A military K-9 injured in a bomb explosion in Afghanistan along with his military police officer partner now has a lot of support after a photo of the dog wearing a Purple Heart Medal in a hospital in Germany has gone viral, the Killeen Daily Herald reports.
Spc. Andrew Brown, 22, and his military dog, Rocky, were searching a structure for explosive materials in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province Dec. 3 when the bomb exploded, the Texas newspaper reported Friday.
“They were working with Special Operations Forces in an effort to identify explosive materials,” Army spokesman Sgt. Michal Garrett told the paper.
Brown and Rocky survived the blast and were taken to a military hospital in Germany. There, a photo was taken of Rocky wearing the Purple Heart and posted on the Facebook page of Fort Hood’s 89th Military Police Brigade. Brown is assigned to the brigade.
The photo had more than 89,000 likes, 118,000 shares and more than 9,500 comments as of Sunday morning.
“The Army typically does not process awards for our working dogs the same way we do for our other soldiers,” Garrett told the Daily Herald. “The Purple Heart in the photo was placed on Rocky as a sign of respect and solidarity between him and Brown during their recovery.”
Two days ago the brigade posted another photo of Brown and Rocky in a hospital room on Facebook that said, “They are both very thankful for your thoughts and prayers and are in the process of heading back home.
The post said Brown had arrived earlier Friday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Hospital in Washington where he was met by his waiting family.
The Daily Herald reported that Brown, of Eliot, Maine, suffered non-life threatening injuries and will undergo a series of tests for traumatic brain injury. The tests are routine for soldiers injured by roadside bombs.
Rocky is expected to return to Fort Hood in the coming weeks. The canine suffered shrapnel wounds and a broken leg.
The US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand want to use economic initiatives and other elements of soft power to counter growing Chinese influence in Asia and Oceania, according to an Asia Times report.
Leaders from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada — which, along with the US, make up the Five Eyes defense partnership — have reportedly agreed to expand aid, trade, and diplomatic relationships in the region in response to Beijing’s inroads there, which includes aid and investment in infrastructure projects.
China’s growing economic relationships — many of which come as part of its expansive One Belt One Road initiative — are a source of concern for Western countries and others in the Asia-Pacific region.
India, for example, has expressed concern with Chinese partnerships with countries like Pakistan, the Maldives, the Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.
China has lavished aid on the town of Gwadar, Pakistan, the site of a commercial deep-water port that the US and India worry could one day host Chinese naval ships. Early 2018 tensions between New Delhi and Beijing briefly rose over the Maldives, where the pro-China government’s declaration of emergency spurred calls from the opposition for Indian intervention.
Sri Lanka has taken on huge debts to China but is struggling to pay them back. The government’s decision to lease the port of Hambantota and land around it to Beijing in December 2017, raised ire in India, which fears it could be used by China to establish a military presence in the Indian Ocean. In what may have been a counter to China’s Hambantota lease, India signed a 40-year lease for a virtually unused airport nearby.
Similar dynamics have played out in the Pacific. While many of the countries there are tiny and sparsely populated, their vast exclusive economic zones cover much of the Pacific.
After a 2006 coup in Fiji, which prompted sanctions from Australia and New Zealand, Beijing became a key source of aid for Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. China also funded a fish-canning facility in Papua New Guinea, Australia’s closest neighbor in the region, on the condition Chinese companies did the construction. A Chinese firm also got permission and concessions to set up a fish farm in French Polynesia, after Beijing gave aid and subsidies to the government there. (Chinese fishing vessels trawling the region are also suspected of gathering intelligence.)
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric J. Chandler)
While China has made investments in Vanuatu, Australian media said there had been no formal agreements, and both governments denied such talks had taken place. (Other observers suggested Vanuatu and others in the region may be trying to play the West and China off each other.)
At present, China has only one military base abroad, located in Djibouti. While Beijing refers to it as a “logistics facility,” it is still cause for concern. A senior US military official said it posed “very significant operational security concerns.”
The Vanuatu report, and others like it, fuel concerns China is trying to leverage financial ties for more advantageous positions in the region.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Armando Gonzales)
Between 2006 and mid-2016, Beijing committed more than $1.7 billion in aid to projects in the Pacific.
