy is gearing up for the naval fight of the century, one that will likely happen without ever firing a shot. For control of the contested islands in the South China Sea, the PLAN is going to have to intimidate all the other naval forces of the world, but mostly the United States Navy. While China sees the waters around the Spratly Islands as its sovereign territory, other countries in the neighborhood don’t see it that way. The U.S. Navy, as part of its Freedom of Navigation mission, makes regular trips through these “Chinese waters,” challenging China’s claim to the islands and its territorial sea.

Basically, the U.S. Navy goes to contested sea areas and conducts operations inconsistent with “Innocent Passage,” which would be any action that doesn’t contribute to their quick and hasty movement through the territorial waters. When the U.S. Navy does something like launch planes or helicopters while in the disputed zones, it’s basically telling China, the U.S. doesn’t recognize their claim. In the South China Sea, there are at least two island chains in dispute between the Chinese and their neighbors.

The U.S. doesn’t take sides, but it also doesn’t recognize China’s Excessive Maritime Claims, so it frequently conducts Freedom of Navigation operations – and China hates it.

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(Forbes)

China’s response to the ongoing Freedom of Navigation operations has been to increase the presence of its deployed military hardware throughout the Spratly and Paracel Islands. It has even moved its vaunted DF-26 Ballistic Missile forces onto the islands in an effort to intimidate the U.S. Navy from continued operations. It has not been successful. China has even put its own ships in the way of the U.S. ships traversing the islands, threatening to stop them with one ship and sink it with another. But that is easier said than done. The United States Navy is the largest and most advanced fleet of ships in the world, with 11 aircraft carrier battle groups and hundreds of ships. It’s a lot to consider fighting.

Unless you also have hundreds of ships.

While the U.S. Navy is planning to build ten ships every year, the Chinese shipyards have been documented building up to nine ships at a time. The photo above shows nine Destroyers under construction, a number that would dwarf the UK’s Royal Navy, who has just six destroyers in service. This is only one yard, captured on social media for the world to see. China just finished its homegrown aircraft carrier, its second, and it boasts a crazy mysterious sailless submarine the United States knows very little about.

One day soon, the U.S. Navy’s intimidating Freedom of Navigation missions might just blow up in its face and it might find a fleet of Chinese ships waiting for it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been called many things — crazy, mad, insane, and “rocket man” — because of his program to build nuclear bombs and missiles capable of launching the weapons to the U.S.


But experts say he is not crazy to want a nuclear arsenal. And Kim doesn’t necessarily want nukes because of a desire to use them on the U.S. or any other country, contrary to what bellicose political rhetoric might suggest.

“He is not crazy — he has consolidated control over that country in a very effective and ruthless manner,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told Business Insider. “He’s just willing to do really terrible things to protect himself, which I think tells us something about the credibility of their nuclear threat.”

Such a threat is the purpose of the weapons, Lewis says, but almost certainly not their goal.

“If I were Kim Jong Un, I would want nuclear weapons, too,” added Lewis, who also publishes Arms Control Wonk, a site about nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation.

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Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

Here are the most likely reasons Kim wants a nuclear arsenal.

The U.S. has a track record of breaking its word with rulers

A watershed moment for U.S.-North Korea relations occurred during the Bush administration in the mid-2000s: the six-party talks, initiated after questionable accusations that North Korea was cheating on an agreement not to pursue the production of nuclear materials led to its collapse.

“They very sincerely tried to put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” Lewis said.

But one of the problems the Bush administration ran into was the U.S.’s track record with Iraq, formerly led by Saddam Hussein.

“How do you assure the North Koreans, when they sign a deal, that they don’t end up like Saddam? Because Saddam had actually given them the WMDs, and we still went ahead and said he had them, and we still went ahead and invaded,” Lewis said, using the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction.

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Kim Jong-un next to the newest and most powerful missile in the North Korean arsenal, Hwasong-15. (Photo from Rodong Sinmun)

The Americans “realized they had to find a way to convey to Pyongyang that if they went ahead and gave up their nuclear program, we wouldn’t invade them,” Lewis added.

So, Lewis said, the Bush administration pointed to how the U.S. had held up its end of a disarmament agreement with Libya and its ruler at the time, Muammar Gaddafi.

“I know why they did it at the time — it was the right decision,” Lewis said. “But we had a disarmament deal with that guy. We told the North Koreans to go look at how well things had worked out with Libya, and then we turned around and toppled the Libyan government.”

