A major ally's decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent decision to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement comes after repeated threats to pull out, but his decision to ditch the pact now could undermine the ability of the US and its partners to counter China’s ambitions in the region.


The VFA, signed in 1998, gives legal status to US troops in the Philippines. Duterte, a longtime critic of ties to the US, gave formal notice of withdrawal to the US this month, triggering a 180-day period before the exit is finalized.

Duterte believes the Philippines should be more militarily independent, a spokesman said, quoting the president as saying, “It’s about time we rely on ourselves.”

The decision is “chiefly the product of Duterte’s deep, decades-long anti-US sentiment,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat and a Southeast Asian security analyst, said in an email to Business Insider.

Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has “found just about any excuse he can to make threats against the alliance, be it canceling exercises or separating from the United States,” Parameswaran added.

Duterte has spurned the US since he took office and bristled at US criticism of his human-rights record. Both the US and Duterte have high approval ratings among the Philippine public, however, while a large majority there have little or no confidence in China.

Duterte has expressed affinity for President Donald Trump, but he still seeks closer relations with Beijing. Duterte has also been criticized at home as Chinese investments have been slow to arrive and as China acts assertively in the region, pursuing its claims in the South China Sea and drawing allies away from Taiwan.

“It’s a competition. China’s competing,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, said Thursday at a US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on Capitol Hill.

“There’s very clear recognition that China is putting pressure and using every tool within its disposal to try to draw those countries” away from cooperation with the US, Sbragia said. “That’s a condition we’re taking head on. That’s very serious for us.”

“I don’t doubt China will relish the deterioration in the US-Philippine alliance,” Parameswaran said. “Beijing has long considered US alliances a relic of the Cold War and a manifestation of US efforts to contain its regional ambitions.”

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5bb8f45dac0a63720f3f4e02%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=414&h=60f489b88de6a5d9ebc7c7b14da9914f5276e1998fd0ee8ac1c5e4c6e21fad2c&size=980x&c=872827628 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5bb8f45dac0a63720f3f4e02%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D414%26h%3D60f489b88de6a5d9ebc7c7b14da9914f5276e1998fd0ee8ac1c5e4c6e21fad2c%26size%3D980x%26c%3D872827628%22%7D” expand=1]

A US Marine guides a Philippine marine in a combat life-saver drill in the Philippines, October 2, 2018.

US Marine Corps/Pfc. Christian Ayers

‘A US loss is China’s gain’

The US and the Philippines, which the US ruled as a colony during the first half of the 20th century, have a decades-long diplomatic and military relationship.

That relationship and the benefit it offers the Philippine security establishment, as well as US popularity in the Philippines, are among the reasons why Manila may not follow through on withdrawal.

Philippine officials have also hinted that the notice of withdrawal is a starting point for negotiations over the VFA, which some have said are needed “to address matters of sovereignty.” Philippine politicians have also questioned Duterte’s authority to exit the agreement.

But the US shouldn’t assume that Duterte is bluffing or looking for leverage, said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“He has been anti-American his entire adult life and has been consistently saying he wants to sever the alliance and bring the Philippines into a strategic alignment with China,” Poling said in an email.

“That said, six months is a long time in politics. If Duterte walks this back, it won’t be because a plan to renegotiate with Washington plays out,” Poling added, “it’ll be because of internal pressure, possibly in response to whatever natural disaster, Chinese act of aggression, or terrorist act in Mindanao happens between now and then.”

The VFA allows US troops to operate on Philippine territory, including US Navy crews and Marine Corps units.

Ending the agreement would jeopardize the roughly 300 joint exercises the two countries conduct every year, complicating everything from port calls to the Mutual Defense Treaty, which commits the US to the Philippines’ defense in case of an attack. It would also be harder for the US to provide aid in response to natural disasters.

“It’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said this month.

Many naval activities will be unaffected because they can be carried out without entering Philippine territory, Poling said.

“But large-scale land and air exercises will be impossible, as they were from 1990-1999,” Poling added, referring to a period when Manila’s failure to renew a mutual basing agreement led to the withdrawal of US forces — including the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific.

Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., Philippine armed forces chief of staff, has said about half of all joint military engagements would be affected by the end the VFA, Poling noted.

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said joint exercises with the US would continue during the 180-day period, including the multinational Balikatan exercise that has taken place in the Philippines every spring for 35 years.

Once termination is final, however, the Philippines would “cease to have exercises” with the US, Lorenzana said.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2F5da72ccacc4a0a4b624047e5%3Fwidth%3D700%26format%3Djpeg%26auto%3Dwebp&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fi.insider.com&s=578&h=578b179bebd99473bb6d4272b437c25bd70eb5df4cd00791160a83b5c703edc8&size=980x&c=3144695644 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252F5da72ccacc4a0a4b624047e5%253Fwidth%253D700%2526format%253Djpeg%2526auto%253Dwebp%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fi.insider.com%26s%3D578%26h%3D578b179bebd99473bb6d4272b437c25bd70eb5df4cd00791160a83b5c703edc8%26size%3D980x%26c%3D3144695644%22%7D” expand=1]

US Marines, Philippine marines, and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members after an amphibious exercise in the Philippines, October 12, 2019.

US Marine Corps/Cpl. Harrison Rakhshani

Santos Jr. has downplayed the effects of withdrawal, saying it will make the Philippines “self-reliant” and that Manila would expand bilateral exercises it has with other in the region, including Australia and Japan.

But there are legal and logistical limits on the military activities those countries can undertake with the Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific.

The erosion of the US-Philippine military relationship raises the prospect of Beijing making moves like those it made in the South China Sea in the 1990s, when it occupied Mischief Reef — first with small wooden structures and then, a few months before the VFA went into force in 1999, with fort-like structures made of concrete.

In the years since, China has expanded and reinforced its presence in the South China Sea, building military structures on man-made islands there. Mischief Reef is now Beijing’s biggest outpost in the disputed waters.

“Beijing will work to make sure that a US loss is China’s gain” and build on inroads made with Duterte, Parameswaran said.

“These gains may include those that are not in the security realm, such as tightening economic ties or helping Duterte deliver on some of his domestic political goals,” Parameswaran added. “But they will nonetheless be consequential, because the broader objective is to move Duterte’s Philippines closer to China and away from the United States.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the Air Force’s complete history of the F-16

The F-16 Fighting Falcon, originally developed by General Dynamics (now Lockheed-Martin), is a proven compact, single-engine, multi-role fighter aircraft. Since the F-16A’s first flight in December 1976, this highly maneuverable air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack aircraft has provided mission versatility and high-performance for the U.S. and allied nations at a relatively low-cost.


