Keeping the troops well fed is a big part of how the military works, and Navy veteran and pop-up chef August Dannehl knows this better than most. In the WATM series “Thank You For Your Service” Augie cooks a four-course meal for his fellow vets, and each course is inspired by a veteran story from his or her time in uniform.
In this episode David Burnell remembers the times when he was a Marine, and he learned to enjoy a self-made concoction of mac and cheese using the jalapeño cheese packet and spaghetti noodle pack from the MRE. Here’s the recipe that chef August cooked together for David:
Habanero Mac and Cheese w/ Truffle, Leek and 3 Cheeses
Inspired by MRE Jalapeño Cheese Packet and Spaghetti Noodles
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 Tsp. Olive Oil
1/2 Stick Unsalted Butter
1/4 Cup AP Flour
2 Cups Whole Milk
1 Cup Half Half
1 Tsp. Sweet Paprika
1 lb. Conchiglie (or shell pasta)
1 Cup Shredded Gruyère Cheese
1 Cup Shredded English White Cheddar(sharpest available)
1 Cup Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
2 Tsp. Truffle Puree Preserves (or oil)
1 Large Leek
1 Large Habanero
2 Tbls. of Green Onion (for garnish)
Prepare the leek by splitting down lengthwise and soaking in cold water for 20 mins. Then shake out all silt from the leaves, discard the top, dark-green part and chop the rest.
Boil pasta in large saucepan of salted water until not quite al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain and transfer to large bowl and dress with olive oil.
Seed and stem Habanero then julienne into tiny slices. Place into bowl of hot water and let steep for 1 hr (this removes some of the heat from the chili).
Make the cheese sauce by bringing a large saucepan to medium-high heat and melt 4 Tbs. butter. Add leaks and habanero and sweat for 5 mins.
Add flour and paprika and cook until no visible flour remains, about 2-3 mins. Whisk in milk and half half and large pinch of salt and bring to boil then simmer whisking out any lumps, about 4 minutes.
Add truffle puree and all cheeses and stir until smooth.
Once smooth, add pasta to sauce and mix until incorporated.
Add salt and pepper to taste and let stand 5 minutes before service.
Add pinch of sliced green onions for garnish and serve.
It’s impossible to describe John Ripley’s most famous action in a single headline. This Marine dangled from the Dong Ha Bridge for some three hours as North Vietnamese soldiers took potshots at him. He took his time attaching 500 pounds of explosives to the bridge, singlehandedly halting an advance of 20,000 Communists during the Easter Offensive.
Then-Captain John Ripley was an American advisor in the northern regions of South Vietnam in 1972. He was at Camp Carroll, a firebase between Khe Sanh and Dong Ha, advising South Vietnamese troops. It was his second tour in Vietnam and things were mostly quiet…until they weren’t.
The NVA had been testing the U.S. defenses at firebases in his area but they would quickly disengage. One day in March 1972, they didn’t stop. Enemy artillery started raining shells on the firebases in the area. The NVA was throwing everything they had at South Vietnam, 14 divisions and 26 independent regiments. The Easter Offensive had just begun.
As Camp Carroll was overrun and its ARVN garrison surrendered, Ripley and another American escaped on a CH-47 Chinook. But the helicopter took on too many fleeing ARVN troops and was forced to crash land on Highway 1, near Dong Ha.
At Dong Ha, close to the DMZ that separated North and South Vietnam, he found a number of South Vietnamese Marines who had no intention of surrendering. He also found some 200 North Vietnamese tanks and self-propelled artillery backed up for six miles – and ready to cross the Cam Lo River.
“We didn’t have the wherewithal to stop that many tanks. We had little hand-held weapons. And we certainly didn’t have anything on the scale that was needed to deal with the threat. Originally 20 tanks had been reported.” Ripley chuckled softly at the memory years later.
With the monsoon season limiting American air support and the North Vietnamese controlling one half of the bridge, Ripley decided he had to blow up the bridge. By himself, if necessary.
Another American, Maj. James Smock drove him to the bridge in a tank and Ripley headed below where he found five ARVN engineers trying to rig the bridge to blow. They had 500 pounds of TNT. The problem was the way the explosives were laid out; the bridge wouldn’t be completely destroyed and the NVA would still be able to cross. They’d have to be rearranged.
By hand. With tanks and guns shooting at those hands.
Meanwhile, 90-pound South Vietnamese Marine-Sergeant Huynh Van Luom dashed onto the bridge in what Ripley called “the bravest single act of heroism I’ve ever heard of, witnessed or experienced.”
