A US service member was killed in action on Oct. 4, 2018, Operation Resolute Support said in a statement.
The incident is under investigation, officials said.
“We mourn and honor the sacrifice of our service member,” Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of US and Resolute Support forces in Afghanistan, said. “We remain committed.”
The person’s name is being withheld pending notification of the person’s family.
Oct. 4, 2018’s death is believed to mark the eighth this year for US troops in Afghanistan.
In early September 2018, a US service member was killed in a noncombat incident, and one day prior another died in an insider attack. Another apparent insider attack in July 2018 claimed the life of a 20-year-old Army soldier.
(DoD photo by Cherie A. Thurlby)
Casualties among Afghan forces are on the rise. About 500 Afghan troops were reportedly killed in September 2018.
The latest American death comes just ahead of the 17th anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan, which began October 7, 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Children born after the deadly attacks are now old enough to enlist to fight in the war, a bloody stalemate with no clear end in sight.
Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of US Central Command, told reporters that the Taliban could seize the initiative in short campaigns but couldn’t sufficiently hold territory to secure victory.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Despite an underperforming economy and budget cutbacks, Russia has still managed to keep their place at the forefront of American discussion when it comes to looming military threats, and that’s certainly no coincidence. Russia is keen to make themselves the weapons supplier of choice for nations America won’t sell to, and snagging media coverage for their advanced weapons programs is an essential part of that endeavor.
Unlike the free (though certainly flawed) media infrastructure we have in the United States, Russia’s media is almost entirely state-owned. That means there are no dissenting views or lively debates regarding Russian domestic or foreign policy to be found in their news media, but more importantly to us on this side of the Red Curtain, they employ the same state-sanctioned approach to foreign reaching outlets as well.
Russia owns lots of news outlets all over the world (some of which recently had to register as foreign agents in the United States), and they use this reach to shape perceptions of their military hardware. Stories produced by these state actors then get picked up in good faith by other outlets that know their audiences will love a video of Russian infantry robots storming muddy battlefields and before you know it, Russia’s in the news again… and this time there’s lasers!
Here are just some of the “advanced” Russian weapons that littered American headlines last year… and the ugly truth behind them.
Russian robot tank in action: Uran-9 performs fire drill
Russia pretended their Uran-9 Unmanned Combat Vehicle fought in Syria
In May of 2018, Russia announced that their new infantry drone, the Uran-9, had officially entered the fight in Syria, where Russian forces have been bolstering Bashar al Assad’s regime against Syrian Democratic Forces for years. The drone’s combat successes stole headlines the world over, and one even participated in Russia’s Victory Day Parade last year.
According to Russian-based media, the semi-autonomous combat vehicle comes equipped with a 30 mm 2A72 autocannon as its primary weapon, along with a 7.62 chambered PKTM machine gun, four anti-tank missiles, and six thermobaric rocket launchers. It all sounded really impressive until June when Russian officials speaking at a security conference called “Actual Problems of Protection and Security” admitted that despite footage of it rolling around Syria… the drone tank plain old doesn’t work. Soon after, mentions of the Uran-9 and Russia’s Terminator-like plans for future wars declined rapidly.
Dude’s practically invisible!
Russia announced developed “Predator-style” active camouflage… then quickly forgot
Russian arms manufacturer Rostec also announced a breakthrough in camouflage technology last year, claiming that their new “electrically-controllable material” could instantly change color based on the environment it was in, providing Russian troops and even vehicles with the most advanced and effective camouflage ever seen on the battlefield. This game-changing technology again drew headlines all over the world as Rostec and Russian officials touted an upcoming demonstration of the tech.
Of course, after thousands of stories were written about this breakthrough technology, Rostech never followed through on any kind of demonstration, releasing stills of what looks like a guy in a motorcycle helmet and hockey pads instead. It didn’t matter — by then, the story had already become much larger than any corrections ever would be.
About as far as it goes.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
Putin’s “invincible” nuclear powered missile is a national embarrassment
In a speech Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered last March, he touted a number of new weapons programs, but none with as much vigor as the new nuclear-powered cruise missile called the 9M730 Burevestnik. That’s right — nuclear powered. The concept makes some sense: nuclear power offers the ability to travel a great distance on a tiny amount of fuel, and as Putin himself claimed, this new missile would have a near limitless range as a result.
But once again, this concept may make for some great headlines, but in practice, the missile has been a dud. Russia conducted four different tests with this missile between November of 2017 and February of 2018 with the nuclear drive failing to engage in every test. According to U.S. estimates, the furthest this missile has made it so far is 22 miles (under conventional rocket propulsion), and the last test resulted in losing the missile somewhere in the Barents Sea. When this program last hit the headlines, it was because the Russian Navy was still out there looking for it. According to Russia, they had another “breakthrough” this past January, however, so be prepared for a new slew of headlines.
Dozens of US states have reported mysterious seeds showing up in packages from China and are warning citizens not to plant them because they could be an invasive species.
The US Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it was investigating the unsolicited packages of seeds reported by at least 27 states and urged anyone who receives them to contact local agricultural officials.
“Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions,” the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in a press release. “Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.”
The agency also said the packages were likely a “brushing scam,” in which consumers are sent packages and a company then forges positive reviews of the products.
But they could also quickly become an ecological disaster.