In an air combat role, the F-16’s maneuverability and combat radius (distance it can fly to enter air combat, stay, fight and return) exceed that of all potential threat fighter aircraft. It can locate targets in all weather conditions and detect low flying aircraft in radar ground clutter.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China
U.S. Air Force F-15s and F-16s fy over the burning oil fields of Kuwait. (Photo from U.S. Air Force)

In an air-to-surface role, the F-16 can fly more than 500 miles (860 kilometers), deliver its weapons with superior accuracy, defend itself against enemy aircraft, and return to its starting point. An all-weather capability allows it to accurately deliver ordnance during non-visual bombing conditions.

The U.S. Air Force officially named the F-16 “Fighting Falcon” on July 21, 1980, during a ceremony at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, the home of the first F-16 unit.

The F-16V, or Viper, is the latest variant of the F-16 fourth-generation fighter aircraft. The upgrade integrates advanced capabilities to better interoperate with fifth-generation fighters, such as the F-35 Lightning II and the F-22 Raptor.

The last F-16 was delivered to the U.S. Air Force on 18 March 2005. The F-35 was developed to replace the F-16.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China
Two F-16C Fighting Falcons release flares while conducting low-level combat training during the Coronet Cactus exercise near Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. The F-16s are assigned to the , assigned to the 182nd Fighter Squadron. This exercise provides realistic combat training for student fighter pilots from air-to-air combat to dropping inert and live ordnance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

Development and design

The first operational F-16A was delivered in January 1979 to the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill AFB.

The F-16 was built under an agreement between the U.S. and four NATO countries: Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway. These countries jointly produced with the U.S. an initial 348 F-16s for their air forces.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China
An air-to-air right side view of a YF-16 aircraft and a YF-17 aircraft, side-by-side, armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

The consortium’s F-16s are assembled from components manufactured in all five countries. Belgium also provides final assembly of the F100 engine used in the European F-16s.

Recently, Portugal joined the consortium. The long-term benefits of this program will be technology transfer among the nations producing the F-16, and a common-use aircraft for NATO nations. Additionally, the program increases the supply and availability of repair parts in Europe and improves the F-16’s combat readiness.

All F-16s delivered since November 1981 have built-in structural and wiring provisions and systems architecture that permit expansion of the multirole flexibility to perform precision strike, night attack and beyond-visual-range interception missions.

This improvement program led to the F-16C and F-16D aircraft, which are the single- and two-seat counterparts to the F-16A/B, and incorporate the latest cockpit control and display technology. All active units and many Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units have converted to the F-16C/D.

QF-16 Full-scale Aerial Target

by AIRMAN Magazine

on Sketchfab

Avionics systems include a highly accurate enhanced global positioning and inertial navigation systems, or EGI, in which computers provide steering information to the pilot. The plane has UHF and VHF radios plus an instrument landing system. It also has a warning system and modular countermeasure pods to that can be used against airborne or surface electronic threats. The fuselage also has space for additional avionics systems.

The cockpit and its bubble canopy give the pilot unobstructed forward and upward vision and greatly improved vision over the side and to the rear.

The F-16’s incredible maneuverability is achieved by its “relaxed stability” design. The airframe is inherently unstable, as the center of mass and lift are much closer together than on other designs, however this allows the aircraft to respond quickly to pilot control input and with tighter maneuvers.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China
The cockpit of F-16D fighter at Midnight Sun Airshow 2007 in Kauhava, Finland. (Courtesy photo by Edvard Majakari)

While a fully analog jet aircraft of this design would require the pilot to make too many control inputs to fly safely, the F-16 pilot maintains excellent flight control through the aircraft’s “fly-by-wire” system.

The YF-16 became the world’s first aircraft to be aerodynamically unstable by design. With a rearward center of gravity, its natural tendency is to nose up rather than down. Level flight is created by the elevator pushing the tail up rather than down, and therefore pushing the entire aircraft up. With the elevator working with the wing rather than against it, wing area, weight, and drag are reduced.

The airplane is constantly on the verge of flipping up or down totally out of control. This tendency is being constantly caught and corrected by the fly-by-wire control system so quickly that neither the pilot nor an outside observer can tell. If the control system were to fail, the aircraft would instantly tumble; however, this has never happened.

Through a side stick controller, the pilot sends electrical signals to actuators of flight control surfaces, such as ailerons and rudder, while powerful onboard computers constantly adjust those inputs to enable stability in level flight and high maneuverability in combat. The side stick controller, in lieu of a center-mounted stick, allows the pilot easy and accurate control during high G-force combat maneuvers.

Also Read: The complete hater’s guide to the F-16 Fighting Falcon

In designing the F-16, advanced aerospace science and proven reliable systems from other aircraft such as the F-15 and F-111 were selected. These were combined to simplify the airplane and reduce its size, purchase price, maintenance costs and weight. The lightweight of the fuselage is achieved without reducing its strength. With a full load of internal fuel, the F-16 can withstand up to nine G’s, nine times the force of gravity, which exceeds the capability of other current fighter aircraft.

Operation and deployment

More than 4,000 F-16’s are in service in 24 countries. There are 110 different versions of the aircraft. The main user of the F-16 is the U.S. The country with the largest F-16 fleet outside the U.S. is Israel. The four European Participating Forces who developed the midlife update for the F-16 are the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark and later also Portugal. Other users of the F-16 are Bahrain, Chile, Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Venezuela, United Arabian Emirates and South Korea.

U.S. Air Force F-16s were deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1991 in support of Operation Desert Storm, where more sorties were flown than with any other aircraft. These fighters were used to attack airfields, military production facilities, Scud missiles sites and a variety of other targets.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China
(Graphic by Maureen Stewart)

During Operation Allied Force, U.S. Air Force F-16 multirole fighters flew a variety of missions to include suppression of enemy air defense, offensive counter air, defensive counter air, close air support and forward air controller missions. Mission results were outstanding as these fighters destroyed radar sites, vehicles, tanks, MiGs, and buildings.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the F-16 has been a major component of the combat forces committed to the war on terrorism flying thousands of sorties in support of operations Noble Eagle (Homeland Defense), Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraqi Freedom

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China
An F-16 Fighting Falcon goes through final inspection at the end of the runway before flying an exercise Red Flag 15-2 training mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

Did you know?

