U.S. authorities have moved to seize a French painting that was taken by Nazi forces from a Ukrainian museum near the end of World War II.
Manhattan federal prosecutors said in a statement on March 21, 2019, that the painting — called An Amorous Couple, by Pierre Louis Goudreaux — was stolen from the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of the Arts in Kyiv around 1943.
U.S. officials said the painting had been missing for years, held by a London private collector and then in Massachusetts. It resurfaced in 2013 when it was listed on a website for an unnamed New York auction house.
The FBI determined it was bought from a Missouri auction house in 1993 by a New York dealer who had consigned it to the auction house.
The Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of the Arts in Kyiv.
The prosecutors said they were seeking a court order to seize the painting and return it to the Kyiv museum.
In recent years, U.S. officials have stepped up efforts to locate art seized from Ukraine by Nazi forces and return it to Ukraine.
In December 2018, U.S. authorities moved to claim a 107-year-old painting of Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible that was stolen from a Ukrainian art museum during World War II.
That painting by Mikhail Panin, called The Secret Departure Of Ivan The Terrible Before The Oprichnina, was part of the permanent collection of a museum in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro before the war.
Executive Director of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s (VBA) Appeals Management Office (AMO) and Army veteran David McLenachen talks about the appeals modernization process.
McLenachen briefly discussed his service in the Army with counterintelligence. He later left the Army to pursue a career in law. He worked as law clerk for a federal judge before he eventually came to work at the VA.
Before becoming executive director of the VBA’s AMO, McLenachen acted as deputy under secretary for disability assistance. While in this position, he began helping the VBA improve their appeals system in order to better assist veterans.
The Appeals Modernization Act took effect Feb. 19, 2019. Congress created the act in 2017 to help solve problems VBA had with appeals and claims. The act created three new ways to help veterans submit appeals and get their results at a quicker pace:
During a 2005 combat tour in Afghanistan Stout was wounded and transitioned back to Kansas City, Missouri. Like many wounded warriors, he struggled with physical and mental injuries. He knew that he felt better when in the company of other veterans and, for a short time, worked as a veteran counselor connecting vets to services they needed. But it wasn’t enough.
“I often would use my own money to put up vets in a hotel room,” Stout said. “I felt like there must be better way to get vets the services they needed, as well as housing.”
With its focus first on the great Kansas City, Missouri area, VCP wants to use the region as the blueprint for achieving similar successes in cities across the United States. Long term, they aspire to eliminate veteran homelessness nationwide.
“We are the place that says ‘yes’ first and figures everything else out later,” Stout said. “We serve anybody who’s ever raised their hand to defend our Constitution.”
Homelessness is one of the major contributors to the high suicide rate of veterans, he said. According to the latest 2016 Department of Veterans Affairs study, that rate is 22 per day among younger veterans aged 18 to 34.
In the VCP program, veterans get more than just a home; they get a community of like-minded veterans supporting each other.
“It’s very much like the barracks lifestyle, except that each veteran has their own home,” Stout said. “They’re taking care of each other. We also have a community center for them to gather and share camaraderie.”
The founders of VCP say on their website they are a team of “connectors, feelers, and doers on a mission to help our kin, our kind. We move with swift, bold action, and will always serve with compassion.”
Stout and his partners use their military logistics prowess to ensure that their housing communities are located along convenient bus lines and provide every veteran a free bus pass to allow easy transportation.
“We like to have them say, ‘What do you provide?’ That way we can ask them, ‘What do you need?’ And then we can start being the connectors,” Stout said. “At least 60 percent of the people that we serve, we’re serving them because of a poor transition from the military.”
And it’s thanks, in part, to his work with that community that he’s accumulated a wealth of good advice on how to survive the transition from the military into the civilian world.
Chris Stout, Army veteran and Founder of the Veterans Community Project.
Chris Stout’s top 5 transition tips
Connect with other veterans in your community. They will have learned lessons and have guidance more valuable than a brochure.
Ask for assistance before it’s too late. When Plan A doesn’t pan out, be prepared to execute a Plan B and ask for help pulling yourself out of the hole.
