China didn’t just unveil a new tank during a demonstration at a NORINCO-owned range in Inner Mongolia, its military also unveiled a new infantry fighting vehicle. The demonstration of the VN-17 took place alongside that of the VT-5 light tank.
According to a report by Janes.com, the VN-17 is based on the chassis, powerplant, transmission, armored protection, and tracks of the VT-5. This is not a new set-up, as Russia’s Armata family of armored fighting vehicles includes both a tank and infantry fighting vehicle. The VN-17 has a 30mm cannon in an unmanned turret, along with two anti-tank missiles.
According to deagel.com, the VN-17 has a crew of three and weighs about 30 tons. No information is available about the number of dismounted troops it can carry, but other Chinese infantry fighting vehicles in service, like the ZBD04 and ZBD05 carry seven or 10 personnel. Janes noted that the VN-17’s turret is similar to that of the VN-12 infantry fighting vehicle, which according to some sources is an export version of the ZBD04.
While the ZBD04 is lighter, it is reported to have a 100mm main gun, a main weapon similar to that on the Russian BMP-3. Russia’s T-15 Armata infantry fighting vehicle has the Vietnam-era S-60 57mm gun as its primary armament.
IFV turrets can be customized, and many Russian IFVs and armored personnel carriers can be equipped with new turrets featuring a wide variety of weapons.
The United States operates the Stryker family of wheeled armored fighting vehicles using the same concept as the Armata family of vehicles and China’s VT-5/VN-17 combination.
The Stryker family includes an infantry fighting vehicle, a mobile gun system, a mortar carrier, a reconnaissance vehicle, an ambulance, and a command vehicle.
On June 14, 1775, the United States Army was born when the Continental Congress assumed control of the New England army. Formed in 1775 by an act of the Continental Congress, the Army has grown from a ragtag group of state militias to one of the strongest combat forces in history.
Technically, the U.S. Army is older than the country it serves. Americans celebrate the birth of their nation on July 4, 1776, but the Army is actually the country’s “big brother.” Which makes sense, considering the Continental Army of 1775 — led by future President George Washington — needed to start beating the British in the colonies so Thomas Jefferson could finally get some time to write.
Before the Army was established, colonists were organized into rag-tag militias with no real structure or unified chain-of-command. But in the spring of 1775, most wanted to attack the British near Boston but knew they needed more structure to confront the professional soldiers on the other side. That’s where the official birth of the Army came in, on June 14, 1775, through a resolution from the Continental Congress.
The next day, George Washington was appointed as commander-in-chief of the new Army, and took command of his troops in Boston on July 3, 1775, according to the Army History Division.
After small battles between continental militias and British troops through early 1775, Patriot leaders sought a way to bring the different colonial militias under a combined command. And so, on June 14, 1775, the Continental Congress approved a request to take over the militia then occupying ground near Boston and to form other militias into a national force.
Since that time, U.S. soldiers have defended America and its interests through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, two world wars, Korea and Vietnam, and most recently through the conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.
Future colonel and Medal of Honor recipient Lewis Lee Millett joined the U.S. Army in the summer of 1938 but was really bummed when he learned the U.S. hadn’t gotten around to fighting the Germans yet.
So in 1941 he deserted and ran to Canada — a country with an army almost two years into its Nazi-killing campaign.
Millett went through basic training with the Canadians and learned their methods of bayonet fighting (That will be important later). He was shipped to London and manned an anti-aircraft gun during the London Blitz, but he switched back over to the U.S. Army when America entered the war.
After shipping to Africa, he saved a group of soldiers by jumping into a burning, ammunition-filled halftrack and driving it away from an Allied position. The Army awarded him the Silver Star. Millett followed this up by exposing himself to a German plane strafing Allied troops and shooting it down with machine guns mounted on another halftrack.
Unfortunately for then-Sgt. Millett, this was when the paperwork for his desertion found him. His unit was ordered three times to court-martial him before they actually did it. The commander hit Millett with a $52 fine, then made him a second lieutenant only a few weeks later with a battlefield commission.
He continued to serve after the war ended and was a captain in the Korean War where he earned both a Medal of Honor and a Distinguished Service Cross, each for a daring bayonet charge.
On Feb. 4, 1951, a platoon leader in Millett’s unit, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, was injured during a bayonet charge up a hill. Millett led a rescue effort to get the man while under fire, saving the young lieutenant. Millett was later awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions.