“An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture,” Sid Miller, Texas’ agriculture commissioner, said in a press release.
And scientists agree — that’s why the USDA has such strict rules on importing plants and other organic materials.
“The reason that people are concerned is — especially if the seed is the seed of a similar crop that is grown for income and food, or food for animals — that there may be plant pathogens or insects that are harbored in the seed,” Carolee Bull, a professor with Penn State’s Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology program, told The New York Times.
Today, with its prevalence in pop culture and its sequel waiting in the wings, it’s difficult to imagine that Top Gun was anything but a surefire hit. But, in the time leading up its 1986 release, Top Gun‘s production had its share of problems and setbacks. In fact, plenty of people doubted that the idea of fighter jets would even work as a movie.
1. People didn’t want to be part of Top Gun
After producer Jerry Bruckheimer saw a picture of an F-14 in a magazine, he came up with the idea of a fighter jet movie that would be like “Star Wars on earth.” After their successes with Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop, Bruckheimer and his production partner, Don Simpson, went around pitching the idea to Hollywood studios. Though they were rejected by studio after studio, Paramount Pictures eventually picked up the movie and cautiously agreed to fund it.
The next challenge was getting actors onboard. At that time, a young Tom Cruise was known only for his role in Risky Business. Bruckheimer and Simpson were adamant that he be cast as their lead actor and sent him script after script to get him to sign on.
Cruise rejected every offer made to him, so Bruckheimer pulled out all the stops.
He called up Navy Admiral Peter Garrow and asked him to send Cruise up in a fighter jet to convince him to join the film. The Admiral arranged for Cruise to ride along in a Blue Angels A-4 Skyhawk and be put through his paces. After a wild ride (during which he reportedly threw up on everything), Cruise stumbled from the jet to the nearest payphone and called Bruckheimer to take the part. The only non-negotiable part in his contract was that he had to fly in an F-14 Tomcat.
Pete and Charlotte sing with the Bradshaws, Nick, Carole, and their son. Weird hearing their real names, isn’t it? (Credit Paramount Pictures)
With no real script and unable to send every potential actor up in a fighter jet, it was difficult for the producers to cast the rest of the movie. The part of Charlie was originally pitched to Ally Sheedy of Brat Pack fame, but she turned it down reportedly saying, “No one would want to see Tom Cruise flying around in an airplane.” Fresh off of filming Witness, Kelly McGillis only signed on because she didn’t expect the film to be the blockbuster hit that it would become. Val Kilmer was actually forced into the role of Iceman due to a contractual obligation with the studio. The rest of the cast like Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan and Anthony Edwards were still years away from becoming household names for their roles in The Shawshank Redemption, When Harry Met Sally and ER, respectively.
2. Danger Zone was attempted by Toto and REO Speedwagon
Bruckheimer and Simpson implemented the same formula that worked for them with Flashdance and Beverly Hills Cop and put together a top-notch soundtrack for Top Gun. Soundtrack producer Giorgio Moroder originally had Toto record the song, “Danger Zone,” but Bruckheimer disliked it and the recording was scrapped. The song was then offered to REO Speedwagon who wanted to be part of the film, but insisted that the song be their own. They recorded an original song and submitted it to the producers, but it was never used.
Kenny Loggins and his collaborators were hot off of their successes with Caddyshack and Footloose and decided to write the song “Playing with the Boys” for the volleyball scene. Assuming that other bands would be vying for the opening song, they figured that this scene would have less competition. While recording “Playing with the Boys,” Loggins was asked by Moroder to give “Danger Zone” a shot. “I walked in and I sang ‘Danger Zone’ and messed with it a little bit, you know, and had a good time with it,” Loggins recalled. The rest is history. “I wasn’t supposed to be the guy to sing it. I just lucked into it.”
Moroder had more luck pitching “Take My Breath Away” to Berlin lead-singer Terry Nunn. After hearing the song and watching the love-making scene that it would be set to, Nunn was on board. Less enthused was her bandmate, John Crawford, who didn’t want to perform a song written by someone else. Their band manager, Perry Watts-Russell, also had his doubts and said that he would shave his head if the song became a number one hit. Of course, Berlin recorded the song and it did reach number one. While Watts-Russell kept his word and shaved his head, Crawford was less pleased with the song’s performance as it meant that Berlin had to play it at every live performance following Top Gun‘s release.
3. There was a constant struggle between the producers, the director, Paramount and the Navy
Director Tony Scott was unpopular in Hollywood after his box office flop The Hunger, and clashed constantly with Paramount Pictures over the creative direction of the film. In fact, Scott was fired and rehired by studio execs three times over the course of Top Gun.
While filming aboard the USSEnterprise on a foggy Sunday morning, Scott lost the ideal lighting for his shot when the carrier altered its course. He implored that the captain return to his previous course so that they could film the scene. When the captain refused, Scott asked, “What does it cost for this aircraft carrier to run per minute?” The captain gave him a figure and Scott retrieved his checkbook from his bunk and wrote the captain a check for ,000. The captain returned the ship to its previous course and Scott was able to get his shot. He later bounced the check.