You’re not alone. You’re not the first to struggle with the VA, and you’re not the first to struggle with home life. Know that there are people who understand and can help sort it out. Often, when veterans transition, they view it as if they are the only ones traveling this road or the first blazing the trail. That’s not the case
If you’re a veteran, act like one. That means accepting responsibility, be on time, hold yourself accountable, have integrity and do not act entitled.
Work as hard as you did while you were in the service each and every day. It doesn’t matter what you decide to do when you get out; if you keep the drive, you will be OK.
Okay, if that headline has you scratching your head, know that you’re not alone. When we first heard about this reboot, that’s exactly what we did too … until we unpacked it a little and decided that maybe, there might be something to this.
According to reports, Bear Grylls’ production company, The Natural Studios, is in talks with producers Ben Grass and Christophe Charlier to remake the classic novel.
Yeah, we’re talking about that Bear Grylls – former British soldier turned survivalist and television personality.
And yep, we’re talking about that classic novel written by Alexander Dumas and published in installments from 1844-1846.
If you’re not seeing the connection between SF soldiers, Afghanistan and the Count, don’t worry, you’re not alone. But if you put all the pieces together, it actually makes sense.
You might recall that Dumas’ book is all about revenge, but in case you skipped that week in high school English class, here’s a quick refresher. The book coincides with some important historical moments – the Hundred Days period when Napoleon returned to power after exile being one of them. Thematically, the Count of Monte Cristo is all about hope, justice, vengeance, forgiveness and mercy. It centers on a man who’s been wrongfully imprisoned, manages to escape from jail and amass a fortune, all with the plan of getting revenge on those who did him dirty.
Now we’re not quite sure what Grylls is planning to do to make this work for two SF soldiers, but we can definitely see how the premise lends itself well to a remake. What we do know is that the script focuses on the blossoming friendship and eventual rivalry between two SF soldiers who deployed together in Afghanistan.
One of the many challenges Grylls and his team will have to address is the sheer length of the book and how to best adapt that to the screen. Tom Williams will be writing the script, and while he’s no stranger to other military-themed productions, this is a huge undertaking, and not just because of the size of the novel.
The complexity (and some argue, the genius) of The Count of Monte Cristo is due in part to the slow burn of the novel. It develops and builds, and the pacing is slow, to the novel’s advantage — it helps us understand the main character and his motivations, and makes his revenge that much sweeter. But adapting that to film and too short attention spans might be challenging. One solution could be to cut some of the original version’s tangential plotlines, but Williams might find that leads to serious plot holes.
And in a three-act film, how much friendship can we genuinely develop between these two SF soldiers? That’s a serious point of contention and something that Williams and his team are going to have to explore closely. Speaking of characters, the original version features many characters – in part because Edmond Dantes has so many aliases and so many alternate lives. It will be interesting to see how this is approached in the film since it’s less than likely that SF soldiers have alternate identities. Equally interesting will see how the remake explores Dantes’ allies, the Danglars family, and the Villefort family – or if the team will simply omit these large family structures.
But, we’re sure Williams is up to the challenge, considering his script skills on display in Kilo Two Bravo. After all, that unflinching portrayal of a British unit’s deployment is what some argue to be one of the most authentic representations of deployment in the current film era.
Of course, Grylls isn’t the first to remake Dumas’ classic literary masterpiece. reinterpretations of the book have found their way to the screen for over 100 years. But, it’s been a few decades since we’ve seen a remake. The most recent film reboot is from 2002, directed by Kevin Reynolds, starring Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce.
Either way, we’re looking forward to actor selection for this film and seeing it enter the production phase.
On the same day he touted the “Space Force” to veterans, President Donald Trump’s plan to create a sixth military branch hit a roadblock in Congress.
A House-Senate conference committee working on the $716 billion defense budget for fiscal 2019, which begins Oct. 1, 2018, left out money to start building the Space Force.
Early July 24, 2018, in address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention in Kansas City, Trump cited the Space Force as part of an unrivaled military buildup under his administration.
“My thinking is always on military and military strength. That is why I’m proud to report that we are now undertaking the greatest rebuilding of our United States military in its history. We have secured 0 billion for defense this year, and 6 billion next year — approved,” he said to applause.
