Photos have been circulating on social media that show a Chinese ship with what could be a prototype railgun on its bow.
The photos, taken at the Wuchang Shipyard in China’s Hubei Province, show a Type 072III-class landing ship identified as the Haiyang Shan with a much larger gun on its mount than its usual twin 37mm cannon.
The size and shape of the weapon are roughly the same as the U.S. Navy’s own prototype railgun, and the shipping containers on the deck could be used as control rooms or to house the power supply. Moreover, the location of the photographs may hint as to the gun’s true nature — the Wuchang Shipyard has been the sight of previous tests for the Chinese Navy.
It also comes at a time when the U.S. has been scaling back their efforts on developing railguns and other electromagnetic technologies. The Navy has spent more than $500 million on the project, which will likely never see combat.
Officials at the Department of Defense “don’t want to fund the railgun because they’re simply not buying it,” a senior legislative official with direct knowledge of the U.S.’ railgun project recently told Task Purpose.
“Promising technologies fall into the ‘valley of death’ all the time,” another legislative source told Task Purpose. “Testing is great, but unless you want to put money into transitioning that tech into an actual weapons system then what the hell are you doing? We’re afraid to take a risk and try to get things moving.”
Railguns are cannons that can shoot inert projectiles without gunpowder. They achieve this by using magnetic energy sent through rails on the projectiles as they make their way down the barrel, allowing the projectile to reach hypersonic speeds.
The technology would allow for faster target acquisition, increased range, and could free up space for more projectiles because propelling charges would not be needed — something that may also make the railgun cheaper than its current counterparts.
The photos suggest that the set up is still in a testing phase. A Type 072III-class landing ship would be a good candidate; the ship can hold 500 tons of cargo, and has enough open space to fit large components.
China’s military has a well known history of being interested in electromagnetic technologies. The country has been researching how to build and deploy a Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) for its aircraft carriers.
EMALS would require less maintenance that current systems, which rely on compressed steam to launch aircraft, and could allow Chinese aircraft carriers to carry and launch larger aircraft, increasing the range and strike power of a Chinese carrier force.
Railguns are something that China has been pursuing for decades. While the research has been going on since the 1980’s, China has recently claimed to have made massive progress on the program, with Rear Admiral Ma Weiming boasting of China’s breakthroughs in October 2017.
Though there has been no official confirmation that the pictures show a railgun, China would be the first nation to successfully install a railgun prototype onto a sea-worthy vessel if the reports are true.
The news comes nearly a week after sources close to the Donald Trump campaign indicated the real estate mogul is seriously considering former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his running mate, an outside-the-box choice that would bring a registered Democrat and an Iraq war critic onto the 2016 Republican ticket.
The Clinton campaign’s look at Stavridis has been widely applauded by former colleagues of the once-Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, some of whom consider him a “warrior scholar” with deep knowledge of the global strategic landscape and a thought leader in national security policy.
“Admiral Stavridis is one of the finest military officers of his generation,” former top Pentagon official Michele Flournoy told Reuters in a statement. “He is a person of great ability and integrity, and an exceptional leader. He has the talents, experience, judgment and temperament to serve the American people at the highest levels of our government.”
A year before his retirement from the Navy in 2013, Stavridis was given a speaking slot at the prestigious Ted Talks, where he discussed his vision for a new global strategic policy in which security would be “built with bridges instead of walls.” The video has reportedly been viewed over 700,000 times.
Stavridis now serves as the Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston, one of the most prestigious graduate schools of foreign and national security policy in the United States. Before that, the 1976 Naval Academy graduate served as the 16th Supreme Allied Commander of Europe and the top military official at Southern Command.
According to his official bio, Stavridis has written six books and published hundreds of articles on leadership and strategic policy. And his accomplishments extend well beyond the lecture hall and onto the ship’s bridge, where he was awarded the Battenberg Cup for commanding the top ship in the Atlantic Fleet (USS Barry DDG-52) in the mid-1990s, and he was awarded the Navy League John Paul Jones Award for Inspirational Leadership after his command of Destroyer Squadron 21 in the Arabian Gulf in 1998.
Stavridis also led the Navy’s Deep Blue think tank, a service policy shop that often challenges leadership and technology assumptions and pushes new innovations for Navy strategy and tactics.
Two Russian military planes loaded with troops landed in Venezuela amid an escalating national crisis in the country, according to a Mar. 24, 2019, Reuters report. The planes departed from a Russian military airport and landed in Caracas just months after the two countries conducted military exercises in Venezuela.
