This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

Spirit 03 is a revered name in the AFSOC community, often spoken of in hushed and pained tones. It was the call sign of the last AC-130 gunship shot down in combat.

The story of Spirit 03, whilst sad, was also one of heroism — the kind you’d find in the US Air Force Special Operations Command community. It was a story of American airmen putting the lives of their brothers in arms engaged in grueling ground combat above their own.


This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

The city of Khafji before the battle

(Photograph by Charles G Crow)

On January 29, 1991, over 2000 Iraqi troops under the direction of Saddam Hussein streamed into the Saudi Arabian city of Khafji in an attempt to draw American, British, and Saudi forces into a costly urban battle which would tie up Coalition troops until the Iraqi military had time to reorganize and get themselves back in the fight.

Just days before Khafji fell, American surveillance jets had detected large columns of mechanized Iraqi units pouring through Kuwait’s border in a mad dash towards the city. Though the warning was passed on, Coalition commanders were far more focused on the aerial campaign, which had seen the virtual annihilation of the Iraqi Air Force.

Thus, Khafji fell… but it wouldn’t be long until Saudi forces scrambled to action, barreling towards their seized city to drive the occupiers out. American and British aerial units were soon called into the fight, and in record time, engines were turning and burning at airbases within reach of Khafji while ground crew rushed around arming jets for the impending fight.

Among the aerial order of battle was a group of US Air Force AC-130H Spectre gunships — converted C-130 tactical transport aircraft that were armed to the teeth with a pair of 20 mm M61Vulcan rotary cannons, an L60 Bofors 40 mm cannon, and a 105 mm M102 howitzer. These Spectres, based out of Florida, were eager to be turned loose, planning on adding any Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles they caught around Khafji to their kill tallies.

On the 29th, Iraqi mechanized units moved towards the city under the cover of night, repeatedly engaging Saudi elements set up to screen inbound enemy ground forces coming in from Kuwait. The Spectres were already in the air, racing towards the fight and running through checklists in preparation for the destruction they were about to dish out on Saddam’s armored column.

Within minutes of appearing on station, the AC-130s leapt into action, tearing into the Iraqi column with impunity. What the enemy forces had failed to realize was that Spectres — living up to their name — operated exclusively at night so that they were harder to visually identify and track, and the gunners aboard these aircraft were incredibly comfortable with that. Spectres began flying race track patterns in the sky, banking their left wing tip towards the ground as their cannons opened up.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

An AC-130H Spectre in-flight with its guns visible towards the right side of the picture

(US Air Force photograph by TSgt. Lee Schading)

Despite the AC-130s inflicting casualty after casualty, the resilient Iraqi invasion force continued to advance to Khafji and managed to briefly take over and lay claim to the city. American and Saudi ground combat units, including Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, and Marine artillery and infantry elements responded in kind, and launched a blistering offensive against the Iraqis as night turned to day and the AC-130s returned to base to rearm, refuel and wait for nightfall to resume hunting.

On January 30th, Spirit 03, one of the AC-130s, was loaded for bear and launched with the intent of providing Marine forces with heavy-duty close air support. Spirit 03 arrived on station and started hacking away at targets. In the hours around dawn on the 31st, the AC-130s were recalled to base when radios lit up with numerous calls for fire support from the beleaguered Marines on the ground.

An Iraqi rocket battery needed to be dealt with quickly.

The crew of Spirit 03 took charge of the situation immediately, judging that they had enough fuel and ammunition left for a few more passes. Not quite out of the combat zone, the aircraft turned around and pointed its nose towards its new target. It was then that all hell broke loose. A lone shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missile arced towards the AC-130, detonated and brought down the aircraft.

There were no survivors.

In the months and years that followed, the loss of Spirit 03 was investigated and then quickly hushed up. Some indicated that the official report blamed the crew for knowingly putting themselves in danger by continuing to fly in daylight, allowing themselves to be targeted.

Others knew that the story was vastly different—that the 14 men aboard the AC-130 knew that they were the only ones in the area able to provide the kind of fire support the Marines needed, and so paid the ultimate sacrifice while trying to aid their brothers in arms.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy training plane crashes in Tennessee

Officials say a U.S. Navy plane crashed in the Cherokee National Forest in southeastern Tennessee.


Monroe County Emergency Management Director David Chambers tells the Knoxville News Sentinel the crash occurred Sunday afternoon in Tellico Plains, about 45 miles southwest of Knoxville.

Chambers says the field of debris is estimated to be at least a half-mile long.

The Navy confirms in a statement that a T-45C Goshawk aircraft was training in the area and had not returned to its Mississippi base by late Sunday. The statement says two pilots were on board and their status is unknown.

In April, the Navy grounded a fleet of T-45C Goshawks amid reports of problems with the cockpit oxygen systems.

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Everything you need to know about your latest benefit and insurance changes

A House-Senate conference committee tasked with ironing out differences in separate versions of the defense authorization bill has rejected Senate-passed provisions that would have sharply increased TRICARE fees, deductibles and co-pays for a million retirees under age 65.