That is less than the $9 billion committed by Western countries, led by Australia, over the same period, but aid from Beijing often comes without the transparency and accountability stipulations that accompany Western aid.
The Five Eyes countries’ efforts to counter China in the Pacific will include military surveillance and intelligence gathering operations, according to Asia Times. But it will include soft-power elements, like British Crown Prince Charles’ visit to Vanuatu in early April 2018. UK officials have also said their government would ramp up aid, trade, and diplomatic relations with countries in the region.
Japan has increased efforts counter China’s financial outreach by increasing its own international partnerships and investments — including in both Sri Lanka and Vanuatu. Australia and New Zealand have both expressed interest in doing the same, but, according to Asia Times, their decisions to reduce aid commitments may hinder efforts to curry favor with their neighbors.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Lewis was killed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He died on the USS Oklahoma with 427 of his shipmates.
“It made life hard,” said his brother, Carl Wagoner. “To think about it.”
Seaman Wagoner’s remains could not be identified and were placed in mass graves with 393 other sailors. Generations of the Wagoner family have made the trip to Hawaii to see the memorial to those unidentified sailors and the names included on it.
“I was glad to see there was something,” said Lee Longaker, Lewis Wagoner’s niece. “But it was still empty as far as who’s really there.”
After decades, the POW/MIA Accounting Agency exhumed the sailors from the Oklahoma and used new techniques to identify their remains. Luckily, Carl Wagoner was still alive to see his brother’s remains repatriated to their home in Haysville, Kansas in October 2016.
AARP studios brings the story of Lewis Wagoner’s remains and his family’s efforts to bring him home in the video below.
“To have him come home actually, to be close to all of us, means a whole lot to them and to me,” says Mark Wagoner, Lewis Wagoner’s nephew. “Now I can show my children and tell my children what and who he was.”
The United States has substantial air, land, and sea forces stationed in South Korea
As well as several units based in Japan and the western Pacific earmarked for a Korean contingency. Together, these forces far exceed the firepower of North Korea’s armed forces and represent a powerful deterrent not just against Pyongyang but any potential adversary in the region.
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)
The first U.S. forces that would be involved in a North-South Korean conflict are those currently based in South Korea. On the ground, the U.S. Army rotates a new armored brigade into South Korea every nine months — currently the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. Each brigade is manned by 3,500 soldiers and consists of three combined arms battalions, one cavalry (reconnaissance) battalion, one artillery battalion, one engineer and one brigade support battalion. Armored brigade combat teams typically consist of approximately 100 M1A2 Abrams tanks, 100 M2A3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and eighteen M109-series self-propelled howitzers.
The army in South Korea also maintains the 2nd Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade, equipped with approximately sixty Apache attack helicopters, Blackhawk, and Chinook transports. The 210th Artillery Brigade, equipped with M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems provides long-range artillery fire, while the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade provide Patriot missile coverage of Osan and Suwon Air Force Bases. The 35th Brigade also operates the AN/TPY-2 missile defense radar and six Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) launch vehicles recently sent to the country to beef up anti-missile defenses.
The other major component of American power in Korea is U.S. tactical aviation. The U.S. Air Force maintains the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base, consisting of the 25th Fighter Squadron at equipped with A-10C Thunderbolt II ground attack jets and the 36th Fighter Squadron with F-16C/D Fighting Falcon fighters (about forty-eight aircraft in all). The 8th (“Wolfpack”) Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base consists of the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons, which fly a total of forty-five F-16C/Ds. The A-10Cs have the mission of close air support, while the F-16C/Ds are responsible for air interdiction, close air support, and counter-air.
Beyond the Korean Peninsula, the United States maintains an array of forces ready to intervene. U.S. military forces in Japan include the forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, two guided missile cruisers and seven guided missile destroyers. Many of the cruisers and destroyers have ballistic missile defense capability although two of the destroyers, Fitzgerald and McCain, are out of action due to collisions with civilian merchantmen. The Reagan and surface warships are all based at Yokosuka, Japan.