The exercises also included troops from Cuba and China and were conducted along the Venezuelan border with Colombia. The planes were filled with at least 100 Russian troops that some say are a message to the Trump Administration, but will likely be helping the Venezuelan military settle the crisis there.
One of the planes carried the troops while another brought tons of military supplies and equipment. Venezuela’s military is the critical component to holding power there. President Nicolas Maduro maintains a tenuous grip on power because of the military, along with armed groups of militiamen whose role is to keep civilians in line. Those militias can be seen primarily along the Venezuelan border and are being used to keep American aid out of the country.
Challenging Maduro’s legitimacy is opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself the legitimate President of Venezuela, with the backing of the United States. At least 50 other countries have recognized Guaido’s claim to power.
While the Chinese interest in Venezuela is primarily seen as a financial one – it has a lot invested in Venezuela’s neglected oil sector – Russian interest is believed to be an attempted check on American interventionism worldwide. Russian President Vladimir Putin may even establish a permanent Russian military presence in the country as a way to show the United States it means business.
Another indication that Russia is serious about bolstering the Maduro regime is that the planes allegedly carried Russian General Vasily Tonkoshkurov, the Chief of Staff of the Russian ground forces, with the rest of the Russian troops.
The United States criticized the move as Russian interference in the region. The planes were sighted at the airport in Caracas by a local journalist, who checked the planes against a flight tracking website. The site confirmed the Ilyushin IL-62 passenger jet and an Antonov AN-124 cargo plane departed Russia for Venezuela, after a brief stop in Syria.
Both Russia and Venezuela have not yet commented on what the troops will be doing there.
The PCU Sioux City will be commissioned on November 17, 2018.
(U.S. Navy Stan Bailey)
The Sioux City is a Freedom variant of the LCS, and it carries a 57mm gun, Rolling Airframe Missiles, .50-cal. machine guns, and the ALEX decoy system by default. The Sioux City also has a Mk. 50 torpedo, a lightweight torpedo that’s great for hitting fast-moving and deep-diving submarines.
The 57mm Bofors gun can fire airburst or conventional rounds at up to 4 rounds per second, shredding small boats or attackers on shore. The RAM allows the ship to engage anti-ship missiles, aircraft, and surface vessels and can even track and engage multiple targets at once. And the ALEX decoy allows the ship to create a massive radar signature to spoof missiles heading at the LCS or a fleet that it’s supporting.
One of its best core assets is the new radar, which can keep track of 1,000 contacts at once.
The Future littoral combat ship USS Sioux City transits the Thames River as it arrives at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, Nov. 9, 2018.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Hoskins)
The surface warfare module adds an MH-60R helicopter equipped with Hellfire missiles, a Firescout drone helicopter that can be equipped with guided rockets, and a pack of 24 Longbow Hellfire missiles that can be launched in rapid succession if necessary. This allows the LCS to slaughter swarm attacks as well as threaten ships and troops operating near the shore. The ship carries rigid-hull inflatable boats in this configuration which it can launch and recover from its stern ramp.
When the ship is equipped for anti-submarine warfare, it brings an MH-60S and the Firescout, but it pads those out with an active sonar, a towed sensor array, and a decoy system that fools incoming torpedoes. The Sioux City even brings a NETFIRES Precision Attack Munition with it in this configuration, allowing it to punch through armored targets up to 25 miles away.
The Future littoral combat ship USS Sioux City pulls alongside the pier at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, Nov. 9, 2018.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Hoskins)
When working against mines, the MH-60S and Firescout stay, but the ship brings airborne mine detection and neutralization systems, additional sensors for scanning the coastal areas, and multiple drones, including the Knifefish underwater drone.
The ships can reach speeds up to 50 knots, but it tops out at 45 knots in sea state 3. Going that fast drains fuel, though; its maximum range at 50 knots is 1,500 nautical miles. If it slows to 20 knots, it can travel 4,300 nautical miles.
The Sioux City will be the fifth of the Freedom-class LCSs, and the Navy already has 11 Independence-class littoral combat ships.
The future USS Sioux City is launched into the Menominee River seconds after ship sponsor Mary Winnefeld, wife of retired Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld, christened the Freedom-variant littoral combat ship.
The LCS add a lot of capability to the fleet in small packages and with small crews — the Sioux City can be fully manned with 75 sailors, and it can do most of its core missions with only 15 to 50 sailors — but they have been critiqued for their high cost and limited survivability systems.