  • Many military pilots refer to the F-16 as the “Viper”, because of its similarities to the head of the snake.
  • The F-16 was the first fighter jet to use a side-mounted control stick. The stick lets pilots rest their arm while flying, giving them better control of the jet in high-G maneuvers.
  • With its high thrust-to-weight ratio, extreme maneuverability, and pilot ergonomics and visibility, the F-16 has been one of the most respected and feared fighter aircraft of the past 40 years.
  • In 1976, Tech. Sgt. Joseph A. Kurdel, photosensor shop supervisor for the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, MacDill AFB, Florida, won the “Name-the-Plane Contest” with the name Fighting Falcon. He won a free dinner at the MacDill AFB NCO Mess.

F-16 Fighting Falcon fact sheet:

Primary function: multirole fighter

Contractor: Lockheed Martin Corp.

Power plant: F-16C/D: one Pratt and Whitney F100-PW-200/220/229 or General Electric F110-GE-100/129

Thrust: F-16C/D, 27,000 pounds

Wingspan: 32 feet, 8 inches (9.8 meters)

Length: 49 feet, 5 inches (14.8 meters)

Height: 16 feet (4.8 meters)

Weight: 19,700 pounds without fuel (8,936 kilograms)

Maximum takeoff weight: 37,500 pounds (16,875 kilograms)

Fuel capacity: 7,000 pounds internal (3,175 kilograms); typical capacity, 12,000 pounds with two external tanks (5443 kilograms)

Payload: two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9, two AIM-120 and two 2400-pound external fuel tanks

Speed: 1,500 mph (Mach 2 at altitude)

Range: more than 2,002 miles ferry range (1,740 nautical miles)

Ceiling: above 50,000 feet (15 kilometers)

Armament: one M-61A1 20mm multibarrel cannon with 500 rounds; external stations can carry up to six air-to-air missiles, conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions and electronic countermeasure pods

Crew: F-16C, one; F-16D, one or two

Unit cost: F-16A/B , $14.6 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars); F-16C/D,$18.8 million (fiscal 98 constant dollars)

Initial operating capability: F-16A, January 1979; F-16C/D Block 25-32, 1981; F-16C/D Block 40-42, 1989; and F-16C/D Block 50-52, 1994

Inventory: total force, F-16C/D, 1017

MIGHTY TRENDING

In new plan, US allies would pay the cost of hosting US troops

The Trump administration plans to demand that US allies pay the full cost for hosting American troops, plus 50% more for the privilege of hosting them, Bloomberg News reported March 8, 2019, citing a dozen administration officials and people it said had been briefed on the situation.

The plan targets allies such as Germany and Japan but is expected to extend to any country that hosts US military personnel. With the so-called “Cost Plus 50” plan, some countries could wind up paying as much as six times what they pay now to host US troops.


In January 2019, South Korea agreed to pay just shy of id=”listicle-2631065522″ billion, significantly more than the previous 0 million, to host US troops in country. Bloomberg reports that President Donald Trump demanded “cost plus 50” in recent payment negotiations with South Korea and that it nearly derailed talks.

Trump has long railed against allies for not paying what he considers their fair share for US defense.

“We defend Japan. We defend Germany. We defend South Korea. We defend countries. They do not pay us what they should be paying us,” he said during the first presidential debate in September 2016. “We are providing a tremendous service, and we’re losing a fortune.”

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

President Donal Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

“Wealthy, wealthy countries that we’re protecting are all under notice,” the president said at the Pentagon in January 2019. “We cannot be fools for others.”

Since he took office, he has repeatedly pressed NATO countries to spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defense as some countries pledged to do by 2024.

The Cost Plus 50 plan, according to Bloomberg, has alarmed both the State Department and the Defense Department, with rising concern that such a move could weaken the alliances at a time when the US is again facing great-power competition from rivals like China and Russia.

Countries such as Japan and Germany are already becoming increasingly resistant to the presence of the US military within their borders, and there are concerns that demands for larger payments could make the host countries even more hostile to the idea of hosting US troops.

“Getting allies to increase their investment in our collective defense and ensure fairer burden-sharing has been a long-standing US goal,” the National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis told Bloomberg. “The administration is committed to getting the best deal for the American people,” he added, while refusing to comment on ongoing deliberations.

It remains to be seen whether the Trump administration will announce the Cost Plus 50 plan as is or lessen the steep new demands.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

What happens to North Koreans caught trying to defect

Scott Kim first escaped North Korea at the age of 17 in 2001. At the time, he and his mother only wanted to get across the border to China so they could eat hot meals. Growing up during North Korea’s deadly famine in the late ’90s, Kim had spent much of his childhood starving.

Today, Kim owns a business trading automobile and railway parts in South Korea. He is currently working on an English-language memoir about his experiences with the help of Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), a volunteer-run organization in Seoul helping defectors develop English skills.

But it was a long and dangerous six years in and out of China and North Korea before he got to Seoul.


Most North Koreans defect by crossing North Korea’s northern border to China via the Tumen or Yalu rivers. Then they must smuggle their way across China’s vast expanse to its southern border with Laos or Vietnam. From there, they cross into Thailand or Cambodia and go to the South Korean embassy to ask for help. It’s a journey that can cost up to $5,000, which must be paid to “brokers” in each country to arrange the escape.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China
Inscription stone marking the border of China and North Korea in Jilin

Paying $5,000 to make it to South Korea or the United States was far out of reach for Kim and his mother. Instead, he and his mother lived as undocumented immigrants and worked as farm laborers. But one year after escaping North Korea, Kim’s neighbor reported his status to the police, who brought him and his mother back to North Korea. Kim was taken to a detention center, where authorities determine where to send defectors next.

“When we reached the detention center in North Korea, we lost all our rights as human beings,” Kim told Business Insider. “We were treated like animals, literally. We had to crawl on the floor to move from place to place.”

Kim was put in a cell with 20 other defectors. There was one toilet in the corner and no space to lie down. Day and night, the defectors sat on the ground.

“It was our punishment because we were sinners. I don’t know why we were sinners,” he said.

When he or other defectors were told to down the corridor to the warden’s office, they were made to crawl on their hands and feet. Officers beat them with gloves and sticks as they went.

An estimated 100,000 North Koreans or more currently live in detention centers, political prisons, or labor camps where they endure hard labor, torture, and starvation.