Lawmakers who in recent weeks shaped a final $716 billion John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (HR 5515) also voted to allow disabled veterans, Purple Heart recipients, and caregivers of veterans severely injured in war to shop on military bases, paying slightly more at checkout than current patrons. They also will be able use base recreational facilities.


Expansion of access to on-bases services, which the Department of Defense endorsed in part to make commissaries more self-sustaining, is to occur Jan. 1, 2020.

Conferees also narrowed the scope of Senate-passed reforms to officer accession and promotion practices so officers will continue to be considered for promotion as part of the same year group they were promoted to current rank.

Also shelved was the Senate plan to repeal use of authorized officer strength tables to instead require that Congress annually authorize number of officers allowed to serve in the ranks of O-4 through O-6 across all the services.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicole Thurston )

Officer promotion law long has required consistent promotion timing and promotion opportunity across officer year groups. The Senate wanted to replace those requirements by grouping officers based on competitive categories — similar qualifications, specialties, occupations or ratings. Conferees also rejected that idea.

However, a host of other accession and promotion reforms survived the conference and will “begin to modernize officer personnel management to bolster the effectiveness, recruitment and retention of the all-volunteer force,” says a Senate Armed Services Committee press release.

“The 38-year-old Defense Officer Personnel Management Act requires all military services to manage their officer corps in the same general manner within specific constraints. By beginning to reform this system, the [2019 defense authorization bill] will provide for flexibility in the careers of commissioned officers [to] better serve the demands of the modern force.”

Officer personnel issues

Changes approved to better manage officers include:

  • Repeal a requirement that candidates for regular commissions not be older than 42, or at least have enough service years to complete 20 years by age 62.
  • Enhancement of services’ authority to award constructive service credit for special private sector training or experience to allow active or reserve officer appointments up to the rank of colonel or Navy captain in critically-needed fields.
  • Authorizing each service to award temporary promotions to the ranks O-3 through O-6 for specified positions. Only Navy has such authority today so this change would standardize it across all branches.
  • Authorizing promotion boards to recommend that “officers of particular merit” be placed higher on promotion lists than peers.
  • Allowing officers, when deemed in the best interest of the service, to have their names removed from consideration by a selection board for promotion to the next higher grade, and authorizing officers in certain military specialties to remain on active duty until reaching 40 years active service.
  • Authorizing use of an alternative promotion processes for officers in certain secretary-designated competitive categories, to include a term-based continuation process when certain officers are not selected for promotion. This would selectively end the traditional up-or-out requirement for officer management.

Conferees rejected House language that would have required the Air Force to assess the “feasibility and advisability” of allowing otherwise qualified candidates who are deaf or hearing impaired to be Air Force officers.

Military pay issues

The highlight of compensation provisions embraced by conferees was decided months ago: a 2.6 percent military pay raise effective Jan. 1, 2019, to match recent wage growth in the private sector. It also will be the largest percentage military pay increase in nine years.

On the other hand, conferees agreed to end a “personal money allowance” that, by law, has been paid to senior naval officers holding five prestigious positions. The titles impacted, and the size of allowances disappearing are:Director of Naval Intelligence (,200); Superintendent of the Naval Academy (,200); President of the Naval War College (id=”listicle-2590252146″,000); Commandant of Midshipmen at the Naval Academy (0) and President of the Naval Postgraduate School (0).

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

TRICARE changes

Military associations lobbied successfully against Senate language to repeal an unusual grandfather provision in current law that protects working-age retirees from a host of TRICARE fee increases that, for now, target only members who enter service this year or later and eventually retire.

Senators wanted the higher TRICARE cost-shares applied to all current and future retirees under age 65 and not disabled, as the Defense Department intended. Conferees blocked that but said they “remain concerned about the high cost of military health care, understanding that much of the cost has been driven by new benefits and benefit enhancements authorized by Congress.”

With the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimating the average military cost of providing health care to a typical retiree household at ,800 by 2021, conferees directed the defense secretary to update that estimates by February 2019 and to list policy options both to improve quality of health care and to better control costs.

The compromise bill also directs that a survey be conducted “to ascertain whether beneficiaries would be amenable to additional modest fee increases to maintain a fiscally viable, comprehensive health benefit.”

The sweeping fee increases blocked included a first-ever TRICARE Select enrollment fee and, for retirees who use non-network providers a new annual deductible. CBO estimated that retiree users of Select would have seen average out-of-pocket costs jump from id=”listicle-2590252146″,645 a year to ,800 for family coverage and from 0 to id=”listicle-2590252146″,160 for self-only coverage. Retiree households using Prime would have seen more modest increases. TRICARE for Life recipients would been spared.

Commissary & exchange

Commissaries and exchanges nationwide are expected to see a few hundred thousand more shoppers. Conferees accepted House language to open base stores and services, starting in 2020, to any veteran with a service-connected disability, as well as to Purple Heart and Medal of Honor recipients, former prisoners of war and veteran caregivers.

Defense officials supported the House-backed provision, to strengthen the military resale system and to reward deserving veterans with shopper discounts, if an extra user fee could be imposed on these “secondary” groups of store patrons.