The LCS program has been rife with cost overruns, the ships have needed excessive maintenance, and they’re fragile for combat. They are highly susceptible to damage with little protection for critical ship systems and limited redundancy for propulsion, sensors, etc. This is obviously a problem for ships supposed to operate near enemy shores and mine layers.
The Navy is accelerating deployment of an upgraded Maritime Strike Tomahawk missile designed to better enable the weapon to destroy moving targets at sea, service officials said.
The missile, which has been in development by Raytheon for several years, draws upon new software, computer processing and active-seeker technology, which sends an electromagnetic ping forward from the weapon itself as a method of tracking and attacking moving targets. The electronic signals bounce off a target, and then the return signal is analyzed to determine the shape, size, speed, and contours of the enemy target. This technology allows for additional high-speed guidance and targeting.
The Navy’s acquisition executive recently signed rapid deployment paperwork for the weapon, clearing the way for prompt production and delivery, an industry source said.
“The seeker suite will enable the weapon to be able to engage moving targets in a heavily defended area,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Kara Yingling told Scout Warrior. “The Maritime Strike Tomahawk enables the surface fleet to seek out and destroy moving enemy platforms at sea or on land beyond their ability to strike us while retaining the capability to conduct long-range strikes,” she said.
The active seeker technology is designed to complement the Tomahawk’s synthetic guidance mode, which uses a high-throughput radio signal to update the missile in flight, giving it new target information as a maritime or land target moves, Raytheon’s Tomahawk Program Manager Chris Sprinkle said in an interview with Scout Warrior.
The idea is to engineer several modes wherein the Tomahawk can be retargeted in flight to destroy moving targets in the event of unforeseen contingencies. This might include a scenario where satellite signals or GPS technology is compromised by an enemy attack. In such a case, the missile will still need to have the targeting and navigational technology to reach a moving target, Sprinkle added.
An active seeker will function alongside existing Tomahawk targeting and navigation technologies such as infrared guidance, radio frequency targeting, and GPS systems.
“There is tremendous value to operational commanders to add layered offensive capability to the surface force. Whether acting independently, as part of a surface action group, or integrated into a carrier strike group or expeditionary strike group, our surface combatants will markedly upgrade our Navy’s offensive punching power,” Yingling said.
Rapid deployment of the maritime Tomahawk is part of an ongoing Navy initiative to increase capability and capacity in surface combatants by loading every vertical launch system cell with multimission-capable weapons, Yingling explained.
Tomahawks have been upgraded several times over their years of service. The Block IV Tomahawk, in service since 2004, includes a two-way data link for in-flight retargeting, terrain navigation, digital scene-matching cameras, and a high-grade inertial navigation system, Raytheon officials said.
The current Tomahawk is built with a “loiter” ability allowing it to hover near a target until there is an optimal time to strike. As part of this technology, the missile uses a two-way data link and camera to send back images of a target to a command center before it strikes.The weapon is also capable of performing battle damage assessment missions by relaying images through a data link as well, Raytheon said.
The weapon is also capable of performing battle damage assessment missions by relaying images through a data link as well, Raytheon said.
The Navy is currently wrapping up the procurement cycle for the Block IV Tactical Tomahawk missile. In 2019, the service will conduct a recertification and modernization program for the missiles reaching the end of their initial 15-year service period, which will upgrade or replace those internal components required to return them to the fleet for the second 15 years of their 30-year planned service life, Yingling said.
“Every time we go against anyone that has a significant threat, the first weapon is always Tomahawk,” Sprinkle said. ” It is designed specifically to beat modern and emerging integrated air defenses.”
The Trump administration will keep the US military in Syria and Iraq indefinitely without new congressional authorization, according to the New York Times, citing State Department and Pentagon officials.
This decision will likely extend to the US’ broader fight against terrorism, which is being waged in numerous countries around the world, such as Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
The last comprehensive congressional authorization to use military force (AUMF) came in 2001 when the legislative body authorized former President George Bush to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
Another congressional AUMF was also passed in 2002, but it only allowed the use of military force in Iraq.
After Bush, the Obama administration used the 2001 AUMF to justify airstrikes against ISIS, and other terrorist groups, arguing that ISIS was al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq from 2004 to 2014.
“This is a weak argument,” Cornell University Law School professor Jens David Ohlin said in 2014. “Yes, ISIS once had a relationship with al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden, but that prior relationship no longer governs. What matters is the current relationship.”
Many other legal scholars struck a similar tone.
“Congress is supposed to be declaring war, and the president is supposed to be making war,” Jennifer Daskal, a professor at American University and former Justice Department lawyer, told NPR in 2016.