Three days later, Millett was leading a company attack when the 1st Platoon was pinned down by machine gun and anti-tank fire. Millett ordered 3rd Platoon forward and led it and 1st Platoon up the hill with fixed bayonets. His Medal of Honor citation describes what happens next.
In the fierce charge Captain Millett bayoneted two enemy soldiers and boldly continued on, throwing grenades, clubbing and bayoneting the enemy, while urging his men forward by shouting encouragement. Despite vicious opposing fire, the whirlwind hand-to-hand assault carried to the crest of the hill. His dauntless leadership and personal courage so inspired his men that they stormed into the hostile position and used their bayonets with such lethal effect that the enemy fled in wild disorder. During this fierce onslaught Captain Millett was wounded by grenade fragments but refused evacuation until the objective was taken and firmly secured.
Millett stayed in the Army but was sent home to receive his Medal of Honor. He had never attended an Army school as an officer, so the military sent him to the Infantry Officer Advanced Course and then Ranger School at Fort Benning.
He went on to serve in Vietnam where he once volunteered to be a hostage. Fighters who had been drafted by the Viet Cong wanted to leave the war but were afraid to attend negotiations because they could be ambushed and arrested. Millett volunteered himself as collateral and the Vietnamese fighters negotiated their surrender safely.
Col. Millett left the Army in 1973 because he believed the military had simply quit in Vietnam. He continued to work with veterans until his death in 2009 in a veteran’s hospital.
North Korea tested a “new type” of missile on Jul 25 in the first test since President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Korean border last month, South Korea has determined.
North Korea test-fired two short-range missiles, one flying 267 miles and another 428 miles. Seoul assessed the weapons to be “a new type of short-range ballistic missile.”
Many observers quickly determined that the test was an attempt to get the Trump administration’s attention in the wake of several leadership summits that failed to produce an outcome desired by either side or possibly a warning to South Korea as it strengthens its military.
What Would Happen If North Korea Launched A Nuclear Weapon
What Would Happen If North Korea Launched A Nuclear Weapon
Evidence from the past couple of months seems to suggest that North Korea is also strengthening its arsenal to counter regional threats to its offensive capabilities — some of the most important cards it holds in ongoing nuclear negotiations.
North Korea twice in May tested a new short-range ballistic missile, a weapon known as the KN-23 which some have compared to Russia’s SS-26 Iskander. It is unclear if the weapons tested Thursday included a modified variant of this weapon or something else entirely.
The North Koreans are “developing a reliable, operable missile that can defeat missile defenses and conduct a precision strike in South Korea,” Grace Liu, a weapons expert at the Jams Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told Reuters in May.
Jeffrey Lewis, another CNS expert, suggested at that time that the weapon’s maneuverability seemed to indicate it was designed to skirt missile defenses, such as the Patriot and THAAD batteries deployed in South Korea.
Looking at the missiles tested July 25, US officials told Reuters that their preliminary analysis indicated the weapons were similar to the ones tested in May but noted that the latest test appeared to involve missiles with enhanced capabilities.
One official revealed that North Korea appeared to be decreasing the time it takes to launch missiles, thus reducing the time the US and its allies have to detect a launch. North Korea has repeatedly demonstrated an interest in solid-fueled missiles like the KN-23, weapons that can be fueled in advanced and launched quickly for surprise attacks.
The missiles launched July 25 reached an altitude of only about 30 miles, an altitude generally consistent with previous tests of the KN-23.
“If it’s very low and very fast, that shortens warning and decision time,” Adam Mount, director of the Defense Posture Project with the Federation of American Scientists, told CNN. “Those kinds of things could be useful in a retaliatory situation, but it’s even more relevant for a first strike.”
Melissa Hanham, another well-known missile expert, told Reuters in May, that the types of weapons North Korea is testing, weapons deemed by the Trump administration to be less important than the intercontinental ballistic missiles the country was building and testing in 2017, are the types of weapons “that will start the war.”
South Korea described the July 25 missile test “as a military threat and an action undermining efforts to alleviate tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” CNN reported.
Senior U.S. military officials said April 7 that they were looking into whether Russia aided Syrian forces in this week’s deadly chemical attack on civilians in Idlib province.
“We think we have a good picture of who supported them as well,” one senior military official told reporters at the Pentagon, adding that the Pentagon was “carefully assessing any information that would implicate the Russians knew or assisted with this Syrian capability.”