Further south, Sasebo, Japan is the home of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and the ships of its amphibious task force. Together, this amphibious force can lift a marine infantry battalion reinforced with armor, artillery and aviation assets collectively known as Marine Expeditionary Unit. Sasebo is also the home of the 7th Fleet’s four minesweepers. The result is a well-balanced force that can execute a wide variety of missions, from ballistic missile defense to an amphibious assault.
Farther north in Japan, the U.S. Air Force’s 35th Fighter Wing is located at Misawa, Japan. The 35th Wing specializes in suppressing enemy air defenses (SEAD) and is trained to destroy enemy radars, missile systems, and guns to allow other friendly aircraft a freer hand in flying over the battlefield. The wing flies approximately forty-eight F-16C/Ds split among the 13th and 14th Fight Squadrons. Near Tokyo, the USAF’s 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base flies C-130 Hercules, C-130J Super Hercules, UH-1N Huey and C-12J Huron aircraft.
Marine Corps units are spread out across Japan, with Marine fixed-wing aviation, including a squadron of F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, tankers, and logistics aircraft stationed at MCAS Iwakuni, the only Marine Corps air station on mainland Japan. Three squadrons of Marine helicopter units are stationed at MCAS Futenma on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Marine ground forces include the 4th Marines, a marine infantry regiment with three battalions, and the 12th Marines, an artillery regiment with two battalions of artillery.
Also on Okinawa is the sprawling Kadena Air Base, home of the 44th and 67th fighter squadrons, both of which fly the F-15C/D Eagle fighter. Kadena is also home to a squadron of K-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft, a squadron of E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft, and two rescue squadrons. Farther from a potential Korean battlefield (but still in missile range) Kadena would act as a regional support hub for American airpower, with AWACS aircraft monitoring the skies and controlling aircraft missions while tankers refueled bombers, transports, and aircraft on long-range missions.
The next major American outpost in the Pacific, Guam, is home to Submarine Squadron 15, four forward-deployed nuclear attack submarines supported by the permanently moored submarine tender USS Frank Cable. Naval special warfare units are also based on the island. An army THAAD unit was deployed to the island in 2013 to protect against North Korean intermediate range ballistic missiles.
Guam is also home to Andersen Air Force Base. Andersen typically hosts a variety of heavy aircraft, including B-1B Lancer strategic bombers from Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence Mission, KC-135 tankers and RQ-4 Global Hawk drones. Andersen served as a jumping off point for bomber raids against North Vietnam and today would see a surge of B-1B, B-2A and B-52H bombers from the continental United States in the event of a flare-up in Korea.
U.S. forces in the northwest Pacific are considerable, amounting to two ground combat brigades, approximately seven wings of fighters and attack aircraft, a handful of strategic bombers, an aircraft carrier, submarines, hundreds of cruise missiles and an amphibious assault task force. That already formidable force can be swiftly augmented by even more combat forces from Hawaii, Alaska, and the continental United States, including F-22A Raptors, airborne troops, and more aircraft carriers, submarines, and bombers. It is a robust, formidable, adaptable force capable of taking on a variety of tasks, from disaster relief to war.
American soldiers moving north during the liberation of the Philippines in 1944-1945 faced a real problem. Their men stranded on the islands at the outbreak of the war had been subjected to years of mistreatment, malnourishment, and disease. They needed to be liberated as soon as possible.
So the American forces wanted to rescue the prisoners as quickly as possible but couldn’t advance too quickly or the prisoners would be killed.
North of the advancing American soldiers was a camp near Cabanatuan, Philippines, where 512 American, Canadian, and British troops were held. Lt. Col. Henry Mucci, commander of the Sixth Ranger Battalion, moved with his Rangers and Alamo Scouts to work with Filipino guerillas to raid the camp and rescue the prisoners before the Japanese forces could repeat the Palawan Massacre.
The Americans slipped behind enemy lines on Jan. 28, 1945. The Alamo scouts split off and moved north of the camp to begin reconnaissance. Capt. Robert Prince, one of the Rangers, moved to a Filipino guerilla camp to meet Capt. Juan Pajota, a commander of local forces resisting the Japanese.