“There appears to be a clear abdication of responsibility on behalf of Congress,” Daskal said, adding that it sets a dangerous precedent and could allow future presidents to use the military at his or her own discretion.
Some members of Congress, however, such as Republican Senator Jeff Flake and Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, have introduced new AUMFs over the years to no avail.
More recently, Kaine voiced his concern over what this means for the US military’s role in Syria, where it will remain even in territories of the country where ISIS fighters have been cleared.
“I am concerned that the United States will soon find itself lacking domestic or international legal standing for operations in Syria based on official statements that our presence, intended for a narrowly-scoped campaign to fight ISIS, might now be used to pressure the Syrian government, target Iran and its proxies, and engage other entities not covered under the 2001 AUMF,” Kaine wrote to US Secretaries Rex Tillerson and James Mattis in December 2017.
“The United States does not seek to fight the government of Syria or Iran or Iranian-supported groups in Iraq or Syria,” Mary K. Waters, the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, wrote back. “However, the United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend U.S., coalition, or partner forces engaged in operations to defeat ISIS and degrade Al Qaeda.”
Keep it small, keep it simple, make it work. It’s what Marine Corps leaders want industry leaders and research and development agencies to keep in mind when making the latest and greatest tech for grunts on the battlefield, a top general said March 6, 2018.
Gen. Glenn Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, said the service was interested in high-end electronics and robotics, but said he didn’t want to increase the load of ground combat Marines by adding on advanced gear.
“Technology is great, until you have to carry it, and you have to carry the power that drives it,” said Gen. Glenn Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.
Walters said members of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, the service’s experimental infantry battalion, has been the first to test and field small tech and weapons. The service is interested in the new technology, but continues to keep the size and weight of new systems in mind, he said.
“Reorganizing for the future is what’s happening right now and robotics is clearly someplace where we’re investing,” Walter told audiences during the annual “Defense Programs” conference hosted by defense consulting firm McAleese Associates.
In a few months, 3/5 will debut its latest report on findings and lessons learned from using the newer tech, such as handheld drones and quadcopters, he said.
“But we’re not waiting,” Walters said at the event in Washington, D.C.
New, powerful equipment needs to be leveraged even more so than it is now, Walters said, adding, “they need to be more consumable.”
“We have 69 3D printers out and about throughout a mix of battalions,” Walters said. This added gear, he said, has made Marines more agile when they need to replace a broken part or create an entirely new solution for an old design.
“We have to have the speed of trust in our young people to seize and hold the technological high ground,” Walters said.
Amid the push for new tech, officials have been working to lessen the load for Marines who have been inundated with more equipment in recent years even as the service grows more advanced with streamlined resources.
For example, program managers have said they’re looking for a lighter, more practical alternative to the Corps’ iconic ammunition can.
Scott Rideout, program manager for ammunition at Marine Corps Systems Command, told industry leaders in 2016 that the rectangular can may be due for an upgrade.
Rideout, at the time, made the case during the Equipping the Infantry Challenge at Quantico that emerging technologies — such as the logistics drones that Walters mentioned March 6, 2018 — may also put limits on how much a future delivery of ammunition can weigh.
The calculus is simple, Rideout said: “Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.”
For anyone high school age or under, America has been at war since they took their first breath. Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, a conflict that is ongoing, it has been a nation at war. In this time span, American troops (and drones) have fought in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Kenya, Libya, Uganda, and Yemen. To a kid, this is all very far away if they know about it at all. Such conflicts are only fleetingly headline news and barely make their way into pop culture (unless, of course, you count conflicts on galaxies far far away). But kids should know about war. Right? Is it a parent’s duty to tell them about the conflicts their country is engaged in? And if so, how much should we tell them?
It all depends on where a child is in their development. Parents of older children can engage in more complex conversations about the dangers and reasons for war, using their history lessons and entertainment as an entry point. But when it comes to a kid under the age of 7, things require a bit more finesse.
“The brain is rapidly evolving during growth and development, and it leads to very striking differences how kids understand these kinds of concepts” says Dr.Chris Ivany, a child and adolescent psychiatrist working in the Washington, DC area.
The conversation about what war even is needs to cater to a child’s understanding of the physical world while not resorting to metaphors that are either dangerously reductive – “it’s like when mommy and daddy fight” – or frightfully apocalyptic. It’s a conversation about life and death, politics, morality, and human nature. None of those topics taken alone are easy to convey to a child. Add them together and you’ve got a quagmire that needs to be explained in simple, non-terrifying terms.