Kim’s description of his experience comes amid President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who has been accused of killing his own people. But when asked about the North Korean dictator’s human rights violations, Trump appeared to be an apologist for the dictator’s actions.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

The first time Kim was caught, he got lucky.

Despite the fact that one of North Korea’s biggest reeducation camps is in Chongori, near his hometown in Musan, Kim was sent to a center further south. Because no one knew him — and internet and phone service was nonexistent at the time — he was able to lie about his age. He told the guards he was only 15 years old and had been in China looking for his mother.

Rather than send him to one of the country’s brutal labor camps or political camps, he was sent to a medical center for orphaned children. Shortly after arriving, he escaped and went back to China, where he got work as a farm laborer near Helong, a city in northeastern China.

“Everyday, I planted, farmed, logged on the mountain. Corn, beans, potatoes,” he said. “Life was better because I was not starving. I could eat and be full at meals. It was enough food for me … At the time I left North Korea, I was starving.”

Kim was caught a second time when he visited a friend in China looking for his mother. A neighbor again reported him to the police. The second time he was sent back to North Korea, he wasn’t so lucky. He was sent to the concentration camp near his hometown. From there he was sent to a labor camp, where he chopped down trees on a mountain for months.

He escaped one day when he realized that all his fellow laborers were at the top of the mountain chopping while he was at the bottom. He ran away as fast as he could until he found a train that he could take him north to cross the border with China again.

After some time in China, he was caught a third time and sent to a camp for political prisoners — the worst place to be sent, as imprisonment there is interminable. He escaped the camp by bribing the authorities through a broker, who helped him make it across the border with China a final time.

After six years, Kim reunited with his mother and made it to South Korea

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China
Seoul, South Korea

In China, he went back to work to pay off his debt to the broker. One day, he got a call from a North Korean woman from Musan who told him that he had to come visit his mother. She was dying of cancer. For the first time in many years, the two saw each other.

“When I opened the door of my mother’s house, I froze, and couldn’t say anything, because my mother looked incredibly different,” he said. “There was no fat on her, and her whole body looked like a triangle, I just went outside and cried for a long time and came back again, and I embraced my mother and we cried together.”

Several days later, a friend of his mother offered his mother the opportunity to escape to South Korea via Laos and Cambodia. A broker was taking a group through; they had an extra space.

Unable to walk, Kim’s mother told Kim he had to go and become educated. Once he was settled, she said, he could bring her and help others in need. He decided to go.

The night before Kim and the group of defectors were to cross the border into Laos, he received a call telling him that his mother had died. The man on the phone said he had to come back for the funeral.

“After hanging up, I couldn’t say anything, I just cried all night. I really, really wanted to go back, but I thought that if I go back there, I couldn’t do anything for her,” he said. “I decided to go to South Korea, believing that my mother would agree with my decision.”

In 2007, six years after he first escaped, Kim finally made it to South Korea.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what it took to be an executioner in medieval times

Mary A. asks: How did someone get the job of an executioner in medieval times?

Few occupations from history are as maligned as that of Medieval-era executioner. Popularly painted as gleeful dispensers of death and torture, the truth seems to be that many executioners throughout this period usually treated the occupation with a certain reverence and exhibited an extreme dedication to duty. Beyond trying to minimize the suffering of those slated to be executed, this was, among other reasons we’ll get into, because it would often mean the life of the executioner if they ever botched an execution or otherwise weren’t extremely professional in carrying out their job.


So, moving beyond any Hollywood depictions, what was it actually like to be an executioner in the ballpark of Medieval times and how did someone get the job in the first place?

A thing to note before we continue is that the duties expected of and performed by executioners, as well as what life was like for specific executioners, has varied wildly across time and regions. For example, as we’ve talked before, those condemned to death in the Ottoman empire during the 18th century could potentially get off scot-free by challenging the executioner to a footrace. In this case, in addition to doling out lethal justice with their bare hands, executioners also worked as both bodyguards and gardeners.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

That caveat out of the way, how did one become an executioner in the first place? It turns out that many European Medieval executioners were former criminals themselves. You see, for reasons we’ll get into shortly, the role of executioner was so unpopular that finding someone to do the job often required either forcing someone into the profession or offering the gig to someone who was slated to be executed themselves.

Scandinavian countries were known to make extensive use of this novel hiring practice, with a little twist thrown in- they’d maim executioners by cutting off one or both of their ears so that they could be easily identified by the public. It also wasn’t uncommon for people made executioners in this way to be branded somewhere on their head, once again for the purpose of their new profession being, in this case literally, written all over their face. For example, as noted in Hugo Mathiessen’s Boddel og Galgefugl,

“In the year 1470, a poor thief stood at the foot of the gallows in the Swedish town Arboga and was waiting to be hanged. The public attending the spectacle had pity on the sinner and when he, to save his neck, offered to become executioner in the town, it was agreed. He was pardoned and the red-hot iron was used to brand his body with both thief and executioner mark.”

In Germany, on the other hand, as author Joel Harrington notes in a discussion of his book, The Faithful Executioner: Life and Death, Honor and Shame in the Turbulent Sixteenth Century, while “standing executioners on salary were the norm” throughout Germany during the 1600s, for many centuries prior to this it was commonplace to thrust role of executioner upon a victim’s oldest male relative.

This all brings us around to why so many avoided the profession like the plague. To begin with, the general consensus among most was that in taking such a job, one was then sure to be damned in the afterlife. This was despite the fact that in some regions, such as France, executioners were by official church decree absolved of the sins committed while performing their duties.

This still didn’t stop the general public from considering executioners unclean, leading to the more practical problem with the job- nearly being completely ostracized from society. Coming back to those condemned to die instead becoming an executioner, people seem to have been perfectly fine with this as the criminal’s life would still be forfeit, just in a more metaphorical sense.

For example, throughout Medieval Europe executioners were often forced to live in houses outside of the city or town they plied their trade in. In cases where this wasn’t possible, they tended to live near things like public latrines, lepertoriums, or brothels. Executioners were similarly often denied citizenship to the towns and cities they served (and thus had few rights in the town) and were largely barred from holding office or even entering churches, pubs, bathhouses, etc- basically most public establishments were off limits to the executioner.

Thus, despite executioners being deemed critical for a society to remain civilised, they were paradoxically generally forced to live apart from that civilised society.