The officials said that at a minimum, the Russians failed to rein in the Syrian regime activity that has killed innocent Syrian civilians. They said Russia also failed to fulfill its 2013 guarantee that Syria’s chemical weapons would be eliminated.
The U.S. military officials noted that they had not seen evidence of Russian involvement in the chemical attack. However, the officials said the Russians had an aviation unit based at the airfield where the attack originated and have “chemical expertise in country.”
U.S. military officials have shown reporters the Syrian aircraft flight path that was taken April 4 from al-Shayrat airfield to the town of Khan Sheikhoun, where more than 80 people were killed in the attack that local doctors said involved sarin nerve gas.
On April 7, U.S. military officials said that after the attack, they watched a small drone, also called a UAV, flying over the hospital in Khan Sheikoun where victims of the chemical attack were being treated.
“About five hours later, the UAV returned, and the hospital was struck by additional munitions,” one official said.
The senior military official said the U.S. did not know why the hospital was struck or who carried out the strike, but had determined that it was potentially done “to hide the evidence of a chemical attack.”
Meanwhile, senior military officials said the United States and Russia would maintain a line of communication aimed at preventing midair collisions of their warplanes in Syrian airspace. That contradicted Moscow’s earlier assertion that it had suspended those communications in protest against the Tomahawk cruise missile strike on al-Shayrat airfield.
The communication line is primarily used to ensure that Russian and U.S. planes conducting combat missions in Syria do not get into unintentional confrontations. The U.S. is using the airspace to conduct strikes against Islamic State terrorists.
The U.S. used the line to inform the Russians of the intent to strike in order to warn any Russians who were at the base, officials said.
The April 6 U.S. strike used 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit targets on the Syrian airfield, including about 20 aircraft, aircraft storage facilities, ammunition supply bunkers, and radars, officials said.
A U.S. military official told Voice of America there was an area on the airfield known to have been used as a chemical weapons depot. The source said that the U.S. military did not know whether chemical weapons were still in that area, but out of an abundance of caution to avoid potential casualties, the missiles did not strike that area.
Other U.S. military officials told Voice of America the strikes did not target the airfield runways so as to not threaten Russians, adding that the Tomahawk type used was for “precision strikes, not cratering.”
One military official deemed the strikes as “appropriate, proportionate, precise, and effective.”
The office of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad described the strikes in a statement on April 7 as “reckless” and “irresponsible.” The statement added that the attacks were “shortsighted” and a continuation of a U.S. policy of “subjugating people.”
Russia, which is providing troops and air support to the Assad government, condemned the U.S. military action, calling it “aggression against a sovereign state,” and said it was suspending a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. for flight safety over Syria.
A Japanese warship, using a US ship-based anti-missile system, successfully intercepted and destroyed an incoming ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean on Sept. 11, 2018, the Missile Defense Agency revealed in an official statement.
An upgraded Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Atago-class guided-missile destroyer detected and tracked a simple, separating ballistic missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. Responding to the threat, the ship’s onboard Aegis Weapon System tracked it and launched a Standard Missile-3 Block IB Threat Upgrade missile that intercepted it mid-flight.
“This success provides confidence in the future capability for Japan to defeat the developing threats in the region,” Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said in a statement apparently referencing Beijing’s arsenal of ballistic missiles and Pyongyang’s program, which the regime suspended after the Trump-Kim talks and which has involved test-firing ballistic missiles over Japan.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force “is developing and testing several new variants of missiles and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses,” the Pentagon explained in its 2018 report on Chinese military power.
U.S. President Donald Trump met with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un on June 12, 2018, in Singapore.
“We are committed to assisting the government of Japan in upgrading its national missile defense capability against emerging threats,” Greaves said, according to Reuters.
The latest intercept will enhance the overall capabilities of Japan’s Atago-class destroyers, which have been limited to air defense while the Kongo-class guided-missile destroyers have employed ballistic missile defense systems, Tom Karako, a missile defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote on Twitter after news of the successful test.
The US and Japan are jointly developing another interceptor missile — the SM-3 Block IIA, but testing has been a little hit or miss lately. The system has been tested three times since the start of 2017, and it has only had one successful intercept.