The opening scene gives me goosebumps every time (Credit Paramount Pictures)
Rear Admiral (ret.) Pete “Viper” Pettigrew, whose callsign was loaned to Tom Skerrit’s character, was hired as the film’s technical advisor for a sum of ,000 and served as a liaison with the Navy. Per his contract, he had a brief cameo in the film as Charlie’s boss, the “older guy” in the bar that she sits down with after Maverick’s rendition of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” Pettigrew’s job was to keep the film grounded in reality, though his protests to the film’s eccentricities were always overridden by Bruckheimer and Simpson.
He argued against the locker room argument between Maverick and Iceman and the shower scene, saying that pilots just get changed after a hop and go to the bar. However, paying id=”listicle-2646420686″ million to have Cruise in the film, the producers insisted that Cruise show as much skin as possible to appeal to a female audience. As the script took shape, the Navy raised concerns regarding the increased focus on the relationships between the characters over the fighter jets and aerial combat. “Right now, I’m just trying to keep it from turning into a musical,” Pettigrew responded.
Though it played a major role in production, the Navy authorized only two missile shots to be filmed for the movie due to the cost of the weapon system. The shots were filmed from several angles to make the most of them. Additional missile shots were filmed using models of the planes and missiles. However, the company that produced and fired the model missiles did such a good job that the Navy launched an investigation to determine if additional missiles were fired beyond the two that were previously authorized.
One of the two authorized missile shots (Credit Paramount Pictures)
4. More trouble off-screen
Bruckheimer and Simpson worked well together because they complemented each other. While Simpson was bold and brash, Bruckheimer was calm and collected. However, Simpson’s alleged love of fast cars, women, hookers and drugs were reportedly negatively impacting his job as a producer. Having already been to rehab at least twice before, he checked himself in again midway through production. Little had changed by the time he checked out though. After renting a car, he sped down to the production office, crashed the car in the parking lot, barged into a meeting and declared, “We’re not shooting that f***ing scene!” He then proceeded to fire people and start rewrites to the script. Simpson’s self-destructive lifestyle came to a head when he overdosed in 1996.
Though Cruise and McGillis had to maintain a sexual tension and chemistry on set, McGillis had fallen for another actor during the filming of Top Gun. “We were walking across the street and she actually fell down, and I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever seen,” Barry Tubb remembered of McGillis. “She fell down on her face in the middle of the street and she had my heart.” Tubb played a supporting role in the film as Wolfman.
Tubb and McGillis’ relationship off-screen threatened to weaken Charlie and Maverick’s relationship on-screen. To create more tension and add more lead-up to their eventual chase and kiss on W. Laurel Street, McGillis and Cruise were brought back to film one more scene months after production had wrapped.
In the elevator scene that follows the dinner at Charlie’s Oceanside house, Maverick’s hair is wet and slicked back while Charlie’s is hidden under a hat. Both actors had different hairstyles by that time which needed to be masked in order to preserve the continuity of the film. The scene succeeded though in adding more tension and lead-up to the relationship.
5. A tragedy occurred
Top Gun‘s production also saw a real-life death. While capturing footage for Maverick and Goose’s flat spin, stunt actor Art Scholl lost control of his Pitts S-2 camera plane. Filming about five miles off the coast of Carlsbad, California, Scholl radioed to his ground spotter, “I have a problem – I have a serious problem.” He was unable to recover from the spin and crashed into the ocean. The aircraft and his body were never recovered. As a tribute, Top Gun was dedicated to Scholl.
Scholl and his dog, Aileron (Credit Smithsonian Institution)
6. Bruckheimer and Scott thought the movie was a flop
Having wrapped production, an advance screening of Top Gun was scheduled for January 29, 1986, in Houston, Texas. With the rather lukewarm release of Iron Eagle two weeks before, receiving mixed reviews and grossing just million more at the box office than its budget, Top Gun‘s future as the second fighter jet movie of the year seemed unsure.
The advance screening was also clouded by the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster just the day before. “We’re in that theater, and I tell you, it was like a funeral,” Bruckheimer recalled. “I watched the movie with this audience and nobody reacted. I mean, they didn’t laugh, they didn’t applaud, it was nothing.” As a result of this screening, Bruckheimer thought that the movie would be a disaster upon its full release.
Director Tony Scott felt similarly following the Houston screening. “It was the worst experience of my life,” Scott said. “I can’t remember even hearing the audience.” Thinking he had failed directing another movie, Scott left the screening and went to a bar to get drunk.
However, contradicting the lack-luster advance screening, Top Gun was well-received by the rest of the cast and crew when it was screened for them. During that screening, Kenny Loggins was thoroughly impressed with what they had created. “I just held my wife’s hand and went ‘Holy s**t’,” he recalled.
Of course, Bruckheimer and Scott’s fears were misplaced and the film’s release in the summer of 1986 was perfect; Ronald Reagan was in the White House, the military was cool again and the country was going through a patriotic renaissance. Since its blockbuster release, Top Gun has gone on to become one of the most successful and iconic films of all time.
After the Huffington Post publicly identified five military service members and two Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets as part of a well-known white nationalist organization early March 2019, military officials say they’re investigating the allegations, and broadening the probe to see whether other troops might be involved.
In a March 17, 2019 story, the publication named an Air Force airman, two Army ROTC cadets, two Marine reservists, an Army reservist and a member of the Texas National Guard as members of Identity Evropa, which has been labeled a white nationalist organization by the Anti-Defamation League.
