Before seven of the Navy’s carrier-variant F-35 Joint Strike Fighters embarked aboard the carrier USS George Washington for a third and final round of developmental testing, they completed a required ashore training period, practicing landings at Choctaw Naval Outlying Field near Pensacola, Florida.
The landings went well — maybe a little too well.
“They were landing in the same spot on the runway every time, tearing up where the hook touches down,” Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, head of Naval Air Forces, told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. “So we quickly realized, we needed to either fix the runway or adjust, put some variants in the system. So that’s how precise this new system is.”
The new system in question is called Delta Flight Path, a built-in F-35C technology that controls glide slope and minimizes the number of variables pilots must monitor as they complete arrested carrier landings. A parallel system known as MAGIC CARPET, short for Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies, is being developed for use with the Navy’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers. Together, these systems may allow carriers to operate with fewer tankers, leaving more room for other aircraft, Shoemaker said.
Military.com reported on the implications of this new landing technology from the carrier George Washington earlier this week, as the first operational pilot-instructors with Strike Fighter Squadron 101, out of Oceana, Virginia, began daytime carrier qualifications on the aircraft. On Thursday, Shoemaker had an update on the ongoing carrier tests.
Of about 100 F-35C arrested landings were completed on the carrier, he said, 80 percent engaged the No. 3 wire, meaning the aircraft had touched down at the ideal spot. As of Monday, there had been zero so-called bolters, when the aircraft misses an arresting wire and must circle the carrier for another attempt.
“I think that’s going to give us the ability to look at the way we work up and expand the number of sorties. I think it will change the way we operate around the ship … in terms of the number of tankers you have to have up, daytime and nighttime,” he said. “I think that will give us a lot of flexibility in the air wing in the way we use those strike fighters.”
Tankers, or in-air refueling aircraft, must be ready when aircraft make arrested landings in case they run low on fuel during landing attempts. Fewer bolters, therefore, means a reduced tanker requirement.
“Right now, we configure maybe six to eight tankers aboard the ship,” Shoemaker said. “I don’t think we need … that many. That will give us flexibility on our strike fighter numbers, increase the Growler numbers, which I know we’re going to do, and probably E-2D [Advanced Hawkeye carrier-launched radar aircraft] as well.”
The F-35C’s last developmental testing phase is set to wrap up Aug. 23. MAGIC CARPET is expected to be introduced to the fleet in 2019, officials have said.
The Russian Ministry of Defense released a statement on Sept. 4 saying that its new Koalitsiya-SV howitzer, which Moscow claims shoots farther than any western gun, will be ready for service by 2020.
While Russia is well known for making outlandish claims about its military hardware, the new 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV, by all accounts, may live up to the hype.
First unveiled in 2015, the Koalitsiya-SV, also known as “Coalition-SV,” is a 152mm self-propelled gun that can reportedly fire up to 15-20 rounds a minute, according to The National Interest.
This range of automation is far superior to western guns, like the US M109 Paladin, which fires 6 rounds a minute.
The Coalition-SVs high level of automation also allows it to be operated by a two or three-man crew, while the Paladin requires six.
The Koalitsiya-SV can reportedly fire rounds up to 43 miles, much farther than the Paladin at 18 miles and Great Britain’s AS90 Braveheart at 24 miles.
It’s also capable of firing a variety of rounds, like standard and rocket-assisted, high-explosive, fragmentation projectiles, cluster projectiles, and jammer projectiles, according to military-today.com. These projectiles, however, unlike Russia’s new long-range precision-guided shell, have firing ranges of less than 43 miles.
Given Moscow’s budgetary problems, we’ll have to wait and see if the Coalition-SV is mass produced.
In any event, the “introduction of … the Koalitsiya-SV [is] a significant boost to the Russian Ground Forces’ artillery forces,” Dave Majumdar wrote in The National Interest in June.
The global death toll from the coronavirus is more than 87,000 with over 1.4 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has told cabinet ministers and regional heads to prepare to battle the coronavirus as he outlined steps being taken to counter the outbreak.
“Right now we need to get ready to fight for the life of each individual in every region,” Putin said during a video conference from his residence outside Moscow on April 8 during which he outlined measures being implemented to counter the growing outbreak in the country.