These foreign policy decisions happened during the rule of Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong Un. But his son has not forgotten them.

“Kim Jong Un, I think, is fearful of ending up like Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi,” Lewis said. “He is terrified that we will do to him what we did to them and has decided that nuclear weapons are the best way to ward that off.”

Also Read: This is how SEAL Team 6 could stop North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un

It’s unlikely North Korea has nuclear and thermonuclear weapons as reliable as those in the U.S.’s arsenal, if North Korea has deliverable weapons at all. But Lewis says this doesn’t really matter in the big picture.

“Every military system has developmental problems and issues, and maybe not work as well as it should,” Lewis said. “But they have all of the skills and expertise in place, and they’ve demonstrated the vast majority of things.”

He added: “If tomorrow they were going to put a nuclear weapon on a missile and fire it at my house, and you asked me, ‘How do you like your odds?’ I would say, ‘I don’t like my odds at all.’ … This is now a serious-enough capability that we have to start assuming, on a bad day, a lot of their stuff is going to go well.”

But nuclear weapons as a stick against the U.S. is not the only reason North Korea wants them.

A risky play for better diplomacy?

Some reports suggest Kim wants to use nuclear weapons to strong-arm South Korea into reunifying with North Korea. Lewis doubts this is true, though he says Kim is “insatiable” for power.

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Kim Jong Un in a nuclear facility in North Korea. (KCNA)

“I am sure if given the choice between controlling North Korea or North Korea and South Korea, he would clearly prefer to control everything,” Lewis said. “I don’t think, though, that this explains their nuclear behavior.”

That may be because Kim’s ability to take over South Korea — at least not as a smoldering crater — is virtually nil. Lewis also says North Korea isn’t building the kinds of nukes “that would be consistent with that goal.”

What is possible, if not likely — and perhaps surprising to many Americans — is that North Korea sees obtaining nuclear weapons as a way to improve its relations with other countries, including the U.S.

Lewis, who has studied the history of China’s nuclear-weapons program, says it has many similarities to North Korea’s path toward nuclearization.

China set off its first nuclear device in 1964 during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, and two years later it launched a live nuclear warhead atop a missile to prove the capabilities of its program. The U.S.’s view of these events during the Cold War was grim. But over time, something shocking transpired.

“If you had gone into Lyndon Johnson’s office in October 1964 and said, ‘The Chinese are about to test a nuclear weapon,’ he would have said, ‘That’s terrible,'” Lewis said.

Also Read: This top-ranking Pentagon general wants to stick with the Iran nuke deal

“But if you would have then said, ‘No, no, no, it’s great — this is really going to improve Chinese security, and as a consequence of that, China is going to reorient its foreign policy, and they’re going to become anti-Soviet and pro-American, and we’re going to have a diplomatic relationship with them,’ Johnson would have asked you: ‘Really? What president is going to go to China and meet with Mao Zedong?’ And you would have said, ‘Richard Nixon.’ Then he would have thrown you out of its office and said you were an idiot.”

But that is exactly what happened: When China’s proven nuclear capabilities deterred U.S. military action and opened the door for increased local aggression or international diplomacy, China chose the latter.

“The reason it happened is because the people who wanted nuclear weapons in China also wanted a better relationship with the United States,” Lewis said.

His point is that North Korea’s motivations, notwithstanding its accusations of horrifying human-rights abuses, may not be so nefarious as rhetoric and propaganda suggest when it comes to nukes. In fact, it could be that North Korean nuclear scientists see themselves more as doves than hawks.

But the country’s direction is ultimately up to its leader.

“It is possible that the North Koreans will take the security they are given by these weapons and spend it on being awful — sinking more South Korean ships, shelling more South Korean islands, initiating more crises,” Lewis said. “It will depend on how the North Koreans choose to act now that they have this capability. They could be easier to get along with; they could be worse.”

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North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile. (Photo from KCNA)

Instead of always assuming the worst, we should practice being “more neutral” about how having nuclear weapons might change North Korea, Lewis said.

“I don’t want to be optimistic, because it could really, truly go either way — North Korea could become more aggressive; North Korea could become less aggressive,” Lewis said. “But we should wait and see.”

He added: “You don’t want to prejudge something like that and foreclose what could be a chance at peace.”

But this likely isn’t the U.S.’s current thinking. President Donald Trump has expressed hopes to expand nuclear-weapons capabilities, and American military forces appear to be quietly training to face a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

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