Lt. Col. Henry Mucci and Capt. Robert Prince discuss the raid plans. Photo: US Army Signal Corps
They devised a bold strategy where the 121 Rangers would assault the camp while the 275 guerillas would hold off a large Japanese force camped within earshot of the prison camp. They scheduled the attack for the evening of Jan. 29, only 24 hours after they had slipped behind enemy lines and begun reconnaissance.
Due to increased Japanese activity in the area, the assault was delayed another day. Late on Jan. 30, the Rangers and the guerillas began their assault.
The guerillas slipped up to blocking positions near the camp. Seventy-five of them set up a position to watch for forces that might come from nearby Cabanatuan while the other 200 others planted themselves firmly between the main Japanese encampment and the prison camp.
Meanwhile, the Rangers began a slow crawl across the open ground around the prison. To prevent them from being spotted, Pajota had suggested a plane fake distress near the camp.
A Navy P-61 flew over the camp and began shutting off and restarting one of his engines, causing it to backfire. Then, still simulating engine distress, he allowed the plane to lose altitude and dropped behind a nearby ridge. The Japanese focused on the plane while the attackers moved in.
The assault was scheduled for 7:30, but the main force of Rangers were surprised when the attack didn’t begin. The Rangers of Fox Company were ten minutes late in reaching their position.
At 7:40, the attack began. Fox company assaulted the camp from the rear while the main force, Charlie Company, slipped up to the front. Bazooka teams quickly eliminated enemy machine gun nests. One platoon of Charlie company began searching out guards and killing them while the other immediately began evacuating prisoners.
Within five minutes, Pajota and his guerillas began taking fire from suicidal Japanese forces. But they held the Japanese back, allowing the evacuation to continue.
Soon after 8 p.m., Prince searched through all the buildings to ensure all the prisoners had made it out. He then fired a flare to signal the all clear at 8:15, barely 35 minutes after the assault began. The prisoners and the Rangers began moving along their escape route to American lines. The scouts and the guerillas stayed behind to block Japanese forces.
After watching this compilation of crooks-meet-vets, it’s easy to see why veterans are the last people you want to mess with.
Here’s our list of awesome veterans that were caught on camera making short work of criminals:
Kendrick Taylor (Navy Veteran) vs. Purse Snatcher
Taylor was on his way to the gym in Orange County, Florida when he saw a man attacking an elderly woman and trying to steal her purse. Without thinking twice, Taylor sprung into action. The purse snatcher tried to get away, but Taylor was just too fast and too big.
Zach Thome (Army Veteran Amateur MMA Fighter) vs. Party Store Robber
Thome stopped an armed robber by applying a rear naked choke hold. “It’s kind of my hometown,” Thome said. “I live right next to the place, you know, I’m in there every day. I think if it was the other way around, if I worked there and the guy at the register was there, he would have done the same thing.”
David (Homeless Veteran) vs. Assailant
Two homeless men – who wished to remain anonymous – helped a stranger from a vicious robbery in Cincinnati, Ohio. David, who’s a veteran, said, “He was trying to rob him. The guy started screaming for help at that time. It’s my natural instinct to help somebody.”
Arthur Lewis (Army Veteran) vs. Jewelry Thief
Lewis proves that you’re never too old to win a gunfight. The 89-year-old World War II veteran foiled an armed robbery attempt of his jewelry shop that left the suspect with a gunshot wound and no loot, according to an interview by local news station WPTV.
John Alexander (Army Veteran) vs. Armed Robber
Alexander was unusually calm and collected when a thief tried to rob his store at gunpoint. His military experience clicked into place, and he drew his own gun. The thief quickly realized he was messing with the wrong guy.
Andrew Myers (Army Veteran) vs. Home Invader
Meyers can lay down a beating when the moment calls for it. Case in point comes from the awesome footage captured by his home security camera; the robber didn’t have a chance. A believer of service dogs to help troops overcome PTSD, Mr. Wronghouse is using his beat down video to help raise funds for Paws And Stripes. Visit mrwronghous.com to see how you can help.
Eddie Peoples (Army Veteran) vs. Bank Robber
Peoples stopped at a Bank of America on his way to a fishing trip with his kids when a gunman walked in demanding cash from the tellers. The robber nervously eyed the thick-necked Peoples and pointed his pistol at him, warning the “big black guy” not to be a hero, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. Peoples played it cool until the gunman threatened his son.