That’s even tougher when parents seem to freak out about every new news item. The fact is, people have been freaking out about war’s representation in the media for generations. We’re only a few decades removed from Cold War anxieties that caused Boomers to duck and cover at the sound of an air-raid siren, and only about 30 years from the emergence of the current 24-hour news cycle, which came to prominence during the Gulf War. As we enter another period of escalation and deescalation with Iran, it’s on parents to try to calmly explain what’s happening in the world without leaving children shaking in their boots.
“Even more than the words that are spoken back and forth, the tone and way in which discussions like this happen between parents and kids are important,” says Ivany. “Kids pick up on worries and anxieties that parents may have. Parents (should) model the idea that there truly are hard and scary and bad things out in the world, but (also how) we get through them.”
Pop culture can help. Certain touchstones provide context, which is exactly what a child needs to understand the world around them.
“A 4-year-old seeing war presented in a Disney cartoon (like Mulan)… it probably doesn’t overwhelm him or her and then you can have a conversation about it. That same 4-year-old watching the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan is going to be overwhelmed and it’s not going to have the same effect,” says Ivany. “The exposure to the various points in pop culture or discussions in school, as long as it’s developmentally and age-appropriate it’s probably a good thing. Unfortunately, war is a reality and we need to understand it. If it leads to a productive discussion because it’s not an overwhelming topic, it opens the door for future discussions.
“As the brain grows and matures, you can have another discussion that’s more complex than when they were four. And they’ll do that because they feel like engaging you was helpful and not scary: You created a line of communication,” says Ivany.
That line of communication can lead to more productive discussions as a child ages and starts to understand the concept of war on a deeper level, touching on the reasons for war, the concept of morality and “just war”, and the ethical and moral aspects of conflict.
Still, war, even in abstract, is terrifying. That’s why it’s important to stress with children that they’re fortunate in that war isn’t immediately encroaching on them, ready to wipe them out.
“Kids tend to internalize and put themselves in the middle of things that logically doesn’t make sense, and that may result in fears that aren’t logical to adults: ‘If it’s on the TV screen, why wouldn’t it be at the door? If a missile can fly from Iran to Iraq, why can’t that missile fly to the suburb where they may live?'” says Ivany. “Especially in kids up to the age of 7, part of this conversation is a reassurance that they are safe, and this is not something that they need to be worried about on a day-to-day basis.”
As for kids with loved ones deployed, Ivany stresses that while conflict has its casualties, it’s essential that they understand, “the vast majority of soldiers come back just fine. Any time somebody is hurt it’s a tragedy, but most of the time people are safe.”
Simply having a conversation, to begin with, can be tough. But being open and honest is the key to helping assuage fears and anxieties about war. And, as with all things parenting, those conversations can evolve into larger lessons on life outside the battlefield.
“You can use conversations about serious things like this to help encourage growth and development in other areas,” says Ivany. “It can lead to a helpful discussion about compassion for other people, or it could become a launching point about speaking out about what’s wrong and to be able to take personal positions on things (like standing up to bullies). These conversations about war oftentimes provide an opportunity for other discussions that are helpful in kids’ development.”
One of the most celebrated World War II tank gunners received the bronze star during a surprise award ceremony 74-years in the making.
Clarence Smoyer, 96-year-old former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, never bragged about the five tanks he destroyed in the war, including an infamous Nazi tank he leveled during a dramatic duel in war-torn Cologne, Germany.
He didn’t ask for anything, either. To Smoyer, he was just doing his job to protect the men he considers family.
(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, and Joe Caserta, World War II veteran of Omaha Beach, Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, attend a Bronze Star award ceremony, with Smoyer as the guest of honor, Sept. 18, 2019, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was nicknamed the “Hero of Cologne” for his efforts destroying a German tank during the battle.
(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)
Duel at the cathedral
It was March 6, 1945, and WWII was winding down, much of Germany was left in ruins.
Cologne, one of the country’s largest cities, was no exception. Once a bustling metropolis, Cologne had been reduced to rubble, with only a few identifiable buildings remaining — including its cathedral.
As the Americans entered Cologne, Smoyer recalls the now-infamous words of his lieutenant, Bill Stillman, who said, “Gentlemen, I give you Cologne, let’s knock the hell out of it.”
Clarence Smoyer (top middle) was a 21-year-old Pennsylvania native when he, and his fellow tank crew members, were photographed in Cologne, Germany, in 1945. This photo, courtesy of the National Archives, was taken moments after the battle of Cologne, Germany, and Smoyer delivered the fatal shots that destroyed a German tank.