Huffington Post reported that it had linked the troops to the organization through online chat logs.
So far, military officials say they are not ready to punish or process out any of the troops named in the story, but they continue to investigate.
The Office of Special Investigations at the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, is still investigating Airman First Class Dannion Phillips, who was identified as being involved with Identity Evropa.
A Qatari C-17 taxies down the runway at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Clayton Lenhardt)
Lt. Col. Davina Petermann, a spokeswoman for U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa, could not say what actions the service has taken in regard to Phillips.
The U.S. Air Force has not found any other airmen tied to the alt-right extremist group, officials said.
The service “has not been made aware of any other members tied to this group,” spokesman Maj. Nick Mercurio told Military.com on March 27, 2019.
The National Guardsman allegedly linked to the group was identified as 25-year-old Joseph Kane, the Huffington Post said.
“We can confirm that Joseph Ross Kane is a member of the Texas Army National Guard, assigned to the 636th Military Intelligence Battalion,” Texas Guard spokeswoman Laura Lopez said in a statement March 26, 2019. “He joined the Texas Guard in June 2016. We are looking into this matter and remain committed to excellence through diversity.”
“Participation in extremist organizations and activities by Army National Guard personnel is inconsistent with the responsibilities of military service,” added Master Sgt. Michael Houk, a National Guard Bureau spokesman. “It is the policy of the United States Army and the Army National Guard to provide equal opportunity and treatment for all soldiers without regard to race, color, religion, gender, or national origin.”
The Huffington Post story also identified Army reservist Lt. Col. Christopher Cummins as a physician who allegedly bragged about putting up Identity Evropa posters in southern states. The Reserve did not respond to Military.com’s request for additional details by press time.
Army reservist Lt. Col. Christopher Cummins.
Maj. Roger Hollenbeck, spokesman for Marine Forces Reserve, said the service’s investigation into Lance Cpl. Jason Laguardia and Cpl. Stephen Farrea — both identified by the Huffington Post — was still underway as of March 27, 2019.
“The Marine Corps is investigating the allegations and will take the appropriate disciplinary actions if warranted,” Hollenbeck said in an email. “Because the investigation is ongoing, it would be premature to speculate and further comment on the outcome or the timeline.”
He continued, “Should an investigation substantiate that any Marine is advocating, advancing, encouraging or participating in supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advocate illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex (including gender identity), religion, ethnicity, national origin, or sexual orientation, or those that advocate the use of force, violence, or criminal activity, or otherwise advance efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights, then they will have violated the Marine Corps Prohibited Activities and Conduct Order.”
Anyone in violation of those rules “would be subject to criminal prosecution and/or administrative separation,” Hollenbeck said.
He did not say whether the investigation has identified other Marines with ties to Identity Evropa.
The Army identified one of the ROTC cadets as Jay Harrison of the Montana Guard, but did not offer additional information. Huffington Post identified the other cadet as Christopher Hodgman, a member of the Army Reserve.
Police matched fingerprints from Identity Evropa flyers to Christopher Hodgman, an ROTC cadet and a member of the Army Reserve.
The individuals named in the article were looking to connect with other group members or spreading anti-Semitic speech or other racial or derogatory content, according to the published logs.
The news comes as U.S. officials and experts who track violent extremism have seen an upward trend in white nationalism and its rhetoric in the U.S. and overseas, including the military.
Earlier in 2019, the Anti-Defamation League said that domestic extremism killed at least 50 people in the U.S. in 2018, up from 37 in 2017, The Associated Press reported.
According to the survey, roughly 22 percent of service members have witnessed white nationalist behavior while on duty. Roughly 35 percent of those surveyed in the fall of 2018 said they believed white nationalism poses a significant threat to the country and national security, Military Times said in February 2019.
Coast Guard Lt. Christopher P. Hasson, who previously served in the Army National Guard and the Marine Corps, was arrested Feb. 15, 2019, on drug and gun possession charges, and was accused of plans to “murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.”
According to documents filed in Maryland District Court, Hasson created a targeted list of media personalities, as well as prominent lawmakers such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts; Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey; and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California.
Hasson appeared to blame “liberalist/globalist ideology for destroying traditional peoples, especially white. No way to counteract without violence,” he allegedly wrote, according to the documents.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The twin-engine fighter, built by Chengdu Aerospace Corp. for the People’s Liberation Army’s air force, first flew in 2011 and made its public debut in November when the PLAAF showed off two of the aircraft at an airshow over coastal city Zhuhai.
Also in the fall, China downplayed reports that the J-20 was spotted at the Daocheng Yading Airport near Tibet or that it may be deployed near the Indian border.
With a reported top speed of 1,300 miles per hour and the ability to carry short- and long-range air-to-air missiles, the jet is often compared to the twin-engine F-22 Raptor, a fifth-generation stealth fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp. for the U.S. Air Force.
But the J-20 is believed to be far less stealthy than the F-22.
“The forward-mounted canards, poorly shielded engines and underside vertical stabilizers all limit the amount that its radar cross section — which determines how visible the aircraft is to a radar — can be reduced,” Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, has written.
Even so, the apparent arrival of an operational J-20 highlights China’s growing role as a military power.
The country, the second-largest spender on defense after the U.S., is also developing with private funding the Shenyang FC-31, a twin-engine multi-role fighter that resembles Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A production variant of the FC-31 may fly in 2019.