President Donald Trump
“And I’ve directed the Pentagon to begin the process of creating the sixth branch of our military. It’s called the Space Force,” Trump said to more applause. “We are living in a different world, and we have to be able to adapt, and that’s what it is. A lot of very important things are going to be taking place in space.
“And I just don’t mean going up to the moon and going up to Mars, where we’ll be going very soon,” he added. “We’ll be going to Mars very soon. But from a military standpoint, space is becoming every day more and more important.”
However, the conference report of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees left out funding for the Space Force in the National Defense Authorization Act. The conference report must still be approved by the full House and Senate.
Instead, the report directs Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to come up with a plan for how the Defense Department would organize for warfighting in space.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis
(DoD photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
The House version of the conference report was also leery of Trump’s vision for the creation of a new military branch for space, instead calling for the establishment of “a subunified command for Space under United States Strategic Command for carrying out joint Space warfighting.”
In June 2018, Trump appeared to give the job of creating a Space Force as a separate military branch to Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford.
At a White House meeting of the National Space Council, the president said, “I’m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces.”
“We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force — separate but equal. It’s going to be something,” he said.
Trump then looked around the room to find Dunford and said, “General Dunford, if you would carry that assignment out, I would be very greatly honored.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Sun Tzu once said, ‘To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy’.” The armed forces operate across the globe. A basic understanding of the language of the enemies of freedom is important for troops abroad. Leaders anticipate problems and prepare for future battles. Right now, the world is at peace — relative to the world conflicts of the past. It is the perfect opportunity to learn the language and culture of enemies of the next wars.
The pacific theater is heating up again with continuous, aggressive actions of the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese government has built several illegal man-made islands that serve as forward operating bases. These islands are built in preparation for a conflict in the South China Sea. The title ‘South China Sea’ is also communist propaganda because that area does not belong to the Chinese. It belongs to Indonesia and other countries that have internationally recognized claims to the area.
Learning Mandarin is important because it is the premier way of collecting intelligence on the ground from the local population. It is the most used language in China but if you understand it, you can also understand Cantonese and other dialects. Fuzhounese is another rare language in China that is almost completely different than Mandarin. It is the language most spoken by the elite and loyalists of the capital. It is a useful dialect for gathering intelligence from Chinese military officers and officials.
The People’s Republic of China are infecting the world with their evil brand Communism. They are a fever slowly boiling the world alive one degree at a time. Mark my words, the next major conflict for the future of humanity will be against the Chinese thesecond they are no longer a beneficial trade partner to the United States.
It is no surprise that the middle east is a hot bed for conflict. The official language in Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia is Arabic. The Quran is written in classical Arabic. So, even if other countries speak other languages such as Farsi, the Afghanistan dialect, they use the Arabic alphabet. Religious leaders speak Arabic because they must in order to read the Quran. There is an additional benefit because Arabic is used in the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa and Western China – all areas of interest to the United States.
Arabic is in the Afro-Asiatic family while Farsi is in the Indo-European family.
Nicole Piazza, Lingualinx
This language serves a better use to coordinate with our allies south of the Demilitarized Zone of the Korean Peninsula. From my experience training alongside with the South Korean Marines, they are some of the most hard charging military allies we have in the pacific. They’re tough and dedicated to bringing honor to their country as we are to our own. After a real-world situation, we deployed from the southern tip of the country to conducted military exercises. Together we were ready to defend against the threat of North Korea. Kim Jong Un and his dishonored troops withdrew back to the north and our Marines received the Korean Defense Medal.
The South Koreans are the most genuine allies I have ever had the pleasure of serving with. The Mayor of Pohang and the children of the city hosted a banquet and gave us bolo ties as gifts, thanking the U.S. Marine Corps. Korean civilians are the kindest foreign people I’ve ever met, probably ever.
Our allies south of the border speak this language and it is in our best interest that we continue our partnership in our fight against narco terrorism – no, not Mexico, with everyone else. Mexico is the leading threat to U.S. interests south of Texas. Other countries known for their socialist and communist synthesizers pale in comparison to the danger drug lords in Mexico present to the every day American. Even Venezuela, a failed state, is responsible for less American deaths than the poison trafficked across the Mexico border.