“So… we obliged,” Smoyer joked, thinking back to that day.
American forces, before making their way east toward Berlin, had to conquer Cologne first. Their goal was to secure a bridge over the Rhine River, but a nearby Nazi tank had other plans.
“Attacking such a large city gave the enemy plenty of places to hide,” Smoyer said. “Not just in the horizontal plane, but from the basements to the tops of five-story buildings — Cologne put us to the test.”
“We were chosen as the first tank(s) into the city,” he added. “Everyone else followed us in. So, for us, it was constant firing. You fired at anything that moved. That’s when a gunner’s instinct kicked in.”
One street over from Smoyer, the Panther tank, used by the Nazis, took out an American Sherman tank, killing three soldiers inside, including Karl Kellner. The Wisconsin native, and Silver Star recipient, had received a battlefield commission to lieutenant just two weeks prior.
(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, receives his long-awaited Bronze Star Sept. 18, 2019, during a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was recognized for his heroic efforts during the battle of Cologne, Germany, where as a tank gunner, he delivered the fatal blows to a German Panther tank and was nicknamed “The Hero of Cologne.”
(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)
After being hit, Kellner’s leg was amputated at the knee. He jumped from the tank and landed on his remaining leg. Smoke lifted from his stump like a ghost fading into the air, witnessed remembered.
Nearby, Stars and Stripes reporter, Sgt. Andy Rooney — the future acclaimed television journalist — along with another man sprinted toward Kellner. He was lying near the destroyed American tank. They moved him to onto a jumble of debris, safely out of the way, and attempted to stop the blood as it flowed from Kellner’s severed limb.
Rooney, the future 60 Minutes newsman, held Kellner in his arms as he died. Later, Rooney would say it was the first time he witnessed death. The other two tankers, both killed by the Germans, never escaped the Sherman tank. Meanwhile, Smoyer and his crew were slowly approaching the battle.
The Panther tank idled quietly in the street, as the Americans approached.
Veterans Clarence Smoyer and Joe Caserta stand near a Pershing tank, similar to the ones they were both crewmembers of during World War II, Sept. 18, 2019, near the National World War II Memorial in Washington. Both men were present in their respective tanks in Cologne, Germany, March 6, 1945, when Smoyer’s tank crew “Eagle 7,” took out a German tank.
(Photo by C. Todd Lopez, DOD)
“Experience taught me it’s impossible to knock out a German tank in one shot,” he said. “So, I worked a plan with our driver. He was to edge into the intersection, I’d shoot, and then he’d back up — fast! When we roared into the intersection to shoot, everything went out the window.”
Instead of “seeing the flank of the Panther in the periscope,” like he planned, Smoyer looked at the Panther’s super velocity muzzle pointed at street level, right at him, he said.
Smoyer added “his heart stopped.” The driver, also staring down the barrel of the German’s muzzle, panicked and “floored the gas.”
“We were totally vulnerable,” Smoyer said. “I snapped off a quick shot and hit him first. I kept yelling for (armor-piercing) rounds and kept hitting him until he caught fire. I could hardly breathe as we backed out of there.”
Smoyer’s finger squeezed the trigger of his tank, and he fired 90mm rounds into the side of the Panther tank, garnishing three direct hits.
World War II veterans Clarence Smoyer, Joe Caserta and Buck Marsh stand for the chaplain’s invocation during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
“People always ask why I fired three times,” Smoyer said. “Some say I was butchering that German crew by not giving them a chance to flee the tank. Any crewman still alive in that Panther could have pulled the trigger and with that powerful of a gun still pointing at us, we’d all be dead.”
But, that wasn’t the case. The Americans won, and Smoyer, the thin, 21-year-old curly blonde haired corporal, earned the nickname “the hero of Cologne.”
Footage of the battle, captured by Tech. Sgt. Jim Bates, a combat cameraman attached to the 165th Photo Signal Company, made its way into movie newsreels worldwide, including back home in Pennsylvania, where Smoyer called home.
“That’s Hon!” Smoyer’s sister-in-law yelled during an airing of the newsreel, Hon was Smoyer’s family nickname.
She later convinced the theater owners to replay the reel, so Smoyer’s parents, who had never been to a movie theater, could see their son was still alive.
Author Adam Makos and World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer walk to a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee)
History in the making
For his actions that day, Smoyer was notified he earned the Bronze Star. However, this was short-lived after Smoyer talked to German children, who were begging the soldier for bubble gum. This small act of charity cost him the medal.