The Missile Defense Agency called Sept. 10, 2018’s test a “significant milestone in the growing cooperation between Japan and the U.S. in the area of missile defense.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s called the Metal Storm. This Australian-made, U.S.-funded behemoth of a cannon uses the same idea behind a Roman candle to fire round after round out of its 36 barrels. The prototype managed to achieve a maximum rate of fire of 1.62 million rounds per minute as it fired 180 rounds in a 0.01 second burst. At its peak, it can send, almost literally, a wall of 24,000 9mm rounds moving at Mach 5 that can eat through any armor it faces.
In 2007, the U.S. Navy announced that it would buy the Metal Storm grenade variant, but shy of that… nothing. The first prototype was created in June, 1997. It’s been over 20 years now and it’s never been fielded in combat.
These could revolutionize drone warfare.
(Metal Storm Limited)
In short, the reason why this potential game-changer has never seen combat is mostly tied to legal issues surrounding contracts. But there’s also the rarely-brought-up question of, “how would we use it?”
Originally developed by J. Mike O’Dwyer under a company of the same name, Metal Storm Limited, the technology behind how the gun electronically fires caseless rounds has been tossed between several countries’ governments and many more companies, acquiring the intellectual property and trademark claims along the way. The rights ultimately landed in the hands of Australian-owned DefendTex.
Owning this patent not only keeps the original Metal Storm under their corporate thumb, but also any variations, including the 3GL grenade launcher, which fires three rounds from one of its four barrels in seconds, and the MAUL (Multi-shot Accessory Under-barrel Launcher), an under-barrel 5-round shotgun using the same technology.
On the bright side, if you were turned to paste by this thing, you’d be obliterated in milliseconds and wouldn’t even have a chance to blink.
(Screengrab via YouTube)
Outside of legal issues, there are some very obvious downsides: cost and weight. Its applications, as is, are very circumstantial. It’s extremely heavy and requires plenty of prep time to set up effectively just for a single use. Then, there’s the insane amount of money that goes into fully loading it, only to have it waste nearly all of its ammunition.
Aiming this thing is also a challenge. It was originally conceived to remain stationary and to be used in setting up ambushes. Anything in its line of fire would be effectively turned into a paste, but by stepping a few feet to either side, the target remains fully composed solid.
These extreme limitations aren’t factors for the easier-to-sell versions, the MAUL and the 3GL, which can all easily be manned, moved, and loaded. The MAUL can easily be modified to fire less-lethal rounds and has been issued to Papau New Guinean prison guards while the 3GL has been fitted onto the Cerberus UAV with 3 rounds in a single barrel.
There is still hope for the Metal Storm’s technology. The caseless, electronically fired, multi-stacked rounds will change future wars. But, for now, don’t hold your breath on getting your hands on one of the 9mm versions.
The 100th Maintenance Squadron’s aircraft metals technology technicians aim to achieve the highest levels of precision when grinding, welding, fabricating or repairing parts for Team Mildenhall aircraft.
For the airmen of the aircraft metals technology section, it’s their job to ensure that Team Mildenhall has the tools and parts needed to accomplish the mission.
“Metals technology repairs, modifies and manufactures aircraft and ground equipment parts or anything needed to accomplish the mission,” said Senior Airman Samuel Muncrief, 100th MXS aircraft metals technician journeyman.
“We also fabricate tools for other shops; there are parts on our aircraft that they no longer make tools for, so we make the new part and the tool to remove the old one.”
Staff Sgt. Brandon Telles, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician craftsman, uses a tungsten inert gas welder on a fire inlet door at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)
When it comes to welding, grinding or fabricating, the airmen of metals technology have a reputation for excellence, and it’s well deserved.
“Every day we are dealing with tight tolerances, or how much we can be over or under on the dimensions of a part,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Telles, 100th MXS aircraft metals technician craftsman. “Usually, we are dealing with tolerances the size of a strand of hair: I enjoy the challenge, it forces you to pay close attention to your work.”
Staff Sgt. Brandon Telles, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician craftsman, welds a fire inlet door at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)
In a profession with such exacting standards, it’s important to continue to learn and improve.
“We are constantly learning, and we start by studying the basic concepts in training, and when we arrive at our shop, we begin to master our craft,” Telles explained. “We have 16-year veterans who still learn something new every day.”