Although it is unlikely that the U.S. will go into full-fledged conflict against Mexico, it is a known fact that Washington D.C. sends special forces into the jungles of the former Aztec Empire and beyond. If becoming a secret squirrel is in your future you better learn some Spanish.
When author Robert B. Baer asked his boss at the CIA for the definition of assassination his boss replied, “It’s a bullet with a man’s name on it.” Baer wasn’t sure what that meant so he started to research the topic beyond what he already had experienced around it in his role at the CIA. The end of that process became his insightful and provocative new book, The Perfect Kill, in which he outlines 21 laws for assassins. Here are 11 of them:
Law #1: THE BASTARD HAS TO DESERVE IT
“The victim must be a dire threat to your existence, in effect giving you license to murder him. The act can never be about revenge, personal grievance, ownership, or status.”
Law #2: MAKE IT COUNT
“Power is the usurpation of power, and assassination its ultimate usurpation. The act is designed to alter the calculus of power in your favor. If it won’t, don’t do it.”
Law #5: ALWAYS HAVE A BACKUP FOR EVERYTHING
“Count on the most important pieces of a plan failing at exactly the wrong moment. Double up on everything — two set of eyes, two squeezes of the trigger, double-prime charges, two traitors in the enemy’s camp.”
Law # 7: RENT THE GUN, BUY THE BULLET
“Just as there are animals that let other animals do their killing for them — vultures and hyenas — employ a trusted proxy when one’s available.”
Law #8: VET YOUR PROXIES IN BLOOD
“Assassination is the most sophisticated and delicate form of warfare, only to be entrusted to the battle-hardened and those who’ve already made your enemy bleed.”
Law #9: DON’T SHOOT EVERYONE IN THE ROOM
“Exercise violence with vigilant precision and care. Grievances are incarnated in a man rather than in a tribe, nation, or civilization. Blindly and stupidly lashing out is the quickest way to forfeit power.”
Law #15: DON’T MISS
“It’s better not to try rather than to try and miss. A failed attempt gives the victim an aura of invincibility, augmenting his power while diminishing yours. Like any business, reputation is everything.”
Law #16: IF YOU CAN’T CONTROL THE KILL, CONTROL THE AFTERMATH
“A good, thorough cleanup is what really scares the shit out of people.”
Law #17: HE WHO LAUGHS LAST SHOOTS FIRST
“You’re the enemy within, which mean there’s never a moment they’re not trying to hunt you down to exterminate you. Hit before it’s too late.”
Law # 19: ALWAYS HAVE AN ENCORE IN YOUR POCKET
“Power is the ability to hurt something over and over again. One-offs get you nothing or less than nothing.”
Law #21: GET TO IT QUICKLY
“Don’t wait until the enemy is too deeply ensconced in power or too inured to violence before acting. He’ll easily shrug off the act and then come after you with a meat cleaver.”
For the rest of Robert B. Baer’s 21 laws for assassins, buy his amazing book here.
A little over a month after the Helge Ingstad sank after colliding with a tanker in a Norwegian fjord, the Norwegian military has released footage from the submerged frigate.
The warship was rammed by a Malta-flagged tanker in the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 2018, in the port of Sture, north of Bergen, which is Norway’s second-largest city.
The frigate displaces 5,290 tons, and the tanker displaces over 62,500 tons when empty. But when the tanker is fully loaded, as it was at the time of the collision, that jumps to about 113,000 tons, more than an aircraft carrier. The collision tore a large hole in the starboard side of the frigate’s hull, which caused other compartments to flood.
Footage released by the Norwegian military, which you can see below, shows the damage sustained by the frigate.
A Norwegian rescue official said at the time of the collision that the frigate was “taking in more water than they can pump out. There is no control over the leak and the stern is heavily in the sea.”
According to a preliminary report released at the end of November 2018, control of the frigate’s rudder and propulsion systems was lost, which caused the ship to drift toward the shore, where it ran aground about 10 minutes after the collision.