A department study concluded that “a large influx of new patrons is necessary to continue efficiently providing commissary and exchange benefits into the future.” Military associations and veteran groups also had backed the move.

Trump parade

Conferees modified House language in support of the president’s call for a Washington D.C. military parade. The conference report says it’s “appropriate to honor and celebrate 100 years of patriotic sacrifice in a way that expresses appreciation and admiration for our men and women in uniform.” But the bill “prohibits the use of operational units or equipment in the parade if the Secretary of Defense believes such use will hamper readiness.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Coast Guard left a scow near Niagara Falls that’s still there 100 years later

The Niagara River’s famously beautiful Horseshoe Falls is truly a wonderful sight. But if you look upriver before the falls, you might notice a rusted out hulk of a scow that looks like it’s been sitting on the river for a century. 

That’s because it has been.

A rusted scow at Niagara Falls
Aerial view of rusted scow at Niagara Falls.

Two workers from the Buffalo, New York were doing a regular day’s work of dredging silt from the mouth of a canal that diverted the river to hydraulic power generators when they suddenly broke loose from the tugboat and began to float toward the falls. 

Not many people survive going over Niagara Falls and those who do call it a “miracle.” But in 1918, the number of people who survived was two, the first being a 62-year-schoolteacher who went over in a wooden barrel. 

Going over Niagara Falls will drop your body 187 feet into the rocks and water. You might get to the bottom of the river and not make it back up. If your body survived the impact, the freezing water would give you 15 minutes to get out before you began suffering from hypothermia. 

The scow was beached on a sand berm when the tugboat came to release it and bring it back to shore. As the towing commenced, the rope between the boats snapped and sent the scow hurtling toward the falls. Luckily, it ran aground on some rocks in the river, 650 feet from oblivion. 

Unable to reach the men by boat, Canadian firefighters were able to get a lifeline to its two crewmembers as the U.S. Coast Guard was dispatched to rescue them. The Coast Guard was able to get a lifeline to the iron dredging boat and the two men climbed to safety. The entire rescue operation took 17 hours due to tangled lines. 

It was Canadian World War I veteran William “Red” Hill Sr. who climbed out to untangle the lifelines throughout the night. He’d only been back from the war for four days when he made the rescue.

Unsure of what to do with the iron hull, not knowing who would pay for a costly dismantling operation or if it was even worth the risk and effort, the Coast Guard did what anyone with a little common sense would do: leave it there.

The scow sat on the rocky shoal that miraculously saved its two crewmen for more than a hundred years. In 2019, a powerful storm raised the water levels of the river and freed the scow from the shoals. 

The rusting iron mass shifted from the rocks and floated closer to Horseshoe Falls, flipping onto its side 50 meters closer.

The rusted hull of a scow at Niagara Falls.

In the years since the 1918 accident, around 5,000 bodies have been found at the bottom of Horseshoe Falls, either suicides or as stunts to survive the trip. An estimated 25% of those daredevil attempts end in death. 

One of those daredevils was William “Red” Hill, Jr., the son of the valiant rescuer of the two men trapped on the scow. In an effort to honor his daredevil father, the younger Hill went over the falls in a barrel, dying in the attempt. 

Articles

The 18 greatest fighter aircraft of all time

Results are what make a weapons system great, not just technology.


In the case of fighter aircraft, it’s all about the kills, and with that as the main selection criteria, here’s WATM’s list of the 18 greatest fighters of all time:

1. Fokker Triplane

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

The iconic aircraft behind the World War I success of Manfred von Richthofen’s Flying Circus was actually designed after a Sopwith Triplane crashed behind German lines in 1917. The Fokker Triplane was relatively slow and hard to see out of, but it possessed an impressive turn rate that “The Red Baron” leveraged towards his war total of 80 confirmed kills.

2. Sopwith Camel

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat
(Photo: The Canadian ace William Barker with his Sopwith Camel B6313.)

The Sopwith Camel had a more powerful engine and more firepower than the German fighters it went up against, and although the big engine made it hard to handle, in the hands of an experienced pilot the fighter was very lethal. The Sopwith Camel accounted for 1,294 air-to-air kills, the most of any model during World War I.

3. Mitsubishi Zero

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

At the outset of World War II in the Pacific, the Zero owned the skies, including those over Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Zero was primarily carrier-based, highly maneuverable, and could fly long range. Because of this the Japanese enjoyed a 12-to-1 kill ratio over the allies during the first few years of the war.

4. Bf-109

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

Often incorrectly called the “Me 109,” the Bf-109 remains the most produced fighter aircraft in history and was one of the Luftwaffe’s air-to-air workhorses. The Bf 109 was flown by the three top-scoring German fighter aces of World War II, who claimed 928 victories among them. Through constant design improvements and development by German engineers, the Bf 109 remained lethal in the face of allied technical advances throughout the war.

5. Focke-Wulf Fw-190

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

The Fw-190 was generally considered superior to the Bf-109 because of it’s bigger engine (a BMW inline 12) and greater firepower. Some of the Luftwaffe ‘ s most successful fighter aces flew the Fw 190, including Otto Kittel with 267 victories, Walter Nowotny with 258, and Erich Rudorffer with 222.