In fact, some places across Europe went as far to institute laws specifically targeting executioners and what they could and could not do in their day to day lives. For example, the Bavarian town of Memmingen enacted an ordinance in 1528 that forbade members of the general public dining with an executioner.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

Such laws and just general attitudes effectively limited the people an executioner could interact with in their day to day lives to their own family and those from the criminal underworld who simply didn’t care that the executioner was unclean. On top of this, an executioner’s children and spouse were likewise similarly shunned by anyone but the underbelly of society.

This, combined with the fact that the children of executioners could usually only find mates with children of other executioners, understandably led to the role of executioner becoming a macabre family trade that resulted in executioner dynasties that spanned centuries.

Beyond being ostrosised and damning your progeny to a similar life, as well as an afterlife full of hellfire, while there were potentially ways for an executioner to make a killing within the profession, it turns out for most there simply weren’t enough executions themselves to make ends meet. Alternate work was limited to jobs nobody else wanted. This included all manner of things, from disposal of corpses (animal and human), emptying cesspools, collecting taxes from the diseased and prostitutes, etc.

Oddly, at least from a modern perspective, another common profession for a well trained executioner was that of a doctor and surgeon. You see, beyond executing people, another thing executioners were often called to do was torture people for various reasons. These two things, combined with the close-knit community of executioners sharing their knowledge amongst themselves, resulted in lifelong executioners generally having exceptional knowledge of human anatomy, and thus they were commonly called on to treat various medical maladies.

In fact, one rather famous 17th century German executioner, Frantz Schmidt, noted in his journal that over the course of his near five decade career he had over 15,000 people he treated as a doctor, while executing only 394 and disfiguring or otherwise torturing or flogging roughly the same number- meaning most of the time he functioned as a doctor, despite society at the time considering him an executioner.

Schmidt was one of those thrust into the profession as his father was strong-armed into becoming an executioner, condemning Schmidt to the same life once he came of age, though Schmidt’s story has something of a happy ending.

Like many executioners, Schmidt was given a wide berth by the public in his day-to-day life, but the incredible professionalism with which he conducted his grisly duties earned him the begrudging respect of both the general public and those in power. In his later years, Schmidt was able to parlay this into a meeting with Nuremberg authorities and then was able to appeal to Emperor Ferdinand II himself, with the goal of restoring his family honor.

Swayed by not just Schmidt’s words, but also letters from city council members and other notable people extolling Schmidt’s character and dedication to his duty, the then 70 year old executioner was granted both Nuremberg citizenship and had his family name cleared, allowing his progeny to escape the bloody spectre of his work.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

Of course, being ultra-professional with the profession was something of a necessity for Schmidt as, at the time in Germany, there was a law stipulating that any executioner tasked with doling out death by the sword (a form of execution largely reserved for especially important individuals) who took more than three swings to behead a victim would be condemned to die themselves.

Even where such laws didn’t exist, the job of an executioner was extremely dangerous as executioners were also at risk of being killed either by vengeful relatives or the crowd witnessing an execution. In regards to the latter, if an executioner was especially cruel in their meting out of punishment, simply incompetent to the point that they caused undue suffering, or just otherwise acted in an unprofessional manner in performing their duties, it wasn’t unheard of for a crowd to retaliate by killing the executioner on the spot, generally with no consequence to anyone in the mob.

This constant danger of the job was something Schmidt himself talked about several times in his journal, though he only notes one instance where the crowd turned into a mob. This occurred during a flogging he was performing, with the person being beaten ultimately stoned to death by the crowd.

As you might imagine from this, in cases like Schmidt who was trained from childhood to take over the job from his father, a rather lengthy apprenticeship was called for, including a robust education from one’s parent, followed by assisting in executions and torture from a young age. Schmidt also notes that he practiced executions extensively on various animals before being allowed to actually execute a human himself. The end goal of all of this was to make sure he wouldn’t screw up, as raucous mobs didn’t really care if it was someone’s first day on the job or not.

Now, although being an executioner came with some massive downsides, it wasn’t all bad. Enterprising executioners could actually earn a fairly decent living doling out torture and capital punishment on command if they were smart about it. For example, especially skilled executioners who didn’t mind traveling could take advantage of the scarcity of people willing to do their job by plying their trade across whichever country they happened to live in, rather than just staying local.

Executioners also frequently earned extra money in the form of bribes from the condemned or their families, invariably given in the hopes that the executioner would ensure death was as swift and painless as possible, or otherwise allow the condemned extra comforts leading up to the execution. This might include, for example, slipping them extra alcohol or the like to make the execution a little easier to handle.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

On top of this, throughout much of Medieval Europe a perk of being an executioner is that it was customary for whatever property was worn at the time of death to be granted to the executioner.

Additionally, executioners in Germany were frequently tasked with things like arbitrating disputes between prostitutes and driving lepers out of town, among other such jobs, all of which they could charge a premium for because nobody else was willing to do the job.

Executioners were also sometimes not just given the job of disposing of animal carcasses, but also in some regions the explicit right to all stray animal carcasses found in a town. Depending on the animal, this could mean the rights to valuable hides, teeth, etc.

An even greater benefit for certain executioners, this time in France, was the idea of droit de havage. In a nutshell, because executioners were so ostracized and couldn’t in some regions, for example, just go down to the market and shop freely, under droit de havage, executioners were more or less allowed to tax those who sold various food and drink items. This came in the form of being able to demand goods for free.

Finally, there’s the money an executioner would be paid for performing an execution, flogging, or the like. Although it’s hard to say exactly how much an executioner could earn per hanging or beheading in today’s currency due to the inherent difficulty of gauging the value of historic currencies, it’s evident that it was a good amount, at least relative to the generally low social standing of executioners.

For example, according to information gleaned from an old statute dated to a small German town in 1276 an executioner could earn the equivalent of 5 shillings per execution. This is an amount roughly equal to the amount of money a skilled tradesmen could earn in about 25 days at the time. Likewise, an executioner operating in England some two centuries later in the 1400s could reportedly earn a fee of 10 shillings per execution, or roughly 16 times the amount a skilled tradesmen could earn in a single day.

Granted, as you might have deduced from the aforementioned case of Frantz Schmidt only executing about 400 people and flogging a similar number in his near five decades on the job, nobody was getting rich doing this by itself, it at least wasn’t bad pay per hour of work.