Recovery operations for the Helge Ingstad on Nov. 28, 2018.
(Norwegian armed forces photo)
Running aground prevented it from sinking in the fjord, but later, a wire used to stabilize the sunken vessel snapped, allowing it to sink farther. Only the frigate’s top masts remain above the surface.
In December 2018, Norwegian explosive-ordnance-disposal divers returned to the ship to remove the missile launchers from its foredeck.
Below, you can see footage of them detaching the launchers and floating them to the surface.
“All diving assignments we undertake require detailed planning and thorough preparation. We must be able to solve the assignments we are given, while providing as low a risk as possible,” diving unit leader Bengt Berdal said, according to The Maritime Executive.
“Our biggest concern [during this mission] is any increased movement of the vessel.”
With the missiles off the ship, all its weapons have been removed. Recovery crews are preparing to raise the ship, putting chains under the hull to lift it on a semisubmersible barge that will take it to Haakonsvern naval base.
The frigate will not be raised until after Christmas, according to The Maritime Executive.
Chains being readied aboard the heavy-lift vessel Rambiz to lift the sunken Norwegian frigate Helge Ingstad on Dec. 7, 2018.
(Norwegian armed forces photo by Jakob Østheim)
The oil tanker was not seriously damaged in the incident and didn’t leak any of its cargo. Only eight of the 137 crew aboard the Helge Ingstad were injured, but the multimillion-dollar ship was one of Norway’s five capital Nansen-class frigates and was one of Norway’s most advanced warships. (It also leaked diesel and helicopter fuel, but that was contained and recovered.)
The preliminary report found that the warnings to the frigate, which was headed into the port, went unheeded until too late, allowing the outbound tanker to run into it.
According to the report, the frigate’s automatic identification system was turned off, hindering its recognition by other ships in the area, and there was confusion on its bridge because of a change in watch — both of which contributed to the accident.
The preliminary report also raised questions about other ships in the class and the Spanish shipbuilder that constructed it.
The review board “found safety critical issues relating to the vessel’s watertight compartments. This must be assumed to also apply to the other four Nansen-class frigates,” the report said.
“It cannot be excluded that the same applies to vessels of a similar design delivered by Navantia, or that the design concept continues to be used for similar vessel models.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US Night Vision is one of the largest distributors of night vision optics and accessories in the world. As such, they have a couple new products of interest that made their way to SHOT Show 2019.
The Harris F5032 Lightweight Night Vision Binocular has actually been around for a couple of years, but for whatever reason, Harris chose not to push it on the market and kept it on the back burner. This competitor to the L3 PVS1531 features white phosphor tubes and a unique close-focus technology that allows users to perform intricate tasks under night vision.
F5032 Lightweight Night Vision Binocular.
As many a user of helmet-mounted night vision has experienced, most NVGs will blackout when the user tilts their head to look upward. The F5032 has an intuitive vertical viewing capability that recognizes when the optics are in use and prevents the automatic tilt shutoff from activating, so that the goggles only shutoff when placed in the stowed position. This is sure to be a huge selling point for those who spend time working under aircraft or ascending vertical structures.
A view through the white phosphor F5032.
The F5032 has an integrated LED IR illuminator to reduce the need for external IR illumination devices. The image intensifier tubes are serviceable at the unit level, making it easier for them to be repaired without the extended downtime that comes from shipping them back to the company. The F5032 uses a standard dovetail mounting bracket for compatibility with the Wilcox NVG mount.
Also new from US Night Vision is the BCO LPMR-MK2 Low Profile Mission Recorder. This minimalistic recording device attaches to the eyepiece of the ocular lens of your night vision optic (optic specific) to record whatever you are viewing. The unit supports up to 128gb Micro SD for nine hours of record time with minute by minute seamless High Definition 1920×1080 30fps recording.
BCO LPMR-MK2 Low Profile Mission Recorder attached to a PVS14.
The LPMR-MK2 has an integrated microphone to capture audio and is externally powered via USB to accommodate a wide variety of battery sources. To make operation simple, the LPMR automatically begins recording when powered on, so there are no external buttons to fool with, and the operator doesn’t have to wonder if what if what they are seeing is actually being captured or not.