6. P-51 Mustang

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

The P-51 Mustang was a solution to the clear need for an effective bomber escort starting in 1943. General James Doolittle told the fighters in early 1944 to stop flying in formation with the bombers and instead attack the Luftwaffe wherever it could be found. The Mustang groups were sent in well before the bombers in a “fighter sweep” as a form of air supremacy action, intercepting German fighters while they were forming up. As a result, the Luftwaffe lost 17 percent of its fighter pilots in just over a week, and the Allies were able to establish air superiority. (Wikipedia)

7. P-38 Lightning

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

In spite of the fact that the twin-boom design limited roll rate performance, the P-38 tallied impressive kill numbers in the Pacific and the China-Burma-India areas when piloted by America’s top aces like Richard Bong (40 victories) and Thomas McGuire (38 victories).

8. P-47 Thunderbolt

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

In Europe during the critical first three months of 1944 when the German aircraft industry and Berlin were heavily attacked, the P-47 shot down more German fighters than the P-51 (570 out of 873), and shot down approximately 900 of the 1,983 claimed during the first six months of 1944. In Europe, Thunderbolts flew more sorties (423,435) than P-51s, P-38s and P-40s combined. Indeed, it was the P-47 which broke the back of the Luftwaffe on the Western Front in the critical period of January–May 1944. (Wikipedia)

9. Spitfire

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

The Spitfire achieved legendary status during the Battle of Britain by racking up the highest victory-to-loss ratio among British aircraft. Spitfires were flown by British aces Johnnie Johnson (34 kills), Douglas Bader (20 kills), and Bob Tuck (27 kills). The Spitfire was produced in greater numbers than any other British aircraft and was the only British fighter to be in continuous production throughout the war. (Wikipedia)

10. F4F Wildcat

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

The first of the Grumman “Cat” series, the carrier-based F4F was slower, shorter ranged, and less maneuverable than the Japanese Zero. However it’s ruggedness and the development of group tactics like the “Thatch Weave” allowed the Wildcat to ultimately prevail, tallying a nearly 7-to-1 kill ratio over the course of the war.

11. F6F Hellcat

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

The F6F was designed to improve on the Wildcat’s ability to counter the Mitsubishi A6M Zero and help secure air superiority over the Pacific Theater. Hellcats were credited with 5,223 kills, more than any other Allied naval aircraft.

12. F-4U Corsair

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

Know to the Japanese as “whistling death,” Corsairs claimed 2,140 air combat victories and an overall kill ratio of over 11-to-1. Legendary F4U pilots include Marines Joe Foss, Marion Carl, and Pappy Boyington.

13. MiG-15

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

With the Chinese entry into the Korean War, the MiG-15 began to appear in the skies over Korea. Quickly proving superior to straight-wing American jets such as the F-80 and F-84 Thunderjet, the MiG-15 temporarily gave the Chinese the advantage in the air and ultimately forced United Nations forces to halt daylight bombing until the F-86 arrived to level the air combat playing field.

14. F-86 Sabre

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

The F-86 was the U.S. answer to the MiG-15 that had dominated the skies over Korea in the early part of that conflict. Engagements in MiG Alley between the two aircraft were numerous, and that period is considered by many as the glory days of air-to-air warfare between jet aircraft. F-86s ended the war with a 10-to-1 kill ratio over the MiG-15s they faced.

15. F-4 Phantom

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

The F-4 was the fighter and attack workhorse for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps for several decades and Phantom crews were the last to attain “ace” status in the 20th Century. The most noteworthy event happened on May 10, 1972, when Lieutenant Randy “Duke” Cunningham and Lieutenant (junior grade) William P. Driscoll shot down three MiG-17s to become the first American flying aces of the war.

16. MiG-21

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

One of the most widely used fighter aircraft in history, MiG-21s tallied impressive kill numbers during the Vietnam War, the Iran-Iraq War, and the India-Pakistan and Egypt-Israeli conflicts.

17. F-14 Tomcat

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

The Tomcat didn’t make this list because of it’s long service as the U.S. Navy’s front-line carrier-based fighter (in spite of the fact that “Top Gun” remains the greatest military movie of all time), but because the Iranian Air Force had more than 160 kills with it during the Iran-Iraq War.

18. F-15 Eagle

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

Eagles made dogfighting history during Operation Desert Storm, primarily because of their superior weapons suite, including state-of-the-art (at the time) identification capability. F-15s had 34 confirmed kills of Iraqi aircraft during the 1991 Gulf War.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Uncle Sam is a real guy and his poster is a self-portrait

In 1917, artist James Montgomery Flagg created his most famous work, a recruiting poster for the U.S. Army featuring a white-haired, white-whiskered man in an old-timey (even by the standards of the day) top hat, coat, and tie in bold red, white, and blue colors. Inspired by similar recruiting posters in Europe at the time, the poster was adapted to appeal to everyday Americans, along with their sense of individuality and patriotism. It has become one of the most enduring symbols of the United States military.