Russia has more than 8,670 officially confirmed coronavirus infections and at least 63 fatalities.
However, critics have cast doubt over the veracity of the figures, saying the actual toll could be much higher.
Among the steps publicized by Putin during his address was extra pay for medical personnel and the freeing up of 10 billion rubles (3 million) from the federal budget to be disbursed among the country’s more than 80 administrative regions.
In addition, he said that medical personnel who are in direct contact with coronavirus patients would be in line for an additional bonus.
Addressing the economy, Putin said that there was “practically no such thing as a total shutdown of business,” despite the obstacles and restrictions being faced.
“We must realize what kind of damage and destructive consequences this can bring about,” he said.
Putin also told the nation that he realized it is difficult to “remain inside four walls all the time.”
“But there is no choice,” he said. “One has to make it through self-isolation,” he told chiefs of Russia’s regions, which are mostly under strict lockdown.
Iranian President Hassan Rohani has urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide Tehran a multibillion-dollar emergency loan it had requested to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
The epidemic has further damaged Iran’s economy, already battered by U.S. sanctions that were reimposed after Washington in 2018 withdrew from a landmark deal between Tehran and world powers to curb the country’s nuclear program.
Tehran, as well as several countries, the United Nations, some U.S. lawmakers, and human rights groups have urged the United States to ease the sanctions to help Iran respond more effectively to the virus.
The outbreak has officially infected more than 62,500 people and killed over 3,800 in the country. Iranian officials have been criticized for their slow initial response to the pandemic, and experts have been skeptical about the veracity of official figures released by the authorities, who keep a tight lid on the media.
“We are a member of the IMF…. There should be no discrimination in giving loans,” Rohani said in a televised cabinet meeting on April 8.
“If they do not act on their duties in this difficult situation, the world will judge them in a different way,” he added.
Last month, the Central Bank of Iran asked the IMF for billion from its Rapid Financing Initiative to help to fight the pandemic in one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.
An IMF official was quoted as saying the Washington-based lender was in dialogue with Iranian officials over the request.
Iran has not received assistance from the IMF since a “standby credit” issued between 1960 and 1962, according to the fund’s data.
U.S. President Donald Trump has offered some humanitarian assistance, but Iranian officials have rejected the offer, saying Washington should instead lift the sanctions, which Rohani on April 8 equated to “economic and medical terrorism.”
Medicines and medical equipment are technically exempt from the U.S. sanctions but purchases are frequently blocked by the unwillingness of banks to process transactions for fear of incurring large penalties in the United States.
In one of the few instances of aid, Britain, France, and Germany used a special trading mechanism for the first time on March 31 to send medical supplies to Iran in a way that does not violate the sanctions.
The three countries sent supplies via Instex, the mechanism set up more than a year ago to allow legitimate humanitarian trade with Iran.
On April 7, Iran’s parliament reconvened for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak forced it to close, and rejected an emergency bill calling for a one-month nationwide lockdown.
More than two-thirds of the legislature’s 290 members gathered in the absence of speaker Ali Larijani, who tested positive for the virus last week.
During the session, deputy speaker Massud Pezeshkian criticized the Rohani administration for “not taking the outbreak seriously.”
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on April 7 condemned the detention of journalist and workers’ rights defender Amir Chamani in the northwestern city of Tabriz after he posted tweets about the health situation in Iran’s prisons and protests by inmates.
The Paris-based media freedom watchdog quoted Chamani’s family as saying he was detained on April 2 after being summoned by the cyberpolice.
The authorities have given no reason for the arrest of Chamani, who was transferred to a detention center run by the intelligence department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, according to RSF.
Romania has confirmed another 344 cases of COVID-19 to reach 4,761, with 18 more fatalities that brought the toll to 215, the country’s coronavirus task force said on April 7, amid renewed calls for a sustained increase in the number of tests.
More than 700 of those infected are health-care workers.
The first fatality among medical staff was reported on April 8 — an ambulance paramedic from the northeastern city of Suceava who had reportedly kept working without being tested for days, although his health was deteriorating rapidly.
Suceava is the epicenter of the outbreak in Romania and has been under lockdown since last week.
The first coronavirus death was registered in Romania on March 22.
An additional 631 Romanians tested positive for COVID-19 abroad, most of them — 412 — in Italy, the world’s hardest-hit country. Some 37 Romanians have died so far in Italy, Britain, France, Spain, and Germany.