Huynh fired two M72 light antitank assault weapon rounds at the lead NVA tank. The first shot missed, but the second hit the tank turret, stopping it cold. The entire column was stopped. It couldn’t move and couldn’t turn around.
The ARVN engineers below the bridge took off as Ripley climbed over the razor wire barrier designed to keep people from doing what he was about to do. He climbed hand over hand as Smock pushed the explosives out to him. Ripley grabbed the box and moved it to a better location.
“I would hand-walk out, then swing up to get my heels into the “I” beam,” Ripley said, recalling that he was still wearing all his web gear and slung rifle. “Then I’d swing down on one T beam and then leap over and grab another T beam.”
For nearly three hours, Ripley dangled under the Dong Ha Bridge, rigging it to blow, and frustrating the enemy trying to kill him. To make matters worse, Ripley had no blasting caps, so he had to use timed fuses — fuses with an unknown time, set with his mouth.
Smock moved to rig the railway bridge to blow at the same time and moved back to friendly lines. The 500-foot bridges blew up just minutes later. The armored column became sitting ducks for the Navy’s ships offshore and South Vietnamese A-1 Skyraiders.
His effort on the bridge that day may have been the decisive factor that kept the North from taking Saigon until three years later.
Colonel John Ripley died in 2008 at the age of 69, but not before making a trip back to Dong Ha with some of his buddies from L/3/3 Marines in 1997.
Feature image: Painting by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.) captures the spirit of Ripley at the bridge at Dong Ha.
The Marine Corps is hoping industry can make lightweight .50 caliber ammunition that provides machine-gunners with a 30 percent weight savings over existing linked belts of .50 caliber ammo.
Marine Corps Systems Command recently released a request for information to see if commercial companies have the capability to produce lightweight .50 caliber ammo that “will provide a weight savings when compared to the current M33 .50 cartridge in the DODIC A555 linked configuration,” according to the document released on FedBizOpps.gov.
“A belt of 100 Lightweight .50 Caliber cartridges with 101 links shall have a threshold overall weight of 24.6 lbs. or 15 percent weight savings compared to the legacy A555 configuration,” the document states. “A belt of 100 lightweight cartridges with 101 links shall have an objective overall weight savings of more than 20.3 lbs. or 30 percent compared to the legacy A555 configuration.”
Lightweight ammunition is not a new concept. Commercial companies continue to work new methods to lighten one of the heaviest necessities of warfare.
The Chesapeake Cartridge Corporation showed off its new line of nickel ammunition at SHOT Show 2018 in Las Vegas.
The shell casings, made of aluminum-plated nickel alloy, are lighter and stronger that traditional brass casings, Ed Collins, Chesapeake’s director for business development, told Military.com in January 2018.
The company is working toward creating ammunition that’s 50 percent lighter than conventional brass ammo. Currently, the company makes military calibers such as 9mm, 5.56mm and 7.62mm NATO, but it plans to make it in additional calibers in the future.
Companies such as PCP Ammunition make polymer-cased ammunition, which offers up to a 30 percent weight savings compared to brass-cased ammo.
Textron Systems makes case-telescoped weapons and ammunition. The ammo concept relies on plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell.
Over the past decade, the U.S. Army has invested heavily in Textron’s concept, formerly known as Light Weight Small Arms Technology.
Textron doesn’t currently make .50-caliber, case-telescoped ammunition, but its 5.56mm CT ammo weighs about 37 percent less than standard belted 5.56mm.
Companies have until June 1, 2018, to respond to the RFI, the document states.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
A Chinese navy warship armed with what looks like a mounted electromagnetic railgun has apparently set sail, possibly for testing in the open ocean.
The Type 072II Yuting-class tank landing ship Haiyang Shan and its weapon were spotted along the Yangtze River at the Wuchang Shipyard in Wuhan in 2018.
The latest photos of the test-bed ship, which appeared on social media a few days ago, show the ship toting the suspected railgun as the vessel roamed the high seas, Task Purpose reported.
Chinese media outlets, such as the state-affiliated Global Times, said in March 2018 — nearly two months after the first pictures of what was dubbed the “Yangtze River Monster” showed up online — that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy is “making notable achievements on advanced weapons, including sea tests of electromagnetic railguns.”
China is expected to field warship-mounted electromagnetic railguns with the ability to fire high-speed projectiles at targets up to 124 miles away by 2025, CNBC reported in June 2018, citing US defense sources with direct knowledge of the latest military intelligence reports on China’s new naval weapon.
China’s railgun was first seen in 2011 and first tested three years later, according to CNBC. The Chinese military is believed to have successfully mounted the weapon on a navy warship for the first time toward the end of 2017, when sea trials were suspected to have first started.