“They wanted bubble gum and I was still searching my pockets when a jeep full of (military police) turned the corner,” Smoyer said. “Fraternization was a no-no.”
Smoyer added, he felt bad for the kids, who had been on the frontlines of war longer than him. The MPs took his name, tank, serial number, and indirectly, his Bronze Star.
Army Maj. Peter Semanoff salutes World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer after awarding him the Bronze Star during a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
“I could have avoided all that if I just had a stick of gum!” He joked.
But, it was never about the medals and glory. As decades passed, the war ended, and Smoyer returned to civilian life. His neighbors in Allentown, Pennsylvania, never knew they lived by a war hero.
That all changed after an author, Adam Makos, who wrote a book on Smoyer’s story, happened upon information that changed everything.
“Smoyer’s tank commander and an Army combat cameraman both received Bronze Stars for their actions that day — yet, Smoyer got nothing,” Makos said.
This inspired the author to change that. He used witnesses to Smoyer’s actions, evidence he collected, including Bates combat camera footage, and contacted the Army.
World War II veterans Joe Caserta and Clarence Smoyer embrace during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.
(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)
In the end, a military review board agreed with Makos, and Smoyer was awarded the Bronze Star. Three additional Bronze Stars were also awarded to the rest of the tank crew, making Smoyer’s tank crew “one of the most celebrated in Army history,” according to Makos.
To keep the surprise, Smoyer’s loved ones convinced him he was visiting the WWII Memorial as a tourist. The monument was filled with soldiers, fellow WWII veterans, news crews, and onlookers. Then, overwhelmed with emotion, he received the long overdue medal.
With the Bronze Star pinned to his chest, Smoyer promised to, “Wear the medal to remember the ones who lost their lives” that day, nearly 75 years ago.
In early April 2016, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Charlie Linville departed the U.S. with The Heroes Project founder Tim Medvetz. Their destination was Nepal and their third attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the top of the world.
Linville is an Afghanistan veteran and father of two who had his right leg amputated below the knee as a result of an IED attack. Medvetz is the founder of The Heroes Project and a former member of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club. They arrived at the Everest base camp on April 17 and reached the summit of the mountain on May 19, making Linville the first combat wounded veteran to make it to the top.
Their first two attempts to summit the mountain failed. In 2014, they made it to Lobuche Peak just above Everest Base Camp when a serac, a huge ice tower, separated from the Khumbu Icefall. The resulting avalanche killed 18 sherpas. They opted not to proceed out of respect for the dead.
And in 2015, they were once again on the mountain when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit Nepal, killing thousands and devastated the region. Linville and Medvetz decided to link up with Team Rubicon’s Operation Tenzig, distributing food and first aid to villages in the Nepalese countryside that the Red Cross couldn’t access.
Linville and Medvetz climbed the mountain with videographer Kazuya Hiraide and producer Ed Wardle. The team is currently descending the mountain.
The Army has doubled the amount of parental leave available to fathers and other secondary caregivers of newborn infants with a policy that also provides more leave flexibility for mothers.
Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper signed a directive Jan. 23, 2019, that increases parental leave from 10 to 21 days for soldiers who are designated secondary caregivers of infants. The new policy makes the Army’s parental leave comparable to that of other services and in compliance with the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.
Mothers will now be granted six weeks of convalescent leave directly after giving birth and can be granted another six weeks of leave as primary caregiver to bond with their infant anytime up to a year after birth.
“We want soldiers and their families to take full advantage of this benefit,” said retired Col. Larry Lock, chief of Compensation and Entitlements, Army G-1. He said parental leave is a readiness issue that ensures mothers have the time they need to get back in shape while it also takes care of families.
A soldier shares a high-five with his daughter.
The new policy is retroactive to Dec. 23, 2016 — the date the NDAA legislation was signed for fiscal year 2017.
In other words, soldiers who took only 10 days of paternal leave over the past couple of years can apply to take an additional 11 days of “uncredited” leave as a secondary caregiver.
An alternative would be to reinstate 11 days of annual leave if that time was spent with their infant.
Eligible soldiers need to complete a Department of the Army Form 4187 and submit it to their commanders for consideration regarding the retroactive parental leave.
Fathers can also be designated as primary caregivers and granted six weeks or 42 days of parental leave, according to the new policy. However, only one parent can be designated as primary caregiver, Lock pointed out.
If a mother needs to return to work and cannot take the six weeks of leave to care for an infant, then the father could be designated as primary caregiver, he said. However, if the mother has already taken 12 weeks of maternal leave, that option is not available.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Lewis, a motor sergeant assigned to the 232nd Engineer Company, 94th Engineer Battalion, plays with his daughter.
(Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Heather A. Denby)
Until now, mothers could receive up to 12 weeks of maternity leave, which had to be taken immediately following childbirth. Now, only the six weeks of convalescent leave needs to be taken following discharge from the hospital. The second six weeks of primary caregiver leave can be taken anytime up to a year from giving birth, but must be taken in one block.
In the case of retroactive primary caregiver leave, it can be taken up to 18 months from a birth.
This provides soldiers more flexibility, Lock said.
The new directive applies to soldiers on active duty, including those performing Active Guard and Reserve duty as AGRs or full-time National Guard duty for a period in excess of 12 months.
Summing up the new policy, Lock said the Military Parental Leave Program, or MPLP, now offers three separate types of parental leave: maternity convalescent leave, primary caregiver leave, and secondary caregiver leave.
Mothers who decide to be secondary caregivers are eligible for the convalescent leave and the 21 days for a total of up to nine weeks.
Parents who adopt are also eligible for the primary or secondary caregiver leave.
The new policy is explained in Army Directive 2019-05, which is in effect until an updated Army Regulation 600-8-10 is issued.
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear of Messed-Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For your Secret Santa 007:
~ a bottle of premium, military-grade vodka ~
Would it be a gross generalization to say that military… uhhhh…”spiritual” preferences tend to run toward the darker-colored varieties–the bourbons? The scotches? The whiskeys? And, failing whiskey, beer? Without question, most of the veteran entrepreneurs we’ve met who operate in the alcoholic beverage sector are almost single-mindedly focused on bringing either whiskey or beer to market.
Marine Corps veteran and former Presidential Honor Guard Travis McVey is happy to be the exception to that rule. After the combat fatality of a close friend in Afghanistan, McVey opted for clarity over darkness and murk. He started a vodka company.
“Vodka, you make today and sell tomorrow. You don’t have to age it. It’s gender neutral. It’s seasonless. And it outsells all the other spirits combined.”
If that sounds unsentimentally strategic as a description of one’s central product, McVey would counter by pointing to his label and to the millions of servicemembers’ stories that anchor it. Heroes Vodka is all about sentiment where it counts. The brand is dedicated to the brave men and women who protect the country, at home and abroad.
A portion of every sale goes directly to AMVETS, Operation Stand Down, and other organizations in support of community assistance programs for American veterans, active duty military, and their families. To date, McVey has donated more than $60,000, but most important is the message the brand projects. Etched into the company’s DNA and broadcast to the world with every nightly news profile, tasting award, and Instagram post, a single message is clear:
Drones have become an integral part of modern warfare, and the low supply of drones led the US Armed Forces to approve using off-the-shelf drones made by the Chinese giant DJI. However, on August 2, the order came to pull all DJI drones from service – immediately.
The problem is that the US is not the only one using the drones. ISIS and Hezbollah have made wide use of them as well, and the Pentagon worries that their familiarity with the drone’s control systems will makes them a ripe hacking-target that could provide valuable intelligence, such as troop movements.
“All units must cease all use, uninstall all DJI applications, remove all batteries/storage media from devices, and secure equipment for follow-on direction,” read the order, which was signed by Army Air Directorate’s deputy chief of staff Lt. General Joseph Anderson.
In a statement to SUAS News, DJI said that “we are surprised and disappointed to read reports of the US Army’s unprompted restriction on DJI drones as we were not consulted during their decision.”
“We are happy to work directly with any organization, including the US Army, that has concerns about our management of cyber issues. We’ll be reaching out to the US Army to confirm the memo and to understand what is specifically meant by ‘cyber vulnerabilities’.”
The operational risks associated with drones are not new to Israel. In the 1997 ‘Shayetet Disaster,’ Hezbollah utilized information obtained from an unencrypted IDF drone to lay an ambush that killed 11 commandos from the elite Shayetet-13 Special Operations unit.
The terror militia was able to intercept signals sent out by Israel Air Force unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that conducted reconnaissance over the soldiers’ planned route in the five days that preceded the raid. The UAV’s signal was unencrypted and Israel’s enemies could therefore see the video being sent out in real time.
Hezbollah thus gained advance knowledge of the raid and had time to rig powerful explosives at points on the route where they expected the commando soldiers to pass. A force made up of 16 soldiers walked into the ambush and 11 were killed. Four more were injured and only one, the radio operator, was unhurt and called in the rescue force.