The unit weighs less than 1.5oz, so the added weight to night vision optics is minimal. The upfront placement of the device also reduces the amount of leverage placed on the helmet, so the user doesn’t have extra forward weight pulling down on their helmet. This recorder is sure to be a hit with military and law enforcement who have a need to record low-light training or real-world operations for after-action evaluation or courtroom purposes.
More information on these and other new products from US Night Vision can be found here.
Featured image: Recoilweb.com
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
When retelling stories of war, our focus tends to fall where the action was. Tales of battlefield bravery have been around for as long as there has been language and battlefields, but securing victory over a powerful foe requires more than the strength of will and courage under fire. Often, it takes the calm, calculating mind of strategic leaders, the tireless efforts of scientists and researchers, and as was the case in the skies above World War II… the unusual approach of an Austrian mathematician.
Abraham Wald was born in Austria-Hungary in 1902, and by 1931 he had completed his Ph.D. in mathematics. However, despite possessing a gifted scientific mind, Wald couldn’t find work in his home country upon his return. The problem? It was 1931, and Wald was Jewish.
By 1938, the Nazis were invading Austria and Wald and his family were on their way to the United States, where Wald had no trouble securing a job at the Cowles Research Commission in Economics, and then with the American government assisting with the war effort.
Wald quickly proved to have a powerful analytical mind, making a name for himself with the U.S. government’s Statistical Research Group (SRG) where he worked on classified programs despite his status as a “potentially hostile immigrant.” Just as his Jewish heritage made him a pariah in Austria, his Austrian heritage made Wald a bit of an outcast in Uncle Sam’s ranks. He wasn’t even allowed to look at his own equations after submitting them, as the programs Wald worked on were classified. Wald’s secretary was even known to joke that her job was to yank Wald’s pages away as soon as he finished writing them “for the sake of national security.”
Despite this looming prejudice, Wald thrived in his role as a mathematician for the allies, contributing to multiple programs over the years and securing a place in history thanks to his groundbreaking work in “survivorship bias.”
Allied forces were feverishly working on ways to help their B-29 bombers survive anti-aircraft fire, but knew that limitations on weight and available resources would bar them from adding armor to the entirety of the aircraft. So they began collecting data on returning B-29s in hopes that the data would eventually produce a working theory. Soon enough, it did.
Officials took note of how the B-29s that made it back were often riddled with holes in specific areas. Some of these bombers were even described in official documents as looking like “swiss cheese,” but the heaviest concentration of holes were always all over the aircraft’s fuselage. By the time they had translated their observations to hard data, they had confirmed that the fuselage and wings of the aircraft took rounds at nearly twice the rate of the aircraft’s engines.
The data seemed to be pointing at a clear answer to their problem: if the fuselage was taking the brunt of the of damage, they should add armor to that portion of the aircraft. After all, it housed all of the plane’s internal systems and its crew, it made perfect sense that taking so much fire to the fuselage must be what was bringing these bombers down.
Wald, however, knew immediately that placing armor on the fuselage of these bombers wasn’t going to solve the problem. He asserted instead that additional armor needed to be placed on the parts of the aircraft that had the smallest number of recorded bullet holes, rather than the highest. His assertion, and the premise of “survivorship bias,” was basically that these airplanes could survive taking a great deal of fire to the wings and fuselage because they were making it back riddled with holes all over both. Instead, Wald posited, it’s the places they didn’t see holes that couldn’t handle direct fire.
Wald believed that these planes were getting hit in the engines just as often as the fuselage or wings, but because the bombers that got hit in the engines didn’t survive, no data could be collected from them. Lacking data from the aircraft that didn’t make it back had skewed the numbers to show the exact opposite of what they had been looking for.
Wald proposed adding armor to the engines, rather than the fuselage and his premise was swiftly adopted, and soon that premise was proved true. Bombers that had additional armor added to their engine shrouds saw much higher rates of return, and before long, armoring the engines of B-29s became standard practice.