Finally, we’d be remiss in any discussion of Medieval executioners to not point out that the idea of executioners wearing masks to hide who they were does not appear to have actually been much of a thing. Beyond, as mentioned, in many regions being literally branded as executioners, even large cities for much of history weren’t actually that large; so people knew who the executioner in a given region was, if not directly, by being marked such. Thus, wearing a mask would have been pointless.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

popular

Why the AUSA is bursting at the seams with ‘light tanks’

If you’re unfortunate enough to be following the Twitter stream coming out of the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting, you could be forgiven for thinking that it’s a summit for armored warfare. There are at least four new vehicles sporting heavy armor and tracks on the floor, all of them falling in the range of what used to be called a “light” or “medium tank.”


A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

A Norwegian CV90 infantry fighting vehicle created by the Swedish BAE Systems company.

So, why does the convention floor at the meeting of top soldiers look like the world’s most awesome car dealership?

Because the Army has been shopping for a new weapon that’s not quite a tank, and manufacturers all think their design could draw the Army’s eyes (and wallet).

The Army program, dubbed “Mobile Protected Firepower,” is looking for an armored vehicle that could fold into infantry brigade combat teams, giving them an armored advantage against other forces. They’re not looking for a heavy vehicle that can take on tanks, but a lighter one that will be top dog in places where tanks can’t go.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

The Griffin III technology demonstrator sits on the floor at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting.

(General Dynamics Land Systems)

So, something a little heavier and more robust that a Stryker or Bradley, but still light enough to cross most bridges and navigate narrow streets. This would make it useful in recent battlefields like the mountains of Afghanistan, where the heavy M1 Abrams couldn’t often go, as well as predicted future battlefields, like megacities and jungles.

It’s the infantryman’s tank.

So, what are the industry offerings available at the AUSA meeting?

A Norwegian CV90 infantry fighting vehicle created by the Swedish BAE Systems company.

One officially debuted on October 8 at the meeting: the Griffin III from General Dynamics Land Systems. This large vehicle packs a 50mm cannon, much larger than most armored vehicles and twice diameter of the 25mm gun of the Bradley. According to a tweet from the manufacturer, the gun can elevate to 85 degrees, nearly vertical. That would allow it to hit windows and ledges in cities even from tight streets.

Meanwhile, the Swedish BAE Systems has highlighted a new addition to their CV90 family of vehicles. These armored beasts tip the scales at 25-30 tonnes, can have manned or unmanned turrets, and are configurable for a variety of missions, including anti-tank or air defense. Best of all for potential infantrymen, the vehicles are supposed to be highly survivable even against larger threats, capable of firing first and of shooting down incoming munitions in combat.

Possibly the most surprising of these not-quite-tanks to debut is SAIC’s, which boasts a chassis from Singapore, a turret from Belgium, and optics from Canada. SAIC is historically a services company, repairing and upgrading components of larger vehicles, but they’re hoping to win a contract to make a fleet of vehicles from the ground up. They were passed over for the Marine Corps’ new amphibious vehicle earlier this year, but the Army would be a bigger contract anyway.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

A Lynx KF41 infantry fighting vehicle fires a 30mm tracer round at a range in Germany.

(Rheinmetall Defence)

The Rheinmetall Armaments Group is a German company offering the Lynx. Lynx variants are in service in a number of countries, and Rheinmetall is hoping that the U.S. will opt for the 44-tonne KF-41, which debuted in June and is visiting AUSA. It has active protection systems and a 35mm cannon as well as two “mission pods” that can be equipped with missiles or other weapons.

The Germans sought out an American partner, Raytheon, to ensure that the overall weapon will work well once it’s Americanized, a process that will definitely involve U.S. computers and software, but might even see the entire platform re-worked for American warfighters and manufactured in the U.S.

It’s looking like the infantry might get a tank — that, or the armored corps might get an armored vehicle specially selected to help them protect the infantry.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Worried about coronavirus? Take this infection-control course online

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to uproot life around the world, it’s easy to feel, well, uneasy. After all, there are a lot of unknowns. But there are plenty of ways to arm yourself with proper information and feel a bit more grounded. Doctors, for instance, are all mandated to take state-mandated infection courses online. Available to the public, and free unless someone wants to take a test to pass, the courses offer a wealth of public information. While they are a bit of a slog to read (and nary an educational video in sight) they’re helpful for anyone who wants to know everything from if their bleach is strong enough to kill bacteria or how to put on gloves without covering them in germs.


So, which courses might be useful? One, administered by Access Continuing Education Inc., intended for doctors in New York State, and aptly (and drily) titled Infection Control: New York State Mandatory Training, contains a wealth of worthwhile information. The course isn’t like a typical virtual classroom — there are no teachers, no video sessions, and no mandated quizzes at the end. There are no hours required to finish the course and each ‘Element,’ a full-text article that reads about a page long, touches on a different process of how to limit transmission.

Is it an exciting read? No, but the pages are full of very, very important information, including hand washing technique, what the proper etiquette and technique is when coughing, and how to clean spills of bodily fluids. Other relevant information for parents within the text include what protective gear people can wear to limit transmission (including gloves, masks, and goggles) and how to put them on while also keeping them clean. The text also defines the different levels of sterilization and what recommended, medical grade sterilizers can be used and how to dilute bleach.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

Now, a large chunk of the course does focus on safe usage of needles — which is not exactly relevant for parents and Coronavirus — but the text is free to read online for anyone who wants to be educated on best practices and how to stay safe. There’s a test at the end of the course, which does not need to be taken, obviously, as parents could just be reading this for their own information, but could be fun if you’re very, very bored.

The average parent won’t be using scalpels or lancets, but they can learn the differences between cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, learn how professionals limit potential exposure from patients when dealing with infectious diseases, and learn strategies for how to limit the spread of pathogens in the home and use those in their own spaces.

Knowledge, at a time like this, can be empowering. It can also be scary if that knowledge is not actionable. That’s why these courses are an excellent resource. They provide parents a sense of control of a situation over which no one has control. They can help parents do all that they can to help keep their families healthy. And that is what it will take to limit the spread of this disease: serious, educated action, social distancing, and disinfecting.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

With ISIS defeated, 400 Marines will come home from Syria

The U.S. military operation in Syria and Iraq says it is sending home more than 400 Marines and their artillery from Syria, after they accomplished their mission against the Islamic State group.


The press unit for Operation Inherent Resolve says the 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment was supporting local partner forces with artillery firepower to defeat Islamic State militants in their former capital city, Raqqa.