Pearl Harbor survivor Lauren Bruner was laid to rest aboard the sunken remains of the USS Arizona with the help of two Army divers in diving gear from the period.
Army 7th Dive Detachment Divers SSG Fred Bible and SPC Julio Melendez wore lead boots and a drysuit — weighing a total of 220 pounds — and the last two Mark 5 vintage hard hats certified for operational use on the dive.
Bruner, who died on Sept. 10, 2019, at 98 years old, was interred on the wreck of the Arizona on December 7, the 78th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
(Library of Congress)
After Bruner’s death, only three Arizona crew members are still alive today.
According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Bruner survived the attack on the Arizona by going hand over hand across a rope stretched 70 feet above the harbor. Forty-four other survivors have had their remains interred on the ship, alongside their more than 900 shipmates who went down with the ship during the attack.
Bruner will be the last survivor to be interred on the wreckage, the Star-Advertiser reports; he was the second-to-last man to escape the flaming ship, according to CNN.
Attendees salute Bruner’s ashes.
(Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Holly L. Herline/US Navy)
SSG Fred Bible and SPC Julio Melendez wore vintage diving suits to place Bruner’s ashes in the well of barbette number four.
Bruner suffered burns on 80% of his body, but went back into service after he healed. He served aboard the USS Coghlan in eight other battles against Japan’s forces, CNN reports.
US Army 7th Dive Detachment Divers SSG Fred Bible and SPC Julio Melendez interred the remains of Pearl Harbor Survivor Lauren Bruner amongst the remains of his fellow crewman on board the sunken USS Arizona.
(Screengrab/Sgt. Laura Martin/US Army/DVIDS)
The diving suits are similar to what salvage divers would have worn on salvage missions into Pearl Harbor.
The Mark 5 helmet and dive suit was used from 1916 until the 1980s, according to the US Naval Undersea Museum.
“In retrospect, it’s very historical and super-cool, but it’s kind of uncomfortable,” Melendez told the Star-Advertiser. “It’s super heavy and it’s kind of amazing to think that it took so long to kind of upgrade it.”
US Army 7th Dive Detachment Divers SSG Fred Bible and SPC Julio Melendez interred the remains of Pearl Harbor Survivor Lauren Bruner aboard the USS Arizona.
(Screengrab/Sgt. Laura Martin/US Army/DVIDS)
Underwater, Melendez and Bible walked about 200 feet along the wreckage of the Arizona before they brought Bruner’s remains to their final resting place.
While the Navy has performed this kind of ceremony before for other Pearl Harbor survivors, the divers have always worn modern diving kits.
“I think it was a really fitting tribute and I think it’s an interesting way to kind of close out the last of the interments — to have it done not only with the ceremony that we normally do, but to have historic hardhats like it would have been during the salvage in World War II,” Brett Seymour, the deputy chief of the National Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center, told the Star-Advertiser.
(Screengrab/Sgt. Laura Martin/US Army/ DVIDS)
“We’ve never done an interment with hardhats for sure,” Seymour told the Star-Advertiser.
“It was historical. I was left speechless, honestly,” Melendez told the Star-Advertiser. “It was a very in-the-moment experience. Just kind of taking it all in and realizing what we were doing and the history that’s being made and remembering Lauren Bruner and everything that he had done.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sometimes in life, the guy with the drunken, so-crazy-it-just-might-work ideas hits one out of the park and saves the day. This is clearly what happened in 1942 aboard the HNLMS Abraham Crijnssen, the last Dutch warship standing after the Battle of the Java Sea.
Originally planning to escape to Australia with three other warships, the then-stranded minesweeper had to make the voyage alone and unprotected. The slow-moving vessel could only get up to about 15 knots and had very few guns, boasting only a single 3-inch gun and two Oerlikon 20 mm canons — making it a sitting duck for the Japanese bombers that circled above.
Knowing their only chance of survival was to make it to the Allies Down Under, the Crijnssen‘s 45 crew members frantically brainstormed ways to make the retreat undetected. The winning idea? Turn the ship into an island.