And it’s basically a portrait of Flagg himself.


This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

And that’s how you achieve immortality.

Flagg’s stock in trade was creating cartoons, illustrations, and drawings for publications of all sorts. He worked for advertising firms, newspapers, book publishers, and other creators who required illustrations such as Flagg’s. He was commissioned to create the cover for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in 1916. It was a weekly publication that pioneered the use of early photography to illustrate American life during its 70-plus year run, and he used himself as a model. Hearkening back to the early days of the magazine, he chose to depict himself as an older gentleman in an outdated, if colorful outfit.

The headline of that week’s issue was “What Are You Doing For Preparedness?” He decided to make the poster a reference to a then-famous recruiting poster for the British Army, one that depicted the famous Field Marshal Lord Herbert Kitchener, pointing at the viewer and telling them they’re wanted in the British Army, using the likeness of Uncle Sam in the place of Kitchener.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

As for the origin of Uncle Sam, the true origin is disputed. A resolution from Congress in 1961 declared that an Upstate New York meat inspector named Sam Wilson was the original Uncle Sam. Wilson was a Continental Army veteran from Troy, New York, who provided rations to the Army during the War of 1812. It’s not known whether Wilson’s appearance was the inspiration for the rest of Uncle Sam’s appearance, but Flagg’s depiction of himself as Uncle Sam certainly stood the test of time.

Flagg’s painting was reused again as a recruiting tool during World War II, and the notoriety from his work earned him a place as one of the top illustrators of the day, working for the best magazines and newspapers who could afford work like his. He even went on to paint portraits of famous Americans that would end up in the National Portrait Gallery, such as Mark Twain and boxer Jack Dempsey. Flagg died in 1960, the year before Congress decided to honor Sam Wilson as the true “Uncle Sam.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Strikes on Syria were a public spanking of the Assad regime

President Donald Trump pulled off a large-scale attack on sites thought to contribute to Syria’s chemical weapons program — but even the Pentagon acknowledges the attack’s limitations.

The Pentagon says the strikes, made by the US, France, and the UK, took out the “heart” of Syria’s chemical weapons program. But Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom the UN has linked to dozens of gas attacks, still maintains “residual” capabilities of creating and using chemical weapons, the Pentagon said.


Assad still has his jets, and helicopters. The air wing in Assad’s army that the US suspects of having carried out a chemical attack early April 2018, on the town of Douma went unpunished. The US-led strike did not target any personnel suspected of carrying out illegal orders to drop gas bombs on civilians.

“It is very important to stress it is not an attempt to change the tide of the war in Syria or to have a regime change,” Boris Johnson, the UK’s foreign secretary, said. “I’m afraid the Syrian war will go on in its horrible, miserable way. But it was the world saying that we’ve had enough of the use of chemical weapons.”

“The American strikes did not change anything for Syrians,” Osama Shoghari, an anti-government activist from Douma, told The New York Times. “They did not change anything on the ground.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called the strike “precise and proportionate,” but while it may have involved precise, smart, new weapons, it’s unclear what Mattis thinks the strike proportional to.

What did the strikes change on the ground?

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat
One of the US’s targets before and after the strike.
(DigitalGlobe satelite photo)

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed during the country’s seven-year civil war, which kicked off when Assad violently responded to pro-democracy rallies in 2011.

Millions in Syria have been displaced by the conflict; many have been tortured and abducted. Large swaths of the country fell under jihadist rule. A generation of Syrian children are growing up knowing only war.

The strikes on April 13, 2018, addressed none of that. The 105 weapons used against three facilities across Syria targeted only chemical weapons production in Syria, and they didn’t even remove all of those weapons or capabilities.

Instead, the strikes made a big show of punishing the Assad government over the attack on Douma that the US and local aid groups said involved chemical weapons, and it did so on a shaky legal premise.

Chemical warfare may continue in Syria. Widespread fighting, casualties, and abuses of power in the deeply unstable country will continue with near certainty. A hundred missiles, or even a thousand, couldn’t hope to reverse the deep problems faced by Syrians every day, or to punish Assad and his inner circle as much as they have punished their own people, but Trump never actually tried to.

Performative allyship in cruise-missile form

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat
A poster of Bashar al-Assad at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus

Assad, a leader whom Trump calls an animal who gasses his own people, remains in power. Chemical weapons remain in Syria. The world is no closer to finding peace there.

But Assad has been publicly spanked by the US, the UK, and France. Three nations told Syria, and its Russian backers, they meant business after years of turning a blind eye to reports of horrors in the country.

The Syria strike, viewed as a public spanking rather than a decisive military campaign, was a “mission accomplished” not because it changed anything, but because they made it loud.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Nazi officer risked his life to save an American soldier

It may surprise amateur historians to discover that wars can take a humanitarian turn. There are many, many recorded instances of exceptional displays of humanity, even during the most brutal fighting. Considering the Nazis’ monstrous reputation, it would surprise many others to discover that kind of kindness among the German officers in World War II.