US Air Force Senior Airman Austin Good, 100th Maintenance Squadron electrical and environmental systems journeyman, weighs a carbon dioxide bottle for aircraft life support systems at RAF Mildenhall, England, May 20, 2019.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Luke Milano)
In addition to their primary job, the aircraft metals shop helps save Team Mildenhall thousands of dollars.
“Today we worked on a part which could be outsourced to the civilian sector for ,000,” Telles said. “We’ve already completed eight of those parts and we will complete two more; it adds up to a considerable sum.”
Senior Airman Samuel Muncrief, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician journeyman, uses a pencil grinder on a part at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)
Innovation and creative solutions are also key for aircraft metals technicians, sometimes leading them to gather insight outside of their shop.
“We speak with engineers and gather information from blue prints to get exact dimensions and determine what a part needs to be made of,” Telles said. “Occasionally, the blueprints don’t match the aircraft perfectly and we have to go out to the aircraft and measure; it’s a lot of precision work.”
Senior Airman Samuel Muncrief, 100th Maintenance Squadron aircraft metals technician journeyman, uses a pneumatic grinder to modify a part at RAF Mildenhall, England, January 7, 2020.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Benjamin Cooper)
The metals technology shop has a considerable impact on the mission, but for them its just business as usual.
“In a way we are the last line of defense. When a crew chief finds something that needs to be fixed it comes to us,” Telles said. “At that point, we have to fix it, weld it or replace it and if we don’t get it done the plane doesn’t fly.”
This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.
Former Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin slammed comedian Sacha Baron Cohen on July 10, 2018, claiming she was “duped” into giving him an interview for his upcoming Showtime program, “Who is America?”
“Ya’ got me, Sacha,” Palin said in a Facebook post on July 10, 2018. “Feel better now?”
Showtime and Cohen, an English comedian known for his over-the-top impersonations and hyperbolic interviews, allegedly lured Palin “to honor American Vets” for what was supposed to have been a “legit Showtime historical documentary,'” according to Palin.
Palin said she and her daughter flew across the country to meet Cohen, who she says disguised himself as a disabled veteran in a wheelchair. The purported interview soon went off the rails as Cohen’s “disrespect and sarcasm” became clear, according to Palin.
“I sat through a long ‘interview’ full of Hollywoodism’s disrespect and sarcasm — but finally had enough and literally, physically removed my mic and walked out, much to Cohen’s chagrin,” Palin claimed. “The disrespect of our US military and middle-class Americans via Cohen’s foreign commentaries under the guise of interview questions was perverse.”
Sacha Baron Cohen
It wasn’t immediately clear how Cohen’s humor was derisive toward middle-class Americans as Palin claimed.
Cohen’s previous roles have landed him in hot water.
In “Borat,” Cohen played the role of Borat Sagdiyev, a fictitious journalist from Kazakhstan unaccustomed to Western society. Following the release of the movie in 2006, some Kazakhs felt exploited and accused the movie of portraying them in a negative light — Cohen’s website was also reportedly blocked in Kazakhstan.
But Palin claims that Cohen’s latest antics went too far. In addition to what Palin described as Cohen’s “truly sick” humor, Palin claimed the network “purposefully dropped my daughter and me off at the wrong Washington, DC airport … knowing we’d miss all flights back home to Alaska.”
“Mock politicians and innocent public personalities all you want, if that lets you sleep at night, but HOW DARE YOU mock those who have fought and served our country,” Palin added.
“Who is America” bills itself as a satirical take on political and cultural icons, such as former vice president Dick Cheney. The show premieres on Showtime, July 15, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Edward “Ed” Guthrie was Nebraska’s last living survivor and eyewitness of the attack on Pearl Harbor. On January 10, 2021, he passed away at 102 years old.
A Navy Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class, he shared in a previous interview that he was reading a comic book aboard the USS Whitney on the fateful morning of December 7, 1941. Records show that at 0749, explosions were heard. Guthrie shared in a previous interview in 2016 with his local Omaha newspaper that he saw one of the Japanese pilots fly by and he sat in stunned disbelief. The pilot waved at him, so he was under the impression that all was well.
It was not.
His ship was miraculously not damaged during the attack since they were in repair and away from battleship row. The attack on Pearl Harbor would claim the lives of 2,403 Americans and injure 1,178. In that same interview he shared that he and his shipmates would spend three days pulling bodies out of the water. “All those white sailor suits and that black oil … they didn’t mix very well,” Guthrie said to the Omaha World-Herald. “It’s something you don’t forget.”