U.S. lawmakers have in the past questioned Pentagon officials why the government hasn’t retaliated against China for copying the designs of its most advanced fighter jets.
“What they’ve been able to do in such a rapid period of time without any RD … I understand there might be some differences as far as in the software and the weaponry and this and that,” Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, asked during a hearing in 2015. “But they’re making leaps, which are uncommon, at the behest of us, and we know this, I understand, but we’re not taking any actions against them.”
Robert Work, deputy defense secretary, at the time acknowledged that the Chinese “have stolen information from our defense contractors and it has helped them develop systems,” but he added, “we have hardened our systems.”
Leaked audio recordings said to be of Russian mercenaries in Syria capture expressions of lament and humiliation over a battle in early February 2018 involving US forces and Russian nationals.
Published by Polygraph.info — a fact-checking website produced by Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, news organizations that receive funding from the US government — the audio recordings paint a picture of Russian mercenaries essentially sent to die in an ill-conceived advance on a US-held position in Syria. Polygraph says the audio recordings are from a source close to the Kremlin.
The Pentagon has described the attack as “unprovoked” and started by forces loyal to the Syrian government that crossed over the Euphrates River, which functions as a border between US-backed troops and Russian-backed ones.
The Pentagon says that about 500 men began to fire on the position and that the US responded with air power and artillery strikes. The audio from Polygraph seems to confirm that while giving some insight into the feelings of the defeated forces.
Also apparent in the audio is displeasure with how Russia has responded to the situation. Initially, Russia denied that its citizens took part in the clash. Later, a representative said five may have died. Last week, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the fight left “several dozen wounded” and that some had died.
The audio recordings, in which voices can be heard saying 200 people died “right away,” appear to back up reports from Reuters, Bloomberg, and the Pentagon that roughly 100 — if not more — Russians died in the fight. Reuters has cited sources as saying the advance’s purpose was to test the US’s response.
Russia is thought to use military contractors in Syria rather than its military — experts speculate it’s to maintain deniability for acts of war and conceal the true cost of fighting from the Russian people. The Washington Post reported last week that US intelligence reports with intercepted communications showed that a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin told a senior Syrian official he “secured permission” from the Kremlin before the advance on the US forces.
The accounts in the audio also align with reports of how the battle went down, depicting an unprepared column of troops meeting an overwhelming air response before helicopter gunships strafed the remaining ones.
Here are the translated transcripts from Polygraph:
“The reports that are on TV about … well, you know, about Syria and the 25 people that are wounded there from the Syrian f— army and — well … to make it short, we’ve had our asses f— kicked. So one squadron f— lost 200 people … right away, another one lost 10 people … and I don’t know about the third squadron, but it got torn up pretty badly, too … So three squadrons took a beating … The Yankees attacked … first they blasted the f— out of us by artillery, and then they took four helicopters up and pushed us in a f— merry-go-round with heavy caliber machine guns … They were all shelling the holy f— out of it, and our guys didn’t have anything besides the assault rifles … nothing at all, not even mentioning shoulder-fired SAMs or anything like that … So they tore us to pieces for sure, put us through hell, and the Yankees knew for sure that the Russians were coming, that it was us, f— Russians … Our guys were going to commandeer an oil refinery, and the Yankees were holding it … We got our f— asses beat rough, my men called me … They’re there drinking now … many have gone missing … it’s a total f— up, it sucks, another takedown … Everybody, you know, treats us like pieces of s— … They beat our asses like we were little pieces of s— … but our f— government will go in reverse now, and nobody will respond or anything, and nobody will punish anyone for this … So these are our casualties.”
“Out of all vehicles, only one tank survived and one BRDM [armored reconnaissance vehicle] after the attack, all other BRDMs and tanks were destroyed in the first minutes of the fight, right away.”
“Just had a call with a guy — so they basically formed a convoy, but did not get to their f— positions by some 300 meters. One unit moved forward, the convoy remained in place, about 300 meters from the others. The others raised the American f— flag, and their artillery started f— ours really hard. Then their f— choppers flew in and started f— everybody. Ours just running around. Just got a call from a pal, so there are about 215 f— killed. They simply rolled ours out f— hard. Made their point. What the f— ours were hoping for in there?! That they will f— run away themselves? Hoped to f— scare them away? Lots of people f— so bad [they] can’t be f— ID’d. There was no foot soldiers [on the American side]; they simply f— our convoy with artillery.”
It’s no secret by now that the U.S. government used to really love testing LSD on people. What civilians used to get better at dancing (or at least care less about how bad they danced), the CIA reportedly wanted to use to brainwash, disable and hypnotize people. Sounds about right.
Project MKUltra was born from the desire to “develop a capability in the covert use of biological and chemical materials.” The project was an extensive testing program which administered citizens from all walks of life with LSD. Even the researchers were dosed.
At least two people died and one of the researchers became schizophrenic after his unwilling trip.
With such disregard for human life, is it any surprise the CIA wouldn’t feel too bad about giving men committing a crime a dose of acid? In the 1950s, that’s just what they did.
In Operation Midnight Climax, the agency used sex workers on its payroll to administer hits of acid to their unsuspecting customers in New York and San Francisco.