Even in the Wehrmacht’s most desperate days, there were some among them who retained their humanity in the middle of one of the world’s deadliest conflicts. In the Hürtgen War Cemetery in Hürtgen, Germany, you’ll find a small monument to one of these brave souls.


This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

“No man hath greater love than he who layeth down his life for his enemy.”

As the Allies pressed their post-Normandy advantage against the Nazis in Europe, they began to outrun their supply lines. Unfortunately, the men and materiel required to bring down the Nazi regime weren’t as fast at replacing the men and materiel who were actively taking down the regime. The Allies were forced to slow down and, in some places, pause as their supplies caught up to their breakneck drive toward Germany.

This lull gave the Germans time to regroup and rest.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

The worst was yet to come.

Before the Allies could enter Germany, there were a few things they had to consider. They had to cross the Rhine, the city Aachen was under siege and refused to surrender, and the Allies were afraid the Germans would destroy the Ruhr Dam. To avoid this, the Allies needed to enter the dense woods that lay between the city and the dam and do it before the Germans thought to blow the dam.

During the relatively brief lull in the fighting, the Germans made good use of the Hürtgen Forest. Its hills and ravines were loaded with minefields, booby traps, barbed wire, and anything else they could think of that might halt the Allied advance or end it entirely. What’s more, deep inside the woods were the overgrown and abandoned remains of the concrete Siegfried Line. The advantage in numbers and air superiority the Allied troops enjoyed would be completely negated by the forest. The dark woods were now almost impenetrable, and the Allies were walking into it.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

This is not the place you want to assault.

For four months, the Allies sent men into the German-held meat grinder trying to dislodge the Nazis. Among the Germans trying to keep the Americans out was a Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld. Lengfeld was a young officer who had just taken command of his unit in November 1944, after his commander was killed in combat. He and his men were holed up in a lodge of some kind, sheltering themselves from the elements and trying to stave off their hunger. Next to their shelter was a minefield known as the Wilde Sau.

An American attack pushed Lengfeld’s Germans from their shelter, but his men quickly counterattacked and retook it the day after. The U.S. troops scrambled out so fast that one of them walked right into the Wilde Sau and immediately stepped on a mine. The man survived and began calling for help.

None came. And to this day, no one knows who the wounded American was.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

This road once bisected the Wilde Sau minefield.

Lieutenant Lengfeld ordered his troops that no one was to fire at any Americans who would come for the man. Hours passed, the man begged anyone within earshot to help him. But no one came. The man cried for his compatriots the entire time, but still, no one came to his aid. Lengfeld decided he would help, and took a team of his medics along a road that led to the minefield. He was determined to help the man, but while his team had placed anti-tank mines along the road, he did not know the location of anti-personnel mines. Lengfeld stepped on one immediately, shredding his back. He would die later that night.

In 1994, a monument was erected at the Hürtgen Forest Cemetery, bearing the name and wartime deeds of Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld. It read:

Here in Huertgen Forest on November 12, 1944,
Lt. Lengfeld, a German officer, gave his life
while trying to save the life of an American
soldier lying severely wounded in the “Wilde
Sau” minefield and appealing for medical aid.

The monument was placed there by the American members of the 22nd Infantry Regiment to honor Lt. Lengfeld.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This new approach to health is changing the lives of veterans

Here’s a question that could change your life: What matters most to you in your life? The answer can start you on the path to Whole Health.

Whole Health puts the focus of health care on the veteran rather than just the veteran’s illnesses and symptoms. It’s a patient-centered approach that considers the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental factors that can influence your health. Veterans examine these areas of their lives and set goals based on what matters most to them. In turn, those goals drive the health planning decisions they make with their VA care team.

All VA medical centers and clinics now offer training in Whole Health and personal health planning, as well as a range of well-being programs.


MIGHTY HISTORY

The Japanese office worker who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan

Remember when 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi came out and everyone joked that Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) got bored of his office job at Dunder Mifflin so he left and became an operator? Well, that’s basically what Koshiro Tanaka did in 1985. He hated communists, so he went to Afghanistan to fight them.

After WWII, the Soviet Union retained the historically Japanese Kuril Islands, a major point of contention for Tanaka against both the Soviet and Japanese governments. He believed that Japan should have fought to at least preserve its cultural land. By the 1980s, he saw the growing Soviet presence as an existential threat to his country. Because Japan only had a 250,000-strong Self Defense Force, not a military, Tanaka feared the result of a possible Soviet invasion. “If Japan started fighting a war now, 50 million Japanese would die,” he said. “They [the Soviets] don’t want peace, they want land.”

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat
A Japanese office worker fighting with Afghan guerrillas using U.S.-supplied weapons against Soviet troops (Koshiro Tanaka)

Tanaka worked in a typical office job in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district when he decided to take up arms against the Soviets in Afghanistan. However, the 44-year-old was not without any training. Though he never served in the JSDF, Tanaka was a sixth-degree black belt in Kyokushin Karate and an instructor in the martial art. He brought his skills with him to Afghanistan and taught hand-to-hand combat to the U.S.-backed mujahideen.