While conventional guns rely on gunpowder to propel projectiles forward, railguns use electromagnetic energy to hurl projectiles at targets downrange at hypervelocity, roughly 1.6 miles per second, making these weapons desirable next-generation combat systems.
Railguns require significant amounts of power, among other challenging demands. Whether or not China has managed to overcome these developmental issues remains to be seen.
THE REAL NIGHTMARE ??China’s Railgun Has Reportedly Gone to Sea
China appears to be making progress as it moves toward mounting railguns on combat-ready warships, such as the new Type 055 stealth destroyers, rather than test bed ships like the Haiyang Shan.The US military, on the other hand, has yet to put the powerful gun on a naval vessel, even though railgun development began over a decade ago.
It is, however, unclear which country is leading the charge on this new technology, as very little is publicly known about China’s railgun or its testing process. In the US, there is speculation that the Zumwalt-class destroyers could eventually feature railguns, which could be an alternative to the Advanced Gun System guns that the Navy might end up scrapping.
The destroyer is “going to be a candidate for any advanced weapon system that we develop,” Vice Admiral William Merz, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, told the Senate Armed Services sea-power subcommittee in November 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Pilots of US military aircraft operating in the Pacific Ocean have reportedly been targeted by lasers more than 20 times in recent months, US officials told The Wall Street Journal.
All of the incidents occurred near the East China Sea, the officials said, where Chinese military and civilians often operate in part to buttress their nation’s extensive claims.
This report comes not long after the Pentagon accused the Chinese military of using lasers against US pilots in Djibouti. The pilots suffered minor eye injuries as a result, but China denied any involvement.
It’s unclear who is behind these activities in the Pacific and the officials said the lasers used were commercial-grade, such as laser pointers often used for briefings and even playing with cats, as opposed to the military-grade lasers used against the US pilots in East Africa.
The lasers were reportedly pointed at the US aircraft from fishing boats, some of which were Chinese-flagged vessels.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephany Richards)
The US officials said they do not currently believe the Chinese military is behind these incidents, but also couldn’t totally rule it out given the recent issues in Djibouti.
They added it’s possible Chinese fisherman or people from “other countries in the region” could simply be doing this to harass American pilots.
It’s also not clear what type of aircraft were targeted.
After the incidents in Djibouti, the Pentagon in May 2018 issued a formal complaint to China and called on its government to investigate.
In response, China’s Defense Ministry said, “We have already refuted the untrue criticisms via official channels. The Chinese side consistently strictly abides by international law and laws of the local country, and is committed to protecting regional security and stability.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying added that the government had performed “serious checks,” adding: “You can remind the relevant U.S. person to keep in mind the truthfulness of what they say, and to not swiftly speculate or make accusations.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Chelsea George of Waynesville, or more recently known as Mrs. Missouri, is a fan of adventures.
Her husband, Capt. Tony George, currently serves at Fort Leonard Wood. He is the same way, she said, and with being part of a military family, she’s had quite the journey.
“My family, we’re currently on a quest to see all 50 states,” she said. “Every time we got orders somewhere, we were excited about the adventure.”
Her family first moved to the area for six months in 2013 during her husband’s Captains Career Course.
She said adjusting to the difference in regional lifestyle was difficult, but social connections made the transition easier.
“I think it’s really important to get plugged in with different groups, whether it’s volunteering or joining a club, because it can be kind of slow at first,” she said.
Out of her desire to integrate into the surrounding community, she was introduced to the Mrs. Missouri pageant, which she would win six years later after several back-to-back moves and returning to Fort Leonard Wood.
“It was a really good way to meet friends when I moved to a different state,” she said. “That was what initially got me into it, but it (also) gave (me) a platform to speak about things that are important to (me).”
Her platform was a choice riddled with emotions from years past, she said. To Chelsea George, there are few more important causes than skin cancer prevention.
“Ten years ago this year, I had my uncle Jamie pass away from melanoma,” she said.
He was 42 years old.
“It was five months from the day he was diagnosed to the day he died,” she added. “He had a big part in raising me.”
Because of her single mother’s working hours and pursuing a doctorate, she said, she spent several nights a week at her uncle’s house.
“He was this big, huge 6-foot 7-inch police officer in an area that was kind of rough, a suburb of Dayton, Ohio, where I lived,” she said. “To me, (he) was my hero, and nothing could touch him. (He) couldn’t be defeated.”
“Then, to see this terrible disease take him so quickly, it’s definitely something that really molded me and changed me going into adulthood,” Chelsea George said.
She was 19 years old.