The country has been under a state of emergency since March 16, and President Klaus Iohannis on April 6 announced his intention to extend it by one month, while the government decided to postpone local elections that should have been held in early summer.
The Suceava paramedic’s death adds to worries about how Romania’s system is coping with the epidemic. Doctors and nurses have spoken out in recent weeks over insufficient equipment for those treating COVID-19 cases, and many medical staff have resigned over the shortages as well as mismanagement and fatigue.
Romanian platform for online activism DeClic has launched an Internet campaign urging the authorities to speed up the testing under the slogan “Mr. [Prime Minister Ludovic] Orban, don’t toy with our lives.”
Romania, a country of 19.5 million, has tested 47,207 people for coronavirus. By comparison, fellow EU member the Czech Republic has tested almost 99,000 people out of a total of 10.5 million. The Czech death toll stands at 99, less than half of Romania’s.
With reporting by RFE/RL’s Romanian Service, digi24.ro, g4.ro, Reuters, and hotnews.ro
A former top official of the independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, Akhmed Zakayev, has been hospitalized in London with coronavirus symptoms.
Zakayev’s relatives told RFE/RL that the exiled former member of the Chechen separatist government was hospitalized on April 6 after he experienced difficulties breathing.
The relatives added that three days prior to his hospitalization, other family members were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever and cough, as well.
Medical officials asked Zakayev’s relatives to sign a consent paper to use artificial respiration during his treatment.
Zakayev, 60, served as culture minister, deputy prime minister, prime minister, and foreign minister in Chechnya’s separatist government.
He and his immediate family members have been residing in exile in London since 2002.
He is wanted in Russia for alleged terrorism, which he and his supporters deny.
In the opening days of WW1, Unterseeboots, better known simply as U-boats, proved to be a potent and constant threat to Allied ships, with one U-boat identified as SM U-9 infamously killing nearly 1,500 British sailors in less than an hour by sinking three armoured British cruisers on Sept. 22, 1914. That same U-boat would go on to sink over a dozen British ships during its naval career, with targets ranging from small fishing boats caught in open water to the Edgar-class protected cruiser, HMS Hawke.
The Edgar-class protected cruiser, HMS Hawke.
The reason for the U-boat success in the early going of the war was, in part, due to the fact that when they were submerged they were undetectable by technology of the day.
Another factor that played into German hands is that the Allies, especially the British, consistently downplayed the danger posed by submarines and their value in combat. In fact, at first British Naval brass simply refused to acknowledge that U-boats were sinking ships. For example, the aforementioned actions of U-boat SM U-9 were initially attributed to mines.
In short, British Naval officers had little faith in the potential of submarines and wrote them off as a mere fascination that had no real potential in combat beyond novelty. Thus, they did little at first to try to come up with viable ways to combat them.
Things got real, however, when U-boats like SM U-9 began targeting British supply ships, almost bringing the country to its knees when it found itself unable to secure even basic provisions for its citizens and factories.
A solution was needed. But how to take out a target that is capable of disappearing at will?
It was quickly noted that one weakness of the U-boat was that it needed to use its periscope to mark its target before attacking. This presented a brief, but exploitable window of opportunity to attack the craft in some way. But how?
Up until the introduction of depth charges in 1916, while mines and large nets were utilized to protect certain areas with some minor effect, the conclusion of the Admiralty Submarine Attack Committee was that the best thing to do was simply for ships to either run away from or try to ram the U-boats when the periscope was spotted.
Naturally, beyond risking damage to your own vessel, getting closer to the thing that’s about to shoot you with an otherwise somewhat unreliably accurate torpedo isn’t ideal, nor is necessarily trying to run away when you’re already a marked target. However, it is at least noted that with the periscope up, U-boats couldn’t go faster than about 6 knots and, as stated, torpedoes of the age weren’t terribly accurate or reliable so the more distance you could get between you and the U-boat the better. In the end, these two methods weren’t totally ineffective, but a better solution was still needed.
German submarine, U-9, on return Wilhelmshaven, Germany.