Though he fought alongside them, Tanaka did not adopt the tenets of Islam that the Afghan guerillas fought under. Rather, he went into battle with the mindset of a samurai. Tanaka found that there were parallels between the two cultures. Where a mujahideen fighter could earn a spot in Heaven through martyrdom in the holy war, Tanaka sought glory and honor in combat like the samurai warriors of old. “I hope in my mind that I will have the samurai spirit when it is time to die,” he said. He even carried an extra grenade at all times to martyr himself rather than suffer the shame of capture.

Tanaka’s first combat experience in Afghanistan was a shock. He accompanied a mujahideen raid on a communist Afghan government post near Jadladak, 25 miles east of Kabul. “I didn’t know how to fight, how to move,” he recalled. “I felt a bullet go by my ear. I got a shot of adrenaline.” After that experience, Tanaka applied the same discipline he used in karate to learning how to fight with a Kalashnikov. He developed a reputation as a foreign fighter and even had numerous propaganda reports of his death published by the Afghan government. During his time in Afghanistan, Tanaka endured malaria, jaundice, kidney stones, and a broken foot bone.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat
Tanaka in Afghanistan in 1987 (Koshiro Tanaka)

Between 1985 and 1987, Tanaka made at least seven trips to Afghanistan. However, his actions were frowned upon by his own government and were denounced. “His characteristics are beyond our understanding,” said a Japanese Foreign Ministry representative. “He is kind of strange as a Japanese.” Though Tanaka’s views were shared by some of his countrymen who donated funds to his mercenary trips, he largely paid for them out of his own pocket.

In 1987, Tanaka wrote a book detailing his experiences in Afghanistan called Soviet Soldiers in a Gun Sight, My Battle in Afghanistan. He used the proceeds from the book to fund another trip to Afghanistan and purchased supplies for the mujahideen. “[They] need help, any kind of help,” Tanaka said in a plea for Japanese support. “They need weapons, bread, food, anything.”

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat
Tanaka with Mujahideen fighters (Koshiro Tanaka)

Tanaka’s next trip took him to the Panjshair Valley where he linked up with the famous Afghan commander, Ahmad Shah Massoud. The mujahideen leader had taken up karate, but Tanaka reported that, “he’s not so good.” Massoud became a military and political leader in the Northern Alliance alongside Abdul Rashid Dostum of 12 Strong fame, but was assassinated two days before 9/11 in an al-Qaeda/Taliban suicide bombing.

Tanaka’s fight in Afghanistan ended with the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. He returned to karate and has taught in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Hawaii, and Germany. He remains an outspoken supporter of a democratic Afghanistan, often sporting a pin of the Japanese flag alongside the Afghan flag.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat
Tanaka hosted two members of the Afghan Olympic Committee in Tokyo in February 2020 (Koshiro Tanaka)
MIGHTY TRENDING

The 10 worst British military aircraft of all time

While the British boast a perfect record in World Wars — including a gritty victory over Germany’s seemingly unstoppable Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain — it is a country that has made some truly bad aircraft.


The Spitfire fighter and the Lancaster bomber ruled the skies throughout World War II. The Harrier Jump Jet served at sea honorably for decades. But the aircraft you don’t hear about are usually pretty awful.

Also Read: Why this light machine gun was the worst standard-issue weapon ever

“If you want something done slowly, expensively, and possibly very well, you go to the British,” begins the first-ever YouTube video from Hushkit, an aviation blog from Joe Coles.

From a nuclear-capable, fatality-prone navy plane to impossibly hard-to-fly transport planes, relive the forgotten history of the 10 worst British planes ever built in the video below:

 

(Hush kit | YouTube)
MIGHTY CULTURE

Here are the new uniform changes for female Marines

Marines have been given the approval to let their hair down — at least some of it — while they work out.

Women with medium-length hair are now allowed to wear a “half ponytail” hairstyle during physical training. The style, which pulls the top portion of the hair away from the face and into a ponytail while the rest of the hair remains down — is one of several new uniform-related changes the commandant signed off on this week.


“The section of hair pulled back into the half ponytail should be secured over the ‘crest of the head,'” according to a graphic depicting the new authorized look. “The half ponytail must lay flat, and hair may not stick straight out or at extreme angles from the head.”

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

Female Marines with medium-length hair are now allowed to wear a “half ponytail” hairstyle during physical training.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pamela Jackson)

Half ponytails are allowed only for female Marines with medium-length hair. The style is authorized during PT, including when the Marine Corps combat utility uniform is worn during physical training. Women with long hair will still need to put their hair up, in a regular ponytail or free-hanging braid.

Half ponytails won’t be allowed with any Marine Corps headgear, the message states. And if the combat utility uniform isn’t being worn for PT, it’s back to the regular hair regs for all women, according to the message.

Women have also been given the OK to wear silver earrings with their service uniforms. Female Marines were previously allowed to wear only gold earrings with that uniform.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

Marines with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit participate in an endurance course.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caleb McDonald)

“Small, polished, yellow gold or silver colored, ball, or round stud earrings (post, screw-on, or clip), not to exceed 6 millimeters (about 1/4 inch) in diameter, may be worn with the service, blue dress, and blue-white dress [uniforms],” the message states.