“The phrase ‘grief is a process’ is definitely not a lie,” she said. “For a long time, I really couldn’t even talk about it without being super emotional.”
George was previously a licensed cosmetologist, and even though she wasn’t vocal about her platform yet, she volunteered to assist cancer patients who wanted to “look good (and) feel better.”
“Women who have cancer (would) come in and get a makeover,” she said. “You (would) teach them how to deal with things like losing eyebrows, how to apply makeup to cover that, how to pick a wig that’s best for (them).”
“It wasn’t melanoma-specific, because I knew I wanted to help (all) people with cancer, but I wasn’t ready to talk about my uncle Jamie and his story,” she added.
George would later graduate with a degree in exercise science and begin working at the Missouri University of Science and Technology Wellness Department. This education, coupled with a natural maturing in the grief process, she said, allowed her to open up about her hero.
“I finally got to the point where I could talk to people about it,” she said. “Working in the field of prevention specifically kind of led me to realize, ‘I can take what I know about prevention work and put it toward this thing that’s super important to me, and hopefully make the smallest bit of difference.'”
Bringing light to melanoma prevention and education carried her to the competition where she would ultimately be crowned Mrs. Missouri.
Even on stage, she said, it’s still a sensitive subject.
“I think there were 5 judges, and I cried with 4 of them,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s still hard to talk about, but it’s important to talk about. Knowing how important the message is, (even) if I stumble over my words, that’s okay, as long as the message gets out.”
The next year will prove to be a significant one for George as she advocates for her cause, celebrates her 10th wedding anniversary and competes for Mrs. United States in Las Vegas in August 2019.
“She worked so hard not only for the pageant but she’s worked on her education, getting her bachelor’s degree and working on her master’s degree, she’s holding down a full-time job and parenting two kids,” Tony George said. “I’m proud of her for all the work she’s done.”
The last Mrs. Missouri contestant to win the title of Mrs. United States was Aquillia Vang in 2012, a Waynesville resident at the time, and military spouse, whose husband, Maj. Neng Vang, was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood.
Soldiers continue to help evacuate residents in flood-ravaged communities along North Carolina’s coastal plains six days after Hurricane Florence made landfall.
Army personnel have rescued a total of 372 residents and evacuated another 47 in both North and South Carolina, while more than 9,000 soldiers are supporting the hurricane relief efforts.
The National Guard conducted about 125 rescue missions alone on Sept. 18, 2018, said Army Lt. Col. Matt DeVivo, a North Carolina National Guard public affairs officer. He said water levels continue to stay at dangerously high levels, and in some areas they have even risen.
DeVivo said he expects the National Guard to continue operations for at least the next 72 hours, and possibly through the weekend. More than 3,100 North Carolina Guardsmen remain engaged in rescue operations, along with about 350 National Guardsmen from neighboring states.
‘We’re not going anywhere’
“We’re not going anywhere anytime soon,” DeVivo said. “Until we know the rivers have crested and the waters start to recede and communities can try to get back to some semblance of normalcy. Thousands have been displaced. And it’s going to be a challenge, but we’re ready to support the state well after the waters have receded.”
National Guard helicopters, working in conjunction with state and federal agencies, have delivered more than 61,000 pounds of relief supplies.
“I’m very impressed with the states — both South Carolina and North Carolina — they have responded and pushed forward and were proactive,” said Army National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy. “They had soldiers. They had high-water vehicles. They had aircraft out and ready to respond. They [were] ready to do whatever they were asked to do by their governors and local communities.”
A South Carolina Army National Guardsman with the 1053rd Transportation Company carries a girl to a military vehicle after her family was trapped inside their vehicle by flood waters in Hamer, S.C., Sept. 18, 2018.
The hurricane’s effects were less severe in South Carolina, but residents in the northern section of the state also experienced heavy flooding. Eight people died due to the high waters or fallen trees.
Guardsmen continue to take part in search and rescue missions in both states and have been responding to high-water emergencies — residents trapped in stalled vehicles or stranded in flooded areas.
“We’ve dealt with this before, but not at these record levels,” said Army Maj. Gen. Bob Livingston, adjutant general of the South Carolina National Guard. “[Florence] slowed down and picked up a tremendous amount of water. The winds dropped dramatically.”
Livingston lauded the efforts of the South Carolina Guard, which began evacuations early on the morning of Sept. 11, 2018.
“Difficult conditions to work under,” Livingston said. “But it’s amazing; they’ve got smiles and continue to drive on.”
National Guardsmen from as far as Illinois, Virginia and Tennessee helped with relief efforts as communities along the coastal plains were swamped with flooding and power outages.