Troy Hooper of SF Weekly reported at least three houses used by the CIA to lure men in and give them LSD-laced drinks. Either that or they would have their customers, picked up in bars and restaurants, drive back to one of the houses used by the agency. The men would consume “large doses” of LSD and then do the deed under observation from CIA agents via a two-way mirror.
Houses in San Francisco operated until 1965, New York’s operated until 1966.
When MKUltra’s overseers left the agency in the 1970s, all files related to the project were ordered destroyed. The American public didn’t even know about the operation until after 1975, when a CIA employee came across documents referring to the program that somehow avoided destruction.
In 1977, John Marks, the author of “The Search for the Manchurian Candidate,” filed a FOIA request for the documents, which numbered some 20,000. President Gerald Ford ordered a congressional commission to look into the matter.
Sidney Gottlieb, a chemist and chief of the CIA’s technical services division testified (in exchange for immunity) that hospitals, prisons, military units, colleges, pharmaceutical companies, and more were all part of the MKUltra program.
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.
(Cover Photo: Painting by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.) captures the spirit of Ripley at the bridge at Dong Ha.)
We all know Stone Cold Steve Austin from his years when he was the face of World Wrestling Entertainment. “The Texas Rattlesnake” was one of the toughest, most badass wrestlers who left an indelible mark in the ring — both on TV and on the silver screen. Recently, we got to see Stone Cold sit down with some gentlemen who exhibited an entirely different type of toughness and heroism. By partnering up with Wargaming, the company responsible for the hit game World of Tanks, Austin recently sat down to interview three World War II tankers about their experiences. Their stories are powerful, harrowing, and heartbreaking.
The first veteran interviewed is Walter Stitt.
Walter served in World War II as a tank gunner. He was assigned to E Company of the 33rd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division. Upon answering the call and enlisting, his father gave him a piece of advice. He told Walter to not tell the Army that he was a truck driver, but to say he was a student — “maybe they’ll send you to school,” he mused. So, Walter listened to his father and told the Army he didn’t want to have anything to do with a steering wheel. And so, Walter was promptly assigned to be a tanker — which had levers and not a wheel (got to love Army humor, right?).
Stitt participated in the Normandy campaign and was initially anchored offshore because the weather was so bad. After three days, the tanks finally were allowed to move onto the beach and into the infamous hedgerow country of the Normandy peninsula. A mile up the road, he had to dig his first foxhole — and he quickly found out why. That night, a German bomber rained fiery mayhem on troops just a few yards from his position. After that, Walter said, “whenever they said ‘dig a foxhole”, I was one of the ones who grabbed a shovel and started.“
US M4 Sherman, equipped with a 75 mm main gun, with infantry walking alongside.
When Steve Austin asks, “what was it like the first time being shot at?” Stitt tells us a harrowing story of a sniper taking a shot at him and missing by a “matter of a couple of inches.” Unfortunately, not all of his fellow troops were so lucky. “If a tank got hit, usually someone got killed… That was the sad part.”
So, how dangerous was it to be a tanker during World War II? The 3rd Armored Division had more killed in action than the 101st Airborne. In that Division alone, over 22,000 men were killed and over 600 tanks were lost in the campaign to liberate Europe.
Stone Cold Steve Austin’s questions help Stitt take us on an amazing journey into one of the most far-reaching conflicts in history. To learn more, straight from the mouths of allied heroes, check out the interview.
To continue the Tank action, be sure to check out World of Tanks on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One today. Through the World of Tanks Tanker Rewards program, Wargaming offers tons of benefits and exclusive rewards both in-game and in person for all registered players. Be a part of our current WWE season and get endless opportunities to claim WWE and Tanker rewards. To learn more about the program, click here.
On Sept. 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler set World War II in motion when he invaded Poland. Germany attacked from the west, and 16 days later the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, by secret agreement with Hitler, invaded from the east. Poland kept fighting… but it never had a chance.
When Poland surrendered on Oct. 6, it disappeared from the map, its territory carved up and incorporated into Germany and the USSR. The dismemberment of Poland was but the first in a series of rapid-fire victories by the Nazis: On April 9, 1940, Germany invaded both Denmark, which fell that same day, and Norway, which fell on June 10. By then Hitler had also invaded Belgium, which surrendered after 18 days; Luxembourg, which fell after one day; the Netherlands, which held out for five; and even mighty France, which capitulated on June 22, after just five weeks of fighting.
Then on July 10, Hitler began bombing England in preparation for Operation Sea Lion, his planned invasion of the British Isles. The British faced the threat almost entirely alone: by then every other country in western Europe had either fallen to Germany, was allied with it, or had declared its neutrality in the hope of avoiding Hitler’s wrath.
Even the United States was officially neutral, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt was under tremendous pressure from isolationists to keep America out of the war. What little aid he was able to send to Great Britain was menaced by German U-boats patrolling the North Atlantic.
With the threat of invasion looming, Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued new orders to Porton Down, a secret military facility in southern England set up during World War I to study the use of poison gas as a military weapon. The facility was created after the Germans introduced chlorine gas to the battlefield in 1915, and work at Porton Down had continued ever since. Now Churchill gave it a new project: find a way to use the deadly disease anthrax in battle. It was out of this crash germ-warfare program that Operation Vegetarian was born.