Following the attack, he was reassigned to the USS Banner and headed to the Pacific for the duration of the war. He witnessed the atomic bomb testing over the South Pacific. When the war was over he went home to Omaha where he met his wife Janet. They would go on to have three children and he would spend 34 years working for Omaha Power. He was able to attend the 75th memorial event in Hawaii in 2016. Throughout his life he would often give talks and share his memories of World War II and the attack on Pearl Harbor.
In August of 2020, his wife passed away from cancer after 72 years of marriage. His daughter Peggy Murphy shared in an interview with their local paper that he was lost without her. She also shared that he was healthy up until his last 28 hours of life. “He faced so much without complaint,” Murphy said in the interview with Omaha World-Herald. “Whatever happened he accepted. It was his personality; he was easygoing, gentle and kind.”
His daughter is a member of the Nebraska chapter of Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors. She told the paper that “It’s important to keep the word out so that younger people will understand what happened, why it happened and where our country went from there.” She has committed to keep her father’s memories and experiences alive by telling them.
The loss of Guthrie is another reminder that our nation is slowly losing its World War II heroes and their stories. It is up to all of us as American citizens to continue sharing the lessons and memories for them. It is because of their deep courage, sacrifice and devotion to this country that we live with the freedoms we do. Never forget.
The screams of a fellow soldier trapped inside his armored vehicle pierced through the radio.
Apparently surrounded by the enemy with no more ammunition, the soldier cried for help saying his crew had all been killed.
But with his radio keyed open and no one able to talk back to him, then-Spc. 4 Dave Garrod and others in Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, could only listen to the desperate pleas.
“It was a knee knocker,” Garrod recalled as his 25th Infantry Division unit raced down to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which was under siege by enemy forces. “I had no idea what we were driving into.”
On Jan. 30, 1968, the Vietnam War escalated as enemy forces launched surprise attacks during the country’s New Year holiday.
Then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell, middle, seen on top of a tank during the Vietnam War. Birdwell and other Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment helped defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base in a Tet Offensive attack Jan. 31, 1968.
About 85,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army fighters rushed across the border to attack over 100 cities and towns in southern Vietnam in an attempt to break a stalemate in the war.
Weeks of intense fighting ensued causing heavy losses on both sides.
Before they could repel many of the attacks, thousands of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops would die. Tens of thousands of enemy fighters were also killed.
While not largely deemed a victory for the enemy forces, which suffered a greater toll, the attacks did trigger many in America to rethink U.S. involvement in the protracted war.
Tan Son Nhut
One of the enemy’s main targets was Tan Son Nhut, a key airbase near Saigon where the Military Assistance Command Vietnam and the South Vietnamese air force were headquartered.
After reports of Viet Cong fighters attempting to invade the airbase on Jan. 31, 1968, soldiers with 3rd Squadron’s Charlie Troop responded to the call.
As they drove toward the airbase in the early morning hours, then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell remembers seeing no civilians along the highway — typically a bad omen.
Photos of Dwight Birdwell before he deployed to Vietnam.
Birdwell had seen attacks before during his tour, he said, but they were mainly mines or other small arms weapons fired by a hidden enemy. This day would be different.
When they arrived just outside the airbase, his unit’s column of tanks and armored personnel carriers suddenly stopped.
As if on cue, thousands of tracer rounds began to pepper the vehicles in front of his tank from both sides of the highway. Enemy fighters then jumped onto the vehicles, shooting inside of them.
“All hell broke loose,” Birdwell recalled.
A bullet then struck Birdwell’s tank commander right through the head and he collapsed inside the tank. Birdwell pulled him out, he said, and passed him over the side for medical treatment, which kept him alive.
Birdwell took command of the tank. By that time, all the vehicles ahead of him had been wiped out or were unable to return gunfire. Enemy fighters also set some ablaze after they failed to drive off with them.
“There was a lot of confusion and pandemonium,” he said.
His tank fired its 90 mm cannon toward the enemy while he shot off rounds from the .50-caliber machine gun to hold the enemy back.
Birdwell’s unit was stuck in the middle of an enemy invasion as hundreds of fighters had already crossed the highway and penetrated the airbase to his left. On his right side, even more fighters — some just 50 feet away — prepared to join the assault.
“They were getting close,” he recalled. “I could see their faces quite well.”