You can almost hear crazy-idea guy anticipating his shipmates’ reluctance: “Now guys, just hear me out…” But lucky for him, the Abraham Crijnessen was strapped for time, resources and alternative means of escape, automatically making the island idea the best idea. Now it was time to put the plan into action.
The crew went ashore to nearby islands and cut down as many trees as they could lug back onto the deck. Then the timber was arranged to look like a jungle canopy, covering as much square footage as possible. Any leftover parts of the ship were painted to look like rocks and cliff faces — these guys weren’t messing around.
Now, a camoflauged ship in deep trouble is better than a completely exposed ship. But there was still the problem of the Japanese noticing a mysterious moving island and wondering what would happen if they shot at it. Because of this, the crew figured the best means of convincing the Axis powers that they were an island was to truly be an island: by not moving at all during daylight hours.
While the sun was up they would anchor the ship near other islands, then cover as much ocean as they could once night fell — praying the Japanese wouldn’t notice a disappearing and reappearing island amongst the nearly 18,000 existing islands in Indonesia. And, as luck would have it, they didn’t.
The Crijnssen managed to go undetected by Japanese planes and avoid the destroyer that sank the other Dutch warships, surviving the eight-day journey to Australia and reuniting with Allied forces.
Jake Larson, a World War II veteran, will be returning to Normandy, France June 2019 after 75 years. Jake is the last surviving member of a unit that stormed Omaha Beach. Many men died during World War II, and Jake often questioned why he had survived.
Jake, 96, told the New York Times, “I never thought I’d be alive 75 years later. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”
He currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and had only returned to France in his mind. His humble salary at a printing business never afforded such a luxury.
However, with the help of two women and an online fund-raising campaign, Jake can now return to France for the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
“I can’t believe people would donate to me — they don’t even know me,” Jake stated.
Jake is planning to write a memoir and calls his trip to France the final chapter.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Have you ever sat around wondering how Spongebob learned to tie a Windsor knot, how Squidward acquired his affinity for the arts, or how Plankton became perceptive enough to develop a Napoleon complex? Well, here’s a theory that should simultaneously quell your curiosity while fulfilling the core function of the internet: robbing you of your childhood innocence.
Basically, this unique aquatic society was the result of U.S. nuclear testing in the South Pacific Ocean, and that all of your childhood pals, from Mr. Krabs to Mrs. Puff, are radioactively mutated fish.
History seems to support this claim. The nuclear testing site that the theory refers to is BikiniAtoll, a group of islands in Micronesia. After World War II, the U.S. military detonated 23 nuclear devices on the islands as it geared up for an arms race with the Soviet Union. Remember that island that appears at the beginning of every SpongeBob episode? Well, that’s what remains of Bikini Atoll. The creators of the show left other clues to this radioactive origin story, such as Squidward’s Easter Island head residence (a hint of the town’s South Pacific locale), the popular Bikini Bottom magazine Toxic Waste Monthly, and the mushroom cloud that seems to rise from every explosion in the show.
So, it seems likely that the bombing of Bikini Atoll created Bikini Bottom, a nightmarish seascape where a sponge is economically extorted by a crab, who somehow fathered a sperm whale. But maybe it was all for the best. Bikini Bottom seems like a pleasant enough city, and the residents certainly have less mundane lives than your average fish or sponge. All’s well that ends well, right?
Maybe not. Because before U.S. nukes created one of America’s most beloved children’s shows, there were real, non-animated people living on Bikini Atoll: 167 to be exact. Bikini Atoll is part of the Marshall Islands, which has its own distinctive language, culture, and society. Leading a subsistence based lifestyle, Bikinians were a subset of this society.
In 1946 the people of Bikini Atoll were compelled to “temporarily relocate” by the United States, who wanted to begin nuclear testing on the islands. They were told they had to leave “for the good of mankind” and were subsequently sent to Rongerik Atoll, an uninhabited group of islands one-sixth the size of Bikini that lacked adequate sources of food and water. The U.S. navy dropped them on the shore with several weeks of food supplies and left. Soon, the Bikinians had a serious malnutrition problem, with most living on the brink of starvation. Within two months of relocation, they were begging the U.S. to allow them to return to Bikini, not knowing about the nuclear devastation being brought down upon their home. Their calls were ignored, and they were left on the island for two years. “We were dying, but they didn’t listen to us,” commented one of the inhabitants of Rongerik.