Anthrax is the name of a disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, which lives in soil. If the seedlike spores of the bacteria enter a cut in a person’s skin (a form of the disease known as cutaneous anthrax), the result is a serious infection whose most distinctive feature is a coal-black scab. That’s how anthrax gets its name—anthrakis is the Greek word for coal.
When left untreated, cutaneous anthrax is deadly about 20 percent of the time. When the spores are eaten or inhaled, the danger is far greater: gastrointestinal anthrax kills animals or people who eat the spores about 60 percent of the time, and inhalational anthrax kills its victims about 95 percent of the time. (Modern treatments have cut the mortality rates considerably, but those treatments weren’t available in the 1930s.)
DEATH FROM THE SKY
When anthrax spores are eaten by grazing livestock, even if the infected animals don’t die, their meat cannot be eaten because it will spread the disease to anyone or anything that consumes it. This was what the scientists at Porton Down decided to focus on: they came up with a plan to disrupt the German meat supply by wiping out vast herds of grazing cattle across northern Germany.
They would accomplish this by dropping anthrax-tainted “cattle cakes” (concentrated dietary supplements that are typically fed to cattle) from Royal Air Force bombers over the pastures and grazing fields. Any cattle that ate the cakes would die within a few days, as would many thousands—or perhaps even millions—of Germans who came in contact with the cattle or the cakes.
Once a portion of the German meat supply was shown to be poisoned, the thinking at Porton Down went, the country’s entire meat supply would become suspect. Terrified Germans would abstain from eating meat entirely (hence the name Operation Vegetarian) making wartime food shortages—and German morale—even worse.
Officials at Porton Down placed an order with a supplier for enough raw materials to make for five million cakes. Then it contracted a London toilet soap manufacturer to cut the material into individual cakes about an inch in diameter and weighing less than an ounce apiece. Finally, Porton Down hired a dozen soap makers, all of them women, to come to the secret facility and inject the cattle cakes with anthrax spores supplied by the Ministry of Agriculture, which produced them in a lab.
By the spring of 1944 all five million cakes had been manufactured and pumped full of anthrax; the modified RAF bombers that would drop them over northern Germany were ready as well. Porton Down’s planners estimated that it would take about 18 minutes for the bombers to reach their targets over Germany. Upon arrival they would drop 400 cakes every two minutes in a bombing run that lasted 20 minutes, dropping 4,000 cakes in all. If 12 bombers were used in the mission, they’d drop 48,000 cattle cakes. When they finished, most of the grazing land in northern Germany would be contaminated with anthrax. And there would be millions of cattle cakes left over for future bombing runs in other parts of Germany.
“The cattle must be caught in the open grazing fields when lush spring grass is on the wane. Trials have shown that these tablets are found and consumed by the cattle in a very short time,” Dr. Paul Fildes, director of Porton Down’s biology department, observed. And because the anthrax spores can remain viable in the soil for a century or more, the poisoned land would remain uninhabitable for generations. No cattle would be able to graze there, nor would humans be able to step foot there for many decades to come.
All that remained was for Winston Churchill to give the order for Operation Vegetarian to proceed. The order never came. Why not? Because by then the war had turned decisively against Germany. Operation Sea Lion, Hitler’s plan for a land invasion of England, was never put into effect: British fighters shot so many German planes out of the sky in the run-up to the invasion that Hitler was forced to put it aside. Instead, he set his sights on Russia, and invaded his former ally in a sneak attack on June 22, 1941.
After months of steady progress, by October 1941 the Nazi invasion of Russia began to bog down, and Hitler failed to take Moscow before winter set in. Instead of finding shelter in the city, his ill-equipped, poorly clothed troops suffered through the brutal Russian winter in the open countryside, and many thousands died or were incapacitated by frostbite. Moscow never did fall, and by spring the Russians had regrouped and began to push back against the Germans. Then on December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into the war. His hands no longer tied by the isolationists, President Roosevelt could now back Great Britain with all of the military might at his command.
When Hitler’s attempt to take the city of Stalingrad failed in February 1943, the German advance against Russia was halted completely. For the rest of the war, the Russians pushed the Nazis relentlessly back toward Germany. The Allied invasion of Italy followed in July 1943; then on D-Day, June 6, 1944, the long-awaited Allied invasion of France began.
THANKS, BUT NO THANKS
With Great Britain’s survival no longer in question and the defeat of Germany just a matter of time, in the spring of 1944 Winston Churchill opted against putting Operation Vegetarian into action. At the war’s end in 1945, all five million cattle cakes were fed into an incinerator at Porton Down and destroyed.
Any doubts as to just how deadly an anthrax attack over thousands of square miles might have been were laid to rest in the one place where the British actually did use anthrax during the war: Gruinard Island, a 520-acre island less than a mile off the coast of northwest Scotland. Early in the war, the British requisitioned the island, and in 1942 and 1943 they used it as a test site for anthrax bombs. In one such test, 60 sheep were tethered in a line and an anthrax bomb was detonated upwind from them. The sheep inhaled the anthrax spores, and within a few days all of them were dead.