Soldiers in tactical vehicles have been rescuing displaced residents in waist-high water.
U.S. Army North has been helping coordinate relief efforts from forward command posts in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Columbia, South Carolina. The command provided 80 high-wheeled tactical vehicles along with 60 palletized load trucks for transporting supplies.
Multi-component task forces faced the difficult challenge of navigating safe routes through flooded areas at night.
“The waters are moving so rapidly and there’s so much water,” said Col. Ed Hayes, Task Force 51 operations officer.”You could plan a route, and all of a sudden, that road is blocked off.”
The Army Corps of Engineers installed power generators at locations throughout North Carolina. Soldiers from the 249th Engineering Battalion out of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, installed power at several locations, including a storm shelter in Clayton, North Carolina; at Vidant Duplin Hospital in Kenansville; Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro; and the Rayford Waste and Water treatment facility in Whiteville, North Carolina.
DeVivo said the National Guard remains committed to the residents in affected communities.
“[The hurricane] is nothing our state can’t overcome,” he said. “It was challenging, but it’s not over by any means.”
Most service members and their families will see a reduction in their tax bills in 2019, but there are a number of changes in U.S. federal tax laws that they need to be aware of, said Army Lt. Col. Dave Dulaney, the executive director of the Pentagon’s Armed Forces Tax Council.
“The last tax year has been quite exciting with all the changes that were made,” Dulaney said. He noted that the Internal Revenue Service will start accepting tax returns Jan. 28, 2019, for tax year 2018.
A number of pieces of legislation affect military taxpayers, he said: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act and the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act are just a few.
Tax cuts for troops
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will mean that most service members will see a reduction in federal taxes for 2018, he said. There is an overall reduction of 3 percent for most military families under this act, Dulaney said, in addition, the standard deduction doubled, as did the Child Tax Credit. “Because of these three things, most of our military families are going to see a substantial reduction in overall tax liability,” he said.
There are also some special provisions that apply to military personnel. Service members who served in the Sinai Peninsula since June 9, 2015, are now eligible for the combat zone tax exclusion, the colonel said.
“This was retroactively applied and what that means is that since taxpayers have up to three years to file an amended tax return to make a claim for refund, those service members who served in the Sinai back in 2015 would be eligible to file an amended tax return, and they need to do it quickly,” he said.
Service members with questions should go to their local tax assistance centers, Dulaney said, noting that this change should affect about 2,000 service members.
Members of the armed forces are still able to deduct their unreimbursed moving expenses incurred during permanent change of station moves, he said.
There are changes to deductions for travel to drill for reservists. “Reservists cannot take deductions for drill duty expenses that are under 100 miles,” he said. Those driving more than 100 miles can still take deductions.
For military spouses there is a significant change as part of the Veterans Benefits and Transition Act of 2018. “This allows military spouses to elect to use their service member’s state of legal residence for state and local taxes,” he said. “
In the past a spouse may have had to file a different state tax return because they had split legal residences. For example, if a service member with a legal residence of New York moved to Virginia and married a person with a legal residence from that state.
“Now, our military spouses can now elect to use the legal residence of the military member for purposes of filing their state and local taxes,” Dulaney said. “Now military couples will no longer have to file different state tax returns … additionally it will reduce the overall tax burden for military families.”
Finally, the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act has been implemented for veterans who received disability severance pay and had tax withholding applied to the pay. “Now under the tax code, disability severance pay is not taxable under certain situations,” he said. More than 133,000 veterans who have received this pay are eligible for relief under the act.
The vets have until July 2019 to file for a refund.
There are a number of aids for military personnel and their families as they prepare their taxes. Each base has a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program office that will help. To find your local office, visit Military OneSource.
Turkey will carry out new military operations along its borders after its two previous offensives into Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said on May 6, 2018, as he announced his manifesto for June 2018’s snap elections.
Turkey is now carrying out an offensive into northern Syria’s Afrin region against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization linked to Kurdish militants waging an insurgency on Turkish soil.
The Afrin campaign is Turkey’s second cross-border operation into Syria during the seven-year-old civil war. The first, dubbed “Euphrates Shield”, targeted Islamic State and Kurdish fighters further east than Afrin, and was completed in early 2017.
Speaking to thousands of supporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said Turkey’s operations along its southern border would continue “until not a single terrorist is left.”
“We will not give up on constricting terrorist organizations. In the new period, Turkey will add new ones to the Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in order to clear its borders,” Erdogan said.
“We shattered the terror corridor being formed on our southern border with these operations. Our soldiers, who lastly wrote an epic in Afrin, are ready for new missions,” he said.