The city fell to a mix of Kurdish, Arab, and other local forces on Oct. 20 after a 4-month assault that was backed by U.S. and international coalition airpower and artillery.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China
The United States Marine Corps provide fire support to the SDF during the Battle of Raqqa. (Photo from USMC)

The unit announced the draw down in a statement Nov. 30: “With the city liberated and ISIS on the run, the unit has been ordered home. Its replacements have been called off.”

The U.S. is estimated to have more than 1,500 troops posted to Syria, including special forces, forward air controllers, and at least one Marine artillery unit. They have more than a dozen bases in north Syria.

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Huge, strange-looking’ snakes spotted around Marine base

A year after Marines were told to quit feeding an alligator that lived near their barracks, reports of “huge” snakes at a North Carolina base have prompted officials to reiterate their warnings against pets, scaly or otherwise.

A red-tailed boa, a nonvenomous snake commonly kept as a pet, was spotted in a parking lot at Camp Lejeune in June 2019. The sighting followed another report of a 2-foot-long ball python slithering in the lobby of the barracks in the Wallace Creek.

“Since we have had two fairly recent incidents, we felt it was important to educate base personnel and the public on the issues that can be caused when exotic species are either intentionally or unintentionally released into the natural environment,” Emily Gaydos, a wildlife biologist with Camp Lejeune’s land and wildlife resources section said.


The Marine Corps doesn’t track the number of exotic snakes or other animals found on base, Gaydos said. But the pair of reports prompted officials to remind Marines that snakes are not among the domestic animals they’re allowed to have in base housing.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

A red-tailed boa.

“Domestic animals do not include wild, exotic animals such as venomous, constrictor-type snakes or other reptiles, raccoons, skunks, ferrets, iguanas, or other ‘domesticated’ wild animals,” a release put out last week states. “No privately-owned animals are allowed in work areas, barracks, or bachelor officer or enlisted quarters.”

There were no reports of snake bites or other injuries after the reptiles were found in the barracks and parking lot, Gaydos said. Neither are poisonous. The snakes were both transferred to local rehabilitation facilities that are “permitted and have the expertise to properly care for the specific species,” she added.

Since neither snake is native to the Camp Lejeune region, officials there warned Marines of the unintended consequences of introducing them into the environment.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

A ball python.

“An exotic species may prey on native species, have no predators, outcompete native species for food or other resources, introduce diseases, or interrupt a native species’ life cycle in some way,” the release warns.

In Florida, the state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission there is trying to fight the spread of iguanas, which are thriving in the warmer temperatures there. The Washington Post reported that homeowners there are being told to “kill the green iguanas on their own property whenever possible,” as the lizard population booms without any natural predators.

This isn’t the first time North Carolina Marines have been warned about messing up the local ecosystem.

Last year, a nearly 6-foot-long alligator had to be moved after wildlife experts discovered the reptile living near the barracks at Marine Corps Air Station New River was being fed by humans.

Marines tempted to feed the local creatures were given clear guidance: Don’t even think about it.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the infantry fighting vehicle that hauls British troops into combat

The British have a long history with armored fighting vehicles. In fact, they were the first to introduce the tank to modern warfare during World War I. Today, the British Army’s armored vehicles are among the best in the world. That’s why it’s no surprise that the MCV-80 Warrior infantry fighting vehicle has been around for over three decades and is still going strong.

The vehicle arose from a need to get British troops onto the battlefield while protecting them from enemy fire and keeping up with Challenger main battle tanks. And, of course, this vehicle would need to be able to bring the hurt to enemy forces.


The Warrior satisfies all of those requirements and then some. This vehicle, also known as the FV510, was first introduced in 1988. It weighs in at just under 31 tons, packs a 30mm Rarden auto-cannon, and can carry seven grunts to the battle at speeds of up to 47 miles per hour. A single tank of gas will take it 410 miles.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

The Kuwaiti version of the Warrior, parked center-right, next to the A-4Ku, packs a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun and two BGM-71 TOW missiles.

(USAF)

British Warriors have seen action in Desert Storm, Bosnia, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. That’s an impressive resume, but these aren’t the only Warriors out there. In the wake of Desert Storm, Kuwait made some very big upgrades to their military — in the process, they bought a version of the Warrior that packs a 25mm M242 Bushmaster chain gun and two BGM-71 TOW missiles.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

The Warrior will be getting a bigger gun and other upgrades to keep it viable to 2040.

(UK Ministry of Defense)

The Warrior has proven versatile over the years. Variants of the Warrior include vehicles for command, artillery observation (the Brits gave this version a dummy cannon to make it look like less of an easy target), and recovery and repair.

This infantry fighting vehicle is far from reaching the end of the road — there are plans in place to further upgrade this vehicle with a 40mm gun. We’ll likely see the Warrior in the fight until at least 2040.

Learn more about Britain’s troop-carrying Warrior in the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSOFVYb8mcw

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TRENDING

Search underway after 2 Marine Corps aircraft crash

Update: One Marine has been recovered alive but a second unfortunately perished. Five Marines are still missing and search-and-rescue operations are still underway.

A search is underway for the crews of two U.S. Marine Corps aircraft involved in an aerial crash near Japan at 2 a.m. on December 6 during aerial refueling operations.


Japanese aircraft are assisting the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps in the search which, according to reporting from USNI News and CBS, involved a two-seater F/A-18D Hornet and a KC-130J tanker. The Hornet had two crew onboard and the tanker had five crew members, according to CBS.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China
JMSDF – MCAS Iwakuni Friendship Day 2018

The Marine Corps released a statement after the incident:

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BUTLER, Okinawa, Japan – Search and rescue operations continue for U.S. Marine aircraft that were involved in a mishap off of the coast of Japan around 2:00 a.m. Dec. 6.

The aircraft involved in the mishap had launched from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and were conducting regularly scheduled training when the mishap occurred.

Japanese search and rescue aircraft immediately responded to aid in recovery.

The circumstances of the mishap are currently under investigation. There is no additional information available at this time.

The local time of 2 a.m. in Japan translated to approximately noon EST.

The III Marine Expeditionary Force, based in Okinawa, Japan, is the lead agency for media response, so updates should come from the News section of the Marine website or the III MEF Twitter.

Aerial refueling is, naturally, a hazardous activity but the U.S. military practices this capability regularly as safe aerial refueling is a major combat multiplier, allowing strike pilots to extend their range and patrol times. This is especially true for the Navy and Marine Corps as their planes are often launched from carriers or amphibious assault ships where launch weight is a major factor.