(Illustration by Willy Stöwer)
This all got the wheels turning among the military think tanks, with the result being some rather humorous proposals as to how to solve the U-boat problem, with particular emphasis put on somehow taking out the periscope. After all, without the periscope, the U-boat’s only way to target a foe would be to completely surface, making it a relatively easy target for more traditional and accurate weaponry. With proper escorts for the supply ships, this could easily solve the U-boat problem.
But how to take out the periscope?
A suggestion by the British Board of Invention and Research was to train seagulls to fly at the periscopes, which would both make the presence of the periscope more apparent and potentially obscure the vision of the person looking through the periscope long enough to take action… To do this, it was suggested that they feed seagulls in certain regions they wanted protected through periscope like devices.
Next up, there was a suggestion to simply put a type of paint in the water with the hopes that it would get on the periscope lens, blinding the operator.
Going back to animals, a sea lion trainer called Joseph Woodward was hired to look into the possibility of training sea lions to detect U-boats and then hopefully alert the British of their presence. Unfortunately it isn’t known whether this method was effective, though the Royal Society does note that the training of at least some sea lions was performed. We presume given that the program wasn’t expanded beyond trials that it wasn’t terribly effective or perhaps not practical.
As you might imagine, none of these methods went anywhere. But this brings us to the rather absurd method that does seem to have been put into practice.
In the early days of the war, sailors were put on small patrol boats, all equipped with the latest and greatest in anti-submarine technology — large hammers and bags.
They were thus instructed that if they saw a periscope popping up to the surface, they were to try to get close to it, then have one person place a bag over the periscope while another got their Whack-A-Mole on in an attempt to destroy it, hopefully all before any target could be identified and a torpedo launched.
Exactly how effective this tactic is isn’t clear but we do know that it was popular enough for at least one senior officer aboard the HMS Exmouth to enlist the help of burly blacksmiths with extra large hammers to patrol with sailors aboard the smaller boats. With their amazing hammering abilities, both in strength and blow accuracy, presumably it was hoped they’d do a better job than your average sailor at quickly taking out a periscope.
Of course, as more sophisticated technologies were developed, this tactic, sadly, became obsolete. But never forget for a brief, but glorious time in history, there was a guy who could claim his job was to hunt submarines with a giant hammer, no doubt giving a cry of “For Asgard!!!” before smiting his foe.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
In the summer of 1966 the United States was ramping up operations in Vietnam. For the Marines of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, this meant deep infiltration and reconnaissance into the Que Son Valley.
Dubbed Operation Kansas, the recon teams moved deep into enemy-held territory to observe and strike at the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong operating in the area.
This mostly consisted of calling for artillery or air support to take out small concentrations of enemy fighters. When larger groups were observed, they were dealt with by calling in reinforcements in the form of Marine rifle companies and battalions.
There was little intention of the recon Marines making direct contact.
Thus, 18 Marines from Team 2, C Company, 1st Recon inserted onto Hill 488 to begin their observation mission.
The team was led by Staff Sgt. Jimmie E. Howard. Howard had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1950 and was assigned to the 1st Marine Regiment in Korea.
While serving as the forward observer to the regimental mortar company in 1952, Howard was awarded a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts while defending outposts along the Main Line of Resistance.
After his tour in Korea, Howard stayed in the Marine Corps and entered Marine Reconnaissance. In early 1966 he returned to combat in Vietnam, leading a platoon of Reconnaissance Marines.
On the night of June 13, 1966, Operation Kansas began with the insertion of numerous recon teams into the Que Son Valley. Team 2 on Hill 488 quickly set up positions to observe the valley. Over the course of the next two days, the recon teams disrupted enemy activity with air and artillery strikes. Howard and his team were doing so well that they turned down an offer to be extracted in order to remain one more day.
Unfortunately, the accuracy and effectiveness of the firepower Howard’s team brought to bear also served to alert the Viet Cong that these were not simply random attacks; they were being watched. The enemy had also surmised that the observation must be coming from Hill 488. Alerted that a Viet Cong battalion of approximately 200-250 men was heading their way, the Marines prepared to defend themselves.
As the Marines waited for the inevitable, the Viet Cong were creeping up the hill toward the Marine positions. Howard had ordered his men to pull back to a rocky knoll at the top of the hill the moment contact was made. Under the cover of darkness, the first Viet Cong made it to within 20 feet of the Marine perimeter. The first shots from the