Erdogan has previously threatened to push its Afrin offensive against the YPG further east to Manbij, where U.S. troops are stationed, risking confrontation between the NATO allies.
Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party and has been infuriated with U.S. support for the militia.
On May 4, 2018, the US also announced details of a proposed $717 billion annual defense policy bill, which included measures to temporarily halt weapons sales to Turkey.
On May 6, 2018, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said “Turkey will absolutely retaliate” if the US halts the weapons sales, adding that the US “needs to let go of this.”
But Cavusoglu also said on May 6, 2018, that Ankara and Washington have reached an understanding on a roadmap in Syria’s Manbij in which the militants will leave the area, and that the details were being discussed with the new U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.
Erdogan has also said Turkey could carry out a joint offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq with Baghdad. Cavusoglu said the operation was still on the agenda.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A top Pentagon official has said the only sure way of eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities would be by putting US boots on the ground — a move that some worry could prompt Pyongyang to use biological, chemical, and even nuclear weapons against Japan and South Korea.
“The only way to ‘locate and destroy — with complete certainty — all components of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs’ is through a ground invasion,” Rear Adm. Michael J. Dumont, vice director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote in a blunt assessment to US lawmakers on the realities of reining in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
Dumont’s letter came in response to questions by US Reps. Ted Lieu of California and Ruben Gallego of Arizona in regards to military planning and casualty estimates in the event of conflict with the nuclear-armed North.
Rear Adm. Michael J. Dumont, pictured above, is convinced that the only way to completely disarm North Korea would be to put Troops in harm’s way. (Photo courtesy of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.)
Dumont said that a detailed discussion of US capabilities “to counter North Korea’s ability to respond with a nuclear weapon and to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons located in deeply buried, underground facilities,” would be best suited for a classified briefing.
The military, Dumont wrote, “would be happy to join the Intelligence Community to address these issues in a classified briefing.”
His letter also noted that the North “may consider the use of biological weapons as an option, contrary to its obligations under the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention,” adding that it continues to bolster its research and development capabilities in this area.
North Korea, the letter went on, “has a long-standing chemical weapons program with the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents and it likely possesses a CW stockpile.”
The country “probably could employ CW agents by modifying a variety of conventional munitions, including artillery and ballistic missiles, though whether it would so employ CW agents remains an open question,” Dumont said, again noting that a detailed discussion would need to be held in a classified setting.
The Pentagon also said it was “challenging” to calculate “best- or worst-case casualty estimates” for any conventional or nuclear attack, citing the nature, intensity, and duration of any strike, as well as how much advance warning is given.
In a joint statement in response to the letter, 16 US lawmakers — all veterans — called the prospect of a ground invasion “deeply disturbing.”
“The Joint Chiefs of Staff has now confirmed that the only way to destroy North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is through a ground invasion,” they wrote. “That is deeply disturbing and could result in hundreds of thousands, or even millions of deaths in just the first few days of fighting.”
These estimates echoed a report by the Congressional Research Service released late last month that said renewed conflict on the Korean Peninsula could kill hundreds of thousands of people in the first few days alone, a figure that excluded the potential use of nuclear weapons.
Even if North Korea “uses only its conventional munitions, estimates range from between 30,000 and 300,000 dead in the first days of fighting,” the report said, citing North Korea’s ability to fire 10,000 rounds per minute at Seoul.
More pressingly for Japan, the report noted is that “Pyongyang could also escalate to attacking Japan with ballistic missiles, including the greater Tokyo area and its roughly 38 million residents.
“The regime might see such an attack as justified by its historic hostility toward Japan based on Japan’s annexation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, or it could launch missiles in an attempt to knock out US military assets stationed on the archipelago,” the report said. “A further planning consideration is that North Korea might also strike US bases in Japan (or South Korea) first, possibly with nuclear weapons, to deter military action by US/ROK forces.”
US President Donald Trump, who kicked off his first trip to Asia as president with a visit to Japan on Nov. 5, has regularly noted that all options, including military action, remain on the table.
The global community has been ramping up pressure on North Korea after it conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test so far on Sept. 3. In September, the UN Security Council strengthened its sanctions, including export bans as well as asset freezes and travel bans on various officials.
For his part, Trump, together with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, has taken an approach of “maximum pressure” in dealing with Pyongyang.
But Trump, known to derisively refer to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “rocket man,” has also variously threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” and to “totally destroy” the country of 25 million people if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, including Japan.
This possibility of military action has stoked alarm among allied nations and within the US Congress, including questions about planning and the aftermath of such a move.