Eventually, the government began the process of moving the Bikinians to Ujelang Atoll. A handful Bikinians were sent to Ujelang to begin construction of their new society. But two months later, the plans fell through. The U.S. had chosen a second location for nuclear testing, Enewetak Atoll, and decided that the Enewetak people, instead of the Bikinians, would be relocated to Ujelang.
In 1948, The Bikini natives were finally liberated from Rongerik and sent to Kwajalein Atoll, where they lived in tents next to a concrete military airstrip. Six months later they were relocated once again to Kili Island, a .36-square-mile island where most Bikinians still live today. The island greatly differed from the Atolls they were accustomed to, making their traditional methods of fishing and food cultivation far less effective. Starvation once again became a daily concern and the Bikinians had to rely on USDA rice and canned goods to survive. The island was also prone to flooding, making them vulnerable to hurricanes and typhoons. They soon began referring to Kili as “Prison Island.”
Meanwhile, nuclear tests continued on Bikini Atoll, culminating in the 1954 “Castle Bravo” test, which detonated a nuclear weapon 1,000-times more powerful than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The blast was larger than the U.S. government expected and the resulting radioactive fallout spread throughout the Marshall Islands, blanketing inhabited islands and contaminating their residents. The subsequent health effects still plague Marshall Islanders today.
Decades passed, and in 1969, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that the now 540 Bikinians would be able to resettle their home islands. The Atomic Energy Commission issued a statement saying “There’s virtually no radiation left and we can find no discernible effect on either plant or animal life.” Feeling confident in these assurances, Bikinians began to resettle in 1972. But in 1978, tests by U.S. physicians revealed that the radiation levels in the 139 people on Bikini Atoll were well above the permissible level. They were evacuated.
Today, the native inhabitants of Bikini Atoll continue to seek compensation from the U.S. government for the devastation of their home. Many demand that the U.S. clean up the mess they made in Bikini so they might return home. Some have more modest claims, like Simon Jamore, who wants access to better healthcare for four of his family members who have developed cancer. The islands remain almost entirely uninhabited, excluding the marine citizens of Bikini Bottom. For now, the only thing fit to live in Bikini Atoll is a radioactive fry-cook sponge.
Former Marine officer Elliot Ackerman is now an accomplished author living in Istanbul, but prior to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he considered himself a “fortunate son” of privilege who chose to serve while many of his peers did not.
“The best and the brightest didn’t show up for Vietnam. And I understand. I get that it was an unpopular war,” he told photographer Brandon Stanton for his popular Humans of New York project. “But they chose to not show up and there was a consequence for that. There were leadership failures. Standards were lowered and people were killed because of bad decisions.”
He graduated from Tufts University in 2003 and decided to join the Marine Corps as an infantry officer. He was assigned as a platoon commander in 1st Battalion, 8th Marines.
“I was a fortunate son of this country,” Ackerman told Stanton. “I went to a private school. I graduated from a great college. A lot of the guys who served under me didn’t have those advantages. They relied on me to make tough decisions in dangerous situations. And I’m glad I was there to make those decisions.”
One of those tough decisions came in Nov. 2004, during the bloody second Battle of Fallujah during the Iraq War. He and his platoon of 45 men moved across a highway in the middle of the night on Nov. 10 to establish a fighting position in what they called “the candy store.”
It was only about 150 meters away from the rest of his company.
“The guys were excited at first because the place was filled with chips and soda,” he said. “And we were starving and thirsty. But all hell broke loose when the sun came up.”
At dawn, the insurgents had figured out where they were and surrounded them, while opening fire on the platoon with everything they had. The Marines were getting razed by AK-47 and RPG fire from all sides, with every exit blocked.
“You couldn’t even poke your head out,” he said. “We were pinned down all day. And suddenly my company commander is on the radio saying that we’ve got to advance. And I’m shouting into the radio over the gunfire that we’re probably going to die if we leave the store. I’m shouting so loud and for so long that I lost my voice for four days. But he’s saying that we have no choice.”
He repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire while trying to pull wounded Marines to safety, and coordinated four separate medical evacuations, despite being wounded by shrapnel himself.
In order to get out, he ordered his men to set up explosives on a back wall. Once it blew, he and his men — with nearly half the platoon having been wounded — were able to escape, alive.
“Twenty-five guys were wounded, but everyone survived,” he said. “A lot of that was luck. And a lot of that was our platoon and how good those guys were. But I also feel that my decisions mattered that day. And if I had decided not to serve, and stayed home, it could’ve ended much worse. So no, I don’t have any regrets about going to Iraq.”
Humans of New York is featuring a number of stories from veterans on its page, in partnership with non-profit The Headstrong Project (Full disclosure: The author is a friend of the executive director).
The Navy also posted promising reviews of the drone’s performance in land-based tests at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, California. The Fire Scout C-model demonstrated a range of over 150 nautical miles and the ability to remain in flight for approximately 12 hours.
“The C model will greatly impact how we monitor, understand and control the sea and air space around small surface combatants,” Navy Capt. Jeffrey Dodge, the program manager for Fire Scout, said in a 2015 press release.
The MQ-8B, the predecessor model to the MQ-8C, has flown over 16,000 hours and has participated in flights with manned helicopters at sea without serious incident.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II (often called the “Warthog” for its aggressive look and the teeth often painted on its nose cone) is beloved by the troops who need its close-air support and by its pilots — who hear the calls for that support from the controllers on the ground.
“We have this close, personal connection with the guy on the ground,” one pilot said in a recent video touting the A-10’s capabilities. “We hear him getting scared. We hear him getting excited. We hear the bullets flying … it becomes a very personal mission. It hits very close to home.”
Speaking of hitting close to home, ISIS forces met the A-10 for the first time in 2015. In an area near Mosul, the A-10 caused ISIS fighters to break and run as four USAF Warthogs wreaked havoc on their forces there.
“The aircraft sparked panic in the ranks of ISIS after bombing its elements and flying in spaces close to the ground,” Iraqi News quoted an Iraqi Army source as saying. “Elements of the terrorist organization targeted the aircraft with 4 Strela missiles but that did not cause it any damage, prompting the remaining elements of the organization to leave the bodies of their dead and carry the wounded to escape.”
The A-10 also gets love from its pilots. The plane flies close to the ground but is protected by a titanium “bathtub” shell which surrounds the cockpit and allows the pilot to get low and hit the opposing forces with its seven-barreled, 3,900 rounds per minute, depleted uranium ammunition. Its designers made it to be the most survivable aircraft ever built. It also features three sets of backup controls and a foam-lined fuel tank. Ground fire is not going to get this bird easily.
“The [A-10’s GAU-8 30mm] gun really does scare people and that’s nice to know,” Air National Guard Col. Michael Stohler, an A-10 pilot currently flying sorties (air missions) against ISIS forces, told Military.com. “I can tell you we know there’s a real threat there,” he says. “A lot of people have handguns and things to shoot at aircraft.”
The “Warthog” is as popular with senior Air Force leadership as it is with ISIS. In a fight which already cost one major general his job, the Air Force brass are looking to send its battle-hardened, reliable A-10 fleet to the boneyards in order to save $4 billion, probably so they can put that money toward the new, overly expensive and accident-prone F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
In January, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James claimed the A-10 had only flown 11 percent of the 16,000 sorties (manned air missions) against ISIS. Which would be significant if the Warthog arrived in theatre at the same time as other combat platforms. F-16s, F-15Es. B-1 bombers, and the F-22 Raptor all started missions against ISIS in August 2014. The A-10 didn’t arrive until November 2014.
The evidence shows the A-10 works and it’s cheap. As early as 2012, the Air Force’s cost to operate per hour for the A-10 was $17,716. There was no data available for the F-35, but the F-22’s cost per hour $68,362. So while the Air Force actively tries to kill the program, they’re still deploying more A-10s to the theater because Congress won’t let the USAF kill the ground troops’ favorite plane until they come up with a real, viable close air support replacement.