In fact, Wald’s approach continues to be employed in military aircraft design today, making it hard to even guess just how many aircraft, missions, and lives Abraham Wald is ultimately responsible for saving… all through his unique combination of perspective and arithmetic.
Our first president, George Washington, sold whiskey from one the country’s largest distilleries after leaving office — but reportedly never drank his own supply. Instead, Washington sipped a dark porter style of beer mixed with molasses that was brewed in Philadelphia. His presidential successor, John Adams, loved drinking hard cider, rum, and Madeira wine during his time off. The eighth President of the United States, Martin Van Buren, drank so much whiskey that he earned the nickname, “Blue Whiskey Van.”
Many of our Presidents turned to their alcohol beverage of choice in order to relax after a long day’s work. However, one president flipped the script and decided to start his days by knocking back a shot of his favorite: bourbon.
It’s reported that President Harry S. Truman liked to start his days with a nice, brisk walk and a shot of Old Grand Dad (bourbon).
Truman appreciated a strong Old Fashioned and, reportedly, would complain to his staff if he felt the cocktail was too weak. Although it may seem unhealthy for a person of his position to consume such a potent drink so early in the morning, he actually prided himself on maintaining a nutritious diet.
In a diary entry, dated January 3, 1952, Truman wrote:
“When I moved into the White House, I went up to 185. I’ve now hit an average of 175. I walked two-miles most every morning at a hundred and twenty-eight steps a minute, I eat no bread, but one piece of toast at breakfast, no butter, no sugar, no sweets. Usually have fruit, one egg, a strip of bacon and half a glass of skimmed milk for breakfast, liver & bacon or sweetbreads or ham or fish and spinach and another non-fattening vegetable for lunch with fruit for dessert. For dinner, I have a fruit cup, steak, a couple of non-fattening vegetables, an orange, pineapple, or raspberry for dinner. So, I maintain my waistline and can wear suits bought in 1935!”
On behalf of the veteran community, we say well done, sir.
SWAN and other groups have long lobbied for a change in the policy excluding women from certain direct combat roles, such as infantry and artillery. They won that fight in 2013, when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered all military services to lift the ban on women in combat roles, giving them until January 2016 to fully integrate or ask for special exemptions.
Only the Corps asked for that exemption, which was overruled by Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
However, since Congress never passed a law on the issue, a Trump White House could just reverse the decision made by the Obama administration, or order exceptions to be made for certain services, such as the Marine Corps.
“It’s our earnest hope” the next administration will look at quality of service members rather than gender, said Germano, though some things Trump has said on the campaign trail cast doubt on whether that will be the case.
When asked in October by a former Army colonel what he would do about the “social engineering and political correctness” that had been imposed on the military, Trump seemed to agree that the military’s acceptance of transgendered troops and women in combat roles was wrongheaded.
“You’re right. We have a politically correct military, and it’s getting more and more politically correct every day,” Trump said. “And a lot of the great people in this room don’t even understand how it’s possible to do that. And that’s through intelligence, not through ignorance — believe me — because some of the things that they’re asking you to do and be politically correct about are ridiculous.”
Though he added: “I would say I would leave many of the decisions of some of the things you mentioned to the generals, the admirals, the people on top.”
As it stands right now, there’s at least one person in top leadership who seems to disagree with the policy change — Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford— who would be one of Trump’s closest military advisors, as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Others in the Republican Party seem to be weighing in ahead of Trump’s transition as well. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a former Marine officer who has been floated as a potential pick for Defense Secretary, on Sunday called for a “counterrevolution” in the military.
“It doesn’t do anything to further our capacity as war fighters,” Hunter told The Washington Times of women being placed in infantry roles. “It doesn’t do anything to make us more effective or efficient at getting the job done and killing our enemies and protecting our allies. It’s just a distraction. It’s not like there are thousands of women getting into the infantry now. It will never be that way.”
Like Hunter and others, critics of the policy change have referred to it as “social engineering” within the military ranks. But Germano disagrees with that assessment, telling Business Insider it’s not social engineering but instead, expanding the pool of qualified applicants who can do jobs within the military.