“It is our intent to have a full public accounting of the potential cost of war, so the American people understand the commitment we would be making as a nation if we were to pursue military action,” the 16 lawmakers wrote in their statement.
The Trump administration, the lawmakers said, “has failed to articulate any plans to prevent the military conflict from expanding beyond the Korean Peninsula and to manage what happens after the conflict is over.”
“With that in mind, the thought of sending troops into harm’s way and expending resources on another potentially unwinnable war is chilling,” they said. “The President needs to stop making provocative statements that hinder diplomatic options and put American troops further at risk.”
The United States has roughly 50,000 troops stationed in Japan and 28,500 based in South Korea.
“Invading North Korea could result in a catastrophic loss of lives for US troops and US civilians in South Korea,” the lawmakers said. “It could kill millions of South Koreans and put troops and civilians in Guam and Japan at risk.
“As Veterans, we have defended this nation in war and we remain committed to this country’s security. We also understand that entering into a protracted and massive ground war with North Korea would be disastrous for US troops and our allies,” they said. “The Joint Chiefs of Staff, it appears, agree. Their assessment underscores what we’ve known all along: There are no good military options for North Korea.”
It happens so often, it is almost routine. An aircraft is trying to take out a ground target, and moves in to drop its bombs. The bombs then leave the plane, head down to the ground, and blow the target into smithereens. That’s how it’s supposed to work, and it does.
Unless it doesn’t. The fact is, even routine operations can be risky. Refueling in flight is one of those – and that has seen its share of close calls where things have gone wrong.
The action of dropping bombs on target has its dangers, too. One very iconic series of photos from World War II shows a United States Army Air Force B-17 get hit by a bomb dropped by another B-17, shearing off the stabilizer. None of that B-17’s crew got out.
But those are not the only cases. When you are dropping millions of bombs, sometimes things go wrong. It’s particularly likely when you have a new plane or a new bomb. The Air Force had an entire office at Elgin Air Force Base known as SEEK EAGLE to certify ways to carry and drop various external stores.
The video below shows some of these close calls, where bombs and external fuel tanks don’t do what one would expect in the routine action of dropping the tanks or a bomb. Some of these look spectacular, like the clip featuring a F-111 Aardvark dropping what appears to be a fuel tank. Other scenes show the weapons hitting the planes as they head down, or missing by a matter of inches.
Think of this video as yet another reminder that even in peacetime, the risks are very great for those who defend their country.
In the opening days of 1991’s Operation Desert Storm, ships and aircraft from the United States, Great Britain, and Canada, intercepted the Iraqi Navy as it tried to flee into Iran. The resulting battle in the waters between the Shatt al-Arab waterway and Bubiyan Island was one of the most lopsided naval engagements in history, and the Iraqi Navy essentially ceased to exist.
Desert Storm did not go well for Iraq.
Operation Desert Storm kicked off in earnest on Jan. 17, 1991 as Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces refused to leave Kuwait, the neighbor it invaded just a few months earlier. When the deadline to leave passed, Coalition forces took action. One of those actions involved massive naval forces in the Persian Gulf. In the face of this overwhelming opposition, Iraq’s Navy decided to follow the example of Iraq’s Air Force.
They would immediately gear up, head out, and attempt to escape to Iran and away from certain death. Unlike the Air Force, the Navy never quite made it.
Iraq’s Air Force: Property of Iran.
Allied naval forces were actually the first to respond to Iraqi aggression. A joint American-Kuwaiti task force captured Iraqi oil platforms, took prisoners on outlying Iraqi islands, and intercepted an Iraqi attempt to reinforce its amphibious invasion of the Saudi Arabian city of Khafji – those reinforcements never arrived. Instead, the ships they were on were annihilated by Coalition ships.
Any remaining Iraqi Navy ships tried to escape to Iranian territorial waters in a mad dash to not die a fiery, terrible death. They were counting on the idea that small, fast, and highly maneuverable missile craft could make littoral waters too dangerous for heavy oceangoing ships.
Back when Battleships weren’t museums.
In the end, upwards of 140 Iraqi ships were either destroyed by Coalition forces or fled into the hands of the Iranian Navy. American and British ships, British Lynx helicopters, and Canadian CF-18 Hornets made short work of the aging flotilla, in what became known as the “Bubiyan Turkey Shoot.”
The only shot Iraq’s navy was able to fire in return was a Silkworm missile battery, from a land-based launcher, at the American battleship USS Missouri. The missile was destroyed by a Sea Dart missile from the UK’s HMS Gloucester, rendering it as effective as the rest of Iraq’s Navy.