Around the same time he ran out of ammunition, a U.S. helicopter was hit and made an emergency landing behind his tank.
Spc. 4 Dave Garrod, left, poses for a photo with Spc. 5 Ed McKenna and Spc. 4 Joe Carlton during their tour in the Vietnam War.
“I thought that this is unreal,” Birdwell said. “Somebody is filming a movie.”
He jumped down from the tank and ran toward the helicopter. Once there, he grabbed one of the helicopter’s M-60 machine guns the door gunners had been using and returned to his position.
After a few minutes of firing rounds at the enemy, something hit the machine gun — likely an enemy bullet. The impact, he said, sprayed shrapnel up into his face and chest.
With the M-60 now destroyed, Birdwell said he took cover in a nearby ditch. He and a few soldiers then grabbed some M-16 rifles and grenades and moved to a closer position behind a large tree.
There, they exchanged gunfire and tossed grenades over the road until the enemy started to fire a machine gun at them.
As the barrage of bullets cut into the tree, it sounded like a chainsaw chewing it down.
“We were in a very desperate situation,” he said.
Around that time, Garrod’s Bravo Troop began to roll into the area.
Soldiers in a different platoon within Charlie Troop also arrived to suppress the attack from inside the base.
“After pulling on line we started laying down fire,” Garrod recalled, “and trying to keep it as low as possible so as not to fire on Charlie Troop on the road.”
Garrod and other soldiers were then pulled away to help wounded crewmen near a textile factory from which the enemy had been commanding its attack.
Once there, he ran over to a tank that had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Inside, he could see the tank’s loader who could not move due to his legs being seriously wounded.
“Being a small, skinny guy, I jumped down in the hatch and without thinking put him on my shoulders and stuck him up through the hatch,” he said.
Later that day, the intensity of the battle hit home for Garrod as he rested in the shade of his vehicle.
Dave Garrod, fifth from right, poses for a photo in front of a Vietnam War memorial near where the Tan Son Nhut Air Base attack occurred on Jan. 31, 1968.
He lifted his canteen up to take a drink when an awful smell overcame him.
“When I looked down on my flak jacket, there was a hunk of flesh from that loader,” he recalled. “It’s something that’s etched into your mind forever.”
Almost 20 soldiers from the squadron were killed and many more wounded as they defended the airbase that day. About two dozen South Vietnamese troops were also killed along with hundreds of enemy fighters.
Garrod earned an Army Commendation Medal with valor device for his actions and a Purple Heart in another mission a few days later. Birdwell earned a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.
The squadron was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
Thirty years later, Garrod and other veterans traveled back to the site on the anniversary of the offensive as a way to find closure for what they saw that day.
They also visited a statue in a nearby park that honors those who were lost or suffered as a result of the battle.
Because of the devastation the war had caused, Garrod expected to see animosity on the faces of the Vietnamese people.
“Instead we found gracious, friendly people,” he said. “Even the veterans from the north whom we met … greeted us with hugs. It was very surprising. They had definitely moved on.”
South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo news reports that North Korean jets are bombing targets that appear to be life-sized renderings of South Korean F-15K Slam Eagle fighter jets.
The targets appear to be cut into grass near Sondok Military Airport in North Korea’s South Hamgyong Province. What appear to be bomb craters surround the mocked-up South Korean air base, which also show cutouts in the shapes of radars and missiles.
The range is designed for North Korea’s AN-2 jets, Chosun Ilbo reports, which carry North Korean special operations troops to infiltrate enemy territory and typically fly at low altitudes.
“The AN-2 is capable of carrying air-to-surface rockets or bombs to carry out bombing missions,” an unnamed South Korean intelligence officer told Chosun Ilbo. “It’d be very threatening if it avoids radar detection and drop bombs on our air bases while sending some dozen parachute commandos down to the ground.”
Satellite imagery showing the Korean People’s Army testing site.
Chosun Ilbo reports that the targets were not there in 2017; they only appeared during denuclearization talks with the US and South Korea last year, suggesting that while North Korea was touting its nuclear strength, it was also sharpening its conventional combat capabilities.
According to North Korea Leadership Watch, there is a similar testing site near Pyongyang. “A few years back a KPA [Special Forces] unit practiced urban warfare on structures meant to like a [South Korean] neighborhood.”
“There is a tit-for-tat dynamic as the ROK [forces] have put up and opened fire on some of their own interesting sites meant to look those in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”