The changes follow a survey the Marine Corps Uniform Board conducted earlier this year. Officials declined to provide the results of that survey, but it did ask Marines to weigh in on these two approved changes.

The commandant also this week granted men the approval to use black umbrellas when it’s raining while they’re in their service or dress uniforms.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

19 perks of having a deployed husband

Shaw Air Force Base is known by those stationed there as Separates Husbands And Wives. Between the Red Flags at Nellis, the endless human centipede of exercises, and a deployment, my husband Mike was gone over half of our days during that assignment. It was there I learned what it meant to be alone even while in a marriage, but I dealt with it by finding pockets of positivity. Deployments are tough, but if you look, you can find some gold nuggets in that steaming pile of anxiety poo.

Here are some perks to having a deployed husband:


This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

(media.giphy.com)

1. Twice the closet space.

He doesn’t need to know that his pitted out Yuengling shirts are getting boxed up with collegiate football hats of schools he didn’t attend in order to make room for my legion of maxi dresses. The flannels, however, can stay.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

(Photo by Sarah Pastrana)

2. Suddenly, the toilet paper roll lasts longer.

Turns out if your partner spends as much time on the toilet as a small construction crew fed on chicken fried steaks and protein shakes, the t.p. budget shrinks when he leaves. That newfound cash can be spent on regular pedicures, or a reasonably priced used Lexus.

3. You can take up the whole bed.

I call my favorite position, Drunken Starfish.

4. Retail therapy is fine!

His income is tax-free, and now I need a new credit card because the strip on my old one is wearing out.

Photo by USFS Region 5

5. Less frequent leg shaving.

That is, until your nephew feels your shin and asks, “Why does Aunt Rachel’s leg feel like a pine tree?” Twerp.

6. No bras in the house.

The bra hits the floor before the alarm goes off. I could set a world record for how fast I can unclasp my underwire and pull it out through the bottom of my shirt.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

7. I can sleep better through the night without a 200 lb. land manatee flopping around next to me.

Not to mention the pillowcases are significantly less sweaty.

8. No sound of velcro in the morning.

SSSZZZCCCHHHTTT!!!

9. Cereal for breakfast. Cereal for lunch. Cereal for dinner. 

Honorable mention goes to chips and salsa.

10. Let me introduce you to “The D Card.”

Don’t get me wrong, I was worried every day for his safety, and wished time would speed up for him to come home, but the ultimate reward for enduring a deployment is getting to play the “D Card.” Fewer phrases pack a punch harder than these four words: My husband is deployed.

11. Priority vacation days at work.

When everybody is trying to take off for the holidays at the same time – wham! – I play the D Card and skip to the front of the line. No way am I missing Mom’s orange fluff at Christmas to decorate a tree by myself.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

12. People put you on a pedestal just for being present and fully dressed.

Trust me, it doesn’t always happen.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

13. Sometimes patriotic strangers pay for your drink.

One man tried to pick up my tab without me seeing. Little did he know I drink enough scotch to ration a ship full of sailors across the Americas, so he kindly paid for half. God bless you, citizen.

14. It shuts down unwanted attention from men.

I remember being asked, “How come your man’s not out with you tonight?” (First off– ew.) When I dropped the D Card, it abruptly came to a halt. There’s no comeback. Then I did the Hammer Dance to the tune of “U Can’t Touch This” and got myself some jalapeño poppers.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

15. You get a hall pass for mood swings.

WHICH I DON’T F*CKING HAVE!

16. You can zone out at work hassle free.

All I have to do is pull up an article about F-16s, maximize the screen and then stare out into space. My boss thinks I’m anguished about my deployed husband, when really I’m thinking about Downton Abbey, or why white queso tastes better than yellow queso. But truthfully most times I’m anguished about my deployed husband.

17. Nice people send you nice cards.

One of the best things, truly, is finding out how big your friends’ hearts are. People send you cards and care packages, and a few more ambitious friends fly out to visit. I was touched to find out I had a group of friends who started a secret thread to coordinate when they could visit me so it was spread out over the deployment.

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

And so…

Is it indecent to use his time in combat to make my pain a little less difficult? I don’t think so. Deployments are dark times. It’s something those of us have earned through tears and sleepless nights when something goes bump outside the bedroom window. I remember driving over to my friend’s house one night because her neighbor wouldn’t stop being a creep, knowing her husband was away. We stayed up on her back patio with shotguns across our laps until we ended up making margaritas and playing Yahtzee until 3 in the morning.

If you’re the one left behind, it can feel like half of your puzzle is missing its pieces. For me, a gold-medal overthinker, I questioned who I was as my own person and why I couldn’t seem to handle life, which made me feel even worse about myself. I refused to feel helpless, but there it was. We had built a life for two, and I was forced to fly it solo. So no, I do not feel bad about playing the D Card.

But the biggest high of having a deployed husband is when you lock eyes across the hangar at 2 a.m. after seven months. Your heart pounds as you watch that tan flight suit cut through the crowd of hundreds, and you finally get your kiss, bristly though it may be.

Damn deployment ‘stache.

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