In his final year in Congress, 87-year-old Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, a legendary Air Force fighter pilot in Korea and Vietnam and a former prisoner of war, is backing a bill to give enlisted Medal of Honor recipients and POWs the same honors as officers in burials at Arlington National Cemetery.
“My fellow POWs who served honorably demonstrated the utmost patriotism, but not all of them were eligible for full military honors at their burial, simply due to their rank. I believe this is wrong,” Johnson said in a statement.
Current rules restrict full honors at in-ground burials at Arlington, including a military escort and a horse-drawn caisson, to officers, warrant officers, senior non-commissioned officers, and service members killed in action.
Eligibility rules for in-ground burial at Arlington, which is running out of space, are the strictest of all the national cemeteries. They may in future be limited to those killed in action and recipients of the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart, according to a current proposal under consideration.
Prisoners of war who were discharged honorably and died after Nov. 30, 1993, are also eligible, according to the Code of Federal Regulations. There were no immediate figures available on how many enlisted MoH recipients or POWs may have been denied full honors at Arlington due to current rules.
Most honorably discharged veterans can request Arlington as their final resting place, but the eligibility rules are lengthy. (The list of rules can be found here.)
Arlington National Cemetary.
Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Michigan, is the main sponsor of the Full Military Honors Act, which was introduced in the House in early September 2018. He said he came to the issue at the behest of the family of a deceased constituent, Army Pfc. Robert Fletcher, a Korean War POW who was buried without full honors at Arlington in June 2018.
“America’s POWs and Medal of Honor recipients have sacrificed immeasurably in service to the United States, regardless of their rank,” Bishop said in a statement. “So I was shocked to find out that earlier this year a former POW from Michigan was denied a full honors burial at Arlington National Cemetery based solely on his enlisted rank. This has been an issue for too long, and my legislation will ensure those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty are provided the full military honors they have earned for their end-of-life ceremonies.”
Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota, the highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress, co-sponsored the bill. “I’m proud to join in introducing the Full Military Honors Act,” said Walz, who retired from the Army National Guard as a command sergeant major after 24 years. “To help ensure we honor the sacrifices these heroes and their families have made for our country, we must pass it without delay.”
The bill has been endorsed by the American Legion, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Military Officers Association of America, the National League of POW/MIA Families, the Special Operations Association, the Special Forces Association, and the American Fallen Warriors Memorial Foundation.
At a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel in March 2018, officials warned that space for in-ground burials at Arlington would eventually run out because surrounding communities restrict its expansion.
“We are filling up every single day” at the 154-year-old historic site across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., where an average of 150 burials take place each week, said Karen Durham-Aguilera, executive director of Army National Military Cemeteries.
Estimates on when Arlington will run out of space vary, but some put the date for closing the cemetery to new burials in the 2030s or 2040s.
Members of the Navy Ceremonial Guard transfer Medal of Honor Recipient Navy Capt. Thomas Hudner to his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetary, April 4, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
As of August 2017, there were 5,071 living former POWs in the U.S., according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are currently 72 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, 45 of whom were in the enlisted ranks when they received the award, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
The full honors issue has resonated over the years with Johnson, a retired Air Force colonel and recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts.
During the Korean War, he flew 62 combat missions in a F-86 Sabre and was credited with shooting down one MiG-15. In Vietnam, he flew the F-4 Phantom II. On his 25th combat mission in Vietnam on April 16, 1966, Johnson’s aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam. He was a POW for nearly seven years, including 42 months in solitary confinement.
A battered tin cup he used to tap on the walls to communicate in code with other prisoners is now in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. In the prison camps, Johnson was part of a group dubbed the “Alcatraz 11” for their resistance to the guards.
“Any veteran who served honorably as a prisoner of war or whose actions earned them the Medal of Honor has already demonstrated extraordinary dedication to defending freedom,” Johnson said in his statement. “In return, they deserve to have the country they fought for bestow full military honors if they are eligible to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.”
Since the death of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in August 2018, Johnson is the only former POW serving in Congress. Early 2018, he announced that he would retire at the end of the term after serving in the House since 1991.
In his statement upon McCain’s death, Johnson, who was often at odds with the late senator on issues, paid tribute to the former Navy pilot who was with him in the prison camps.
“We have lost a genuine American hero today. John and I were fellow POWs at the ‘Hanoi Hilton,’ and I can testify to the fact that he did everything he could to defend freedom and honor our great nation — not just in that hell on Earth, but beyond those bleak years,” Johnson said. “John’s strength of spirit, commitment to democracy, and love of God and country all shape the inspiring legacy of service he leaves behind. God bless you, partner, and I salute you.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.