Reducing launch weight can mean a reduction in either fuel or weapons load, but this can be countered by launching with limited fuel and then topping off in flight from a tanker like the KC-130J.

Update: One Marine has been rescued, 2nd Lt. Alyssa J. Morales, a spokeswoman for the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, told Task Purpose.

Update 2: The Japanese Self-Defense Forces has a second Marine who unfortunately perished in the crash. The Marine rescued earlier is now reportedly in stable condition. An earlier version of this update erroneously said that the second Marine had been recovered alive.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the heroics that earned this EOD Petty Officer a Silver Star

Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) 1st Class Jeffrey Thomas was awarded the Silver Star Medal during an awards ceremony, Sept. 20, at EOD Mobile Unit Three on board Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, California.


The Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Bill Moran, recognized Thomas for his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy, in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

“Today we recognize the heroic actions of individuals and the legacy of their teammates. This recognition is well deserved, and it’s an acknowledgment of bravery, training, and dedication to team and country,” said Moran.

Also read: EOD airmen can build and defuse anything from a pipe bomb to a nuclear weapon

On Oct. 20 and 21, 2016, while conducting combined clearance operations, Thomas’ element became engaged in a 10-hour firefight with forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Throughout the battle, he continuously maneuvered through heavy small arms, rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar fire in order to engage the enemy and clear paths for his teammates.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1st Class Jeffrey Thomas stands at attention alongside Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran after being awarded the Silver Star Medal. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher A. Veloicaza.

After the lead vehicle in the convoy struck an improvised explosive device, mortally wounding a teammate, Thomas exited his vehicle and swept the vicinity for additional explosive devices in spite of enemy mortar and small arms fire impacting near him.

This enabled medics to maneuver to the damaged vehicle and provide critical combat care to the casualty. Thomas then guided the remaining vehicles out of the minefield, ensuring all forces safely reached the medial evacuation zone.

More heroics: This Air Force EOD tech spent 20 hours clearing IEDs under fire

“No one that was present on the 20th of October knew better than Jeff the dangers he was facing,” said Cmdr. Geoff Townsend, commanding officer, EODMU 3. “After the EOD supervisor, a friend and mentor, was mortally wounded, Jeff knowingly exposed himself to hazards in order to protect the lives of his teammates and brothers in arms, and secure a MEDEVAC for his wounded teammate. His actions that day saved the lives of his teammates and exceeded all measures of selflessness and devotion to his country.”

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China
Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran speaks during an awards ceremony for Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Three at Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher A. Veloicaza.

The ceremony also included the presentation of the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V” to Lt. Morgan Dahl and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with Combat Distinguishing Device) to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Senior Chief Jon Hamm. Dahl was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroic achievement during combat operations as vehicle commander and primary explosives ordnance disposal technician, when he safely guided the tactical advance of his combined convoy under constant direct and indirect enemy.

Hamm was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his heroic achievement when Islamic State fighters engaged Hamm’s element with effective automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade fire, he maneuvered without hesitation under fire in order to clear a safe route allowing his team to suppress the enemy.

US Navy EOD enables special operations and conventional forces access to denied areas. Navy EOD technicians and Navy divers are instrumental in clearing the way for further combat operations. They render safe various types of ordnance, including conventional, improvised, chemical, biological, and nuclear.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This was the first Navy Medal of Honor

The first Navy Medal of Honor recipient was Captain of the Maintop John Williams. He was an enlisted leader sent to reinforce an attack on a Confederate battery at Mathias Point who continued caring for all of his sailors and the flag even as he was wounded and under intense fire in June, 1861.


A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

Union warships and Confederate batteries exchange fire at Aquia Creek.

(U.S. Navy sketch by Lt. Cash)

The attack on Mathias Point was part of the constant struggle during the war for control of the waterways in the divided nation. The typical script in the course of the war was of Union troops and boats pushing their way along rivers and coasts to starve Confederate cities of supply, but there were early cases of Confederate troops cutting off river access for U.S. forces.

In May, 1861, the Commonwealth of Virginia sent troops to seize control of the Potomac, cutting off access to the sea from Washington D.C. Predictably, the Union ordered the Potomac flotilla, a small command consisting of just a few ships, to re-open the waterways.

One focus was Aquia Creek, a waterway that met up with the terminus of the Richmond and Fredericksburg railroads at Mathias Point. Obviously, a juncture of major land and sea transportation infrastructure is always a key strategic point.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

Union sailors work with a cannon onboard the USS Thomas Freeborn.

(U.S. Navy)

The main ship in the flotilla was a small steamer, USS Thomas Freeborn, that carried only a few, light pieces of artillery, but it attempted multiple attacks on the new Confederate batteries on the Potomac in May and June, 1861. The initial fighting was not only indecisive, it was inconsequential. Neither side was able to inflict a serious injury on a member of the other force, and neither the battery nor the ships suffered real damage.

So, the Navy decided to switch to landing parties that would break up fortifications and prevent the construction of new fortifications and batteries. The first attack was on June 24, but it was during the follow-up attack on June 27 that Captain of the Maintop John Williams distinguished himself and earned the first Navy Medal of Honor.

Captain of the maintop was an enlisted position below that of the chief petty officer.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

Union ships and Confederate batteries clash in 1861 as landing parties row to shore..

(U.S. Navy)

Potomac Flotilla Commander James Ward led the attack against a “large Confederate force,” which had not yet built fortifications on a position near Mathias Point. The Union troops managed to drive the Confederate pickets back toward their main force, but Ward was hit with a fatal gunshot wound soon after.

The men were ordered back to the boats, but then a second landing was made under the direction of a lieutenant, and the landing was quickly pushed back.

During this second landing, Williams “told his men, while lying off in the boat, that every man must die on his thwart sooner than leave a man behind,” according to his Medal of Honor citation. He was wounded in the thigh by a musket ball during the engagement, but retained control of his boat and carried the flag in his hand back to the Freeborn after the staff was destroyed by a musket ball.

A major ally’s decision to scrap an important military deal with the US raises the stakes in competition with China

Union ships fire on CSA batteries in Virginia in 1861.

(U.S. Navy)

The orders for his medal would not be approved until April 3, 1863.

Since then, Navy personnel have received hundreds of Medals of Honor. Most recently, the medal was awarded to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Britt Slabinski for his initiative under serious fire in Operation Anaconda in 2002. Slabinski rescued multiple wounded service members after the insertion helicopter was destroyed by a rocket-propelled grenade and led a grueling defense until extracted.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information