“We believe that women who are highly-qualified for the position and can do the job should have the opportunity to do the job,” Germano said.
A reversal in policy wouldn’t just affect women who had planned to go into combat roles in the future. Since the military has been slowly integrating them into the force, some women would have to be taken out of the roles they had trained for alongside men and put back into non-combat jobs.
In October, the Army graduated 10 new female infantry officers, many of whom are now going through follow-on training before they will be assigned to infantry units. Another woman, Capt. Kristen Griest, transferred to the infantry in April after she became one of the first women to graduate from the Army’s Ranger School.
If President-elect Trump decides to change the policy back, he would deal with pushback from the courts. A 2012 lawsuit filed by four female service members who claimed that being excluded from some roles was a violation of their constitutional rights is still ongoing.
The DoD tried to have the suit dismissed after the ban was lifted, but it still remains in litigation — in part because the next president could single-handedly deny those women those rights in the future.
“If we have a Republican president, we may well be in the same position we were when we filed this complaint, a categorical exclusion of all women from combat units,” Steven Perry, an attorney for the four women, told a judge in federal court, according to the Military Times.
The Judge agreed with that assessment and set the next court date for January 12 — eight days before Trump is inaugurated as president.
Regardless of the final status of women in combat roles, it’s clear that women have been involved in combat through the Global War on Terror. Two of the plaintiffs in the 2012 suit were wounded and awarded the Purple Heart medal, and many other women have served alongside male infantrymen in Iraq and Afghanistan on “female engagement teams.”
Robin Williams went on six separate USO tours from 2002 to 2013. Williams inspired countless other comedians and performers to pack their bags and head overseas to share their light with the world. There are hundreds of stories that surround the humanity of each and every visit Williams had.
For example, take the time on the 2007 USO Chairman’s Holiday Tour, where Williams saw a group of soldiers waving at him from behind a fence across a grassy berm. A wave and a loud joke across the field would’ve surely made those soldiers day… But according to USO VP of Entertainment Rachel Tischler, “… he jumped across the berm and went running over to them. Obviously, our security team completely freaked out. Again – height of the war here. But he didn’t care. He just wanted to go over and shake their hands and thank them. And that is what he was like.”
That’s the thing with Williams. He didn’t just go overseas and perform a couple of comedy sets and dip out. That, in and of itself, would still be a beautiful act of service. But that wasn’t enough for Williams. He jumped the berm in everything he did.
“What was great about him on tour was that he always took the time to sit down and talk to people about what they were going through, what life on the base was like, about personal experiences,” Tischler said. “And then he’d get on stage and he’d be telling a joke about Mexican Night in the [dining facility].”
Robin Williams as troops “Retreat” at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait
Williams wasn’t just a loose cannon of human decency on USO Tours, either. He was also a respectful observer of military tacit codes. Just watch this video of Williams’s set being cut short by Taps at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
At the first sound of the beagle, you can almost feel his gut lurching to make a joke. Every single time that Williams had gone on stage, he was a comedic amoeba, calling out things happening in the present moment. He had conditioned himself to make a joke there. But he resisted. He pulled against his greater impulses, and respectfully lowered his head.
You can tell it meant something to him, as he said “I’m never going to forget that.” And what happened next is quintessential Robin Williams— he made a joke about the present moment that unified the entire camp.
Holiday Tour, International Airport in Baghdad (2003)
(Mike Theiler. EPA.)
Unity is the central theme of Robin Williams USO tours, and that’s the legacy left behind. Every man and woman stationed who got to see him took a piece of Williams back with them. Williams loved it too, “There’s nothing I enjoy more than traveling with the USO and giving back to our troops in whatever way I can,” he said, “They work hard, sacrifice a lot and deserve to be treated like the heroes they are. The very least I can do is bring a smile to their faces.”
Many comedians have followed in his footsteps of unity since: Lewis Black, Louis CK, Ralphie May, and Stephen Colbert, just to name a few. As our country feels increasingly disjointed, it’s important to focus on the “Robin Williams” moments; we can reach across the aisle and truly connect with each other.
Whenever we feel distant from each other, we don’t have to shout from behind a fence. We can jump the berm.