Gruinard Island, Scotland, was a testing site for Anthrax (Image Père Ubu Flickr)
If you had to dispose of 60 anthrax-infected sheep without getting yourself killed in the process, how would you do it? The Porton Down scientists dumped them at the bottom of a cliff on the island, then buried them (or so they hoped) by dynamiting the cliff. But one of the sheep was blown into the water and floated to the Scottish mainland, where it washed ashore on a beach. There it was partially eaten by a dog. The dog died, but not before spreading anthrax to seven cows, two horses, three cats, and 50 more sheep, all of whom died as well.
Quick payments to the farmers who owned the animals hushed up the incident, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that the truth about what killed their dog, cows, horses, cats, and sheep finally became known.
When the British government requisitioned Gruinard Island at the start of the war, it planned to return the island to its owners once the war was over and the anthrax spores were removed. But several attempts to clean the spores failed, and in 1946 the government gave up. It bought the island outright and ordered the public to stay away. To drive the message home, it posted scary signs on Gruinard’s beaches that read:
THIS ISLAND IS GOVERNMENT PROPERTY UNDER EXPERIMENT THE GROUND IS CONTAMINATED WITH ANTHRAX AND DANGEROUS LANDING IS PROHIBITED BY ORDER 1987
The government promised to sell the island back to its owners for £500 (about $620 today) if a way to render it “fit for habitation by man and beast” was ever found. For decades afterward, Porton Down scientists visited the island regularly and took soil samples to see if the anthrax spores were still there. They were.
Finally in the 1980s, the government gave up on waiting for the spores to disappear naturally. It hauled away tons of the most contaminated topsoil and injected 280 tons of formaldehyde into the island’s groundwater to see if that would kill the remaining spores. They also reintroduced sheep to the island. In 1990, when those sheep failed to die and fresh soil samples showed no signs of anthrax, the scary signs were removed and the descendants of the original owners were permitted to buy the island back for £500, just as promised.
So is that the end of the story? The British government believes (and certainly hopes) so, but the Ministry of Defence has set up a fund to compensate any future victims of anthrax on Gruinard Island…just in case.
Coming up with a training exercise that is engaging is required of every junior NCO on a weekly basis. If a leader trusts their Joes, this should be a time to reward his or her troops with something that is less useful and more enjoyable.
You can cut your troops some slack and tell the higher-ups that you’re focusing on team building and squad integrity through less intensive tasks if you re-title the exercises carefully. Hell, if it works for NCOER bullets, why can’t it work for training?
If all goes according to plan, the Joes should be out of there faster than first sergeant can say, “zonk.”
Translation: “Send them back to the barracks and have them clean until whenever.”
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason E. Epperson)
Proper cleaning of living spaces
“Hygiene is important to the health and wellbeing of the soldiers. They are tasked with ensuring their personal living accommodations are kept in good order to mitigate the risk of illness. They will continue until satisfactory.”
Translation: “Let them play video games.”
(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Randall Pike)
Cost-effective combat simulations
“Combat readiness is a must. In the interim between field exercises and live-fire ranges, we must also test troops’ skills in a simulated battle zone. To do this, we will forgo any expenses from the unit’s budget and rely on the tools available.”
Translation: “Send them on a PX run.”
(Photo by Spc. Taryn Hagerman)
Procuring supplies in an urban environment
“Soldiers must always know how to gather necessary supplies in any location. This includes securing means of hydration, food, and whatever else may be mission-critical. An ability to come by these in a densely populated region is as vital as any other.”
Translation: “Have them just go on a computer and hope they do their SSD1.”
(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Kennedy Benjamin)
Discovering knowledge of the world around them
“We live in an ever-changing and interconnected world. To keep troops informed, each troop has their own means of communication. They are also encouraged to conduct correspondence courses while there.”
Translation: “Grab a bite to eat with your troops.”
(Photo by Maj. Ramona Bellard)
Proper dieting practices
“A sign of a true leader is knowing how their troops eat when not in the field. Keeping troops at peak performance is mission-critical and great dieting practices are a force multiplier.”
Translation: “Just send them home and hope they don’t do anything stupid along the way.”
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell)
Land navigation in a familiar setting
“Given two points that a troop is very familiar with, plot a point and execute a maneuver between the company area and the location of their barracks. Given that most transportation in-country is done via vehicles, it would behoove them to get to their destination with whatever vehicle necessary. Expedience is key.”
There will be pressure on the female infantry officer to prove she isn’t part of a quota system designed to boost female representation, one of the Marines, who was formerly an instructor at The Basic School in Quantico, Va., told Lemmon.
“When you are a woman in the Marine Corps and you walk in the room, you have to prove you are there because you are worth something and not just filling a quota,” the former instructor stated.
This former instructor also placed the blame on older Marines for forwarding “emotional arguments” against female integration into infantry roles.
“The young lieutenants I taught had no issues with females serving in the infantry,” she said. “It was the Marines who had been in longer and had been indoctrinated into a culture of misogyny that made emotional arguments against it.”
The Marine Corps was the only service to ask the Obama administration to carve out certain combat positions that would remain male-only when the administration first ordered integration of women into all combat positions. That request went unheeded, but the request itself is emblematic of a deep opposition to the integration of women in the infantry in the service.
In 2012, think tank CNA conducted a survey in 2012 of almost 54,000 members of the Marine Corps and discovered that 76.5 percent of Marines who served in an infantry unit were opposed to integrating women. For male Marines not in infantry roles, opposition still amounted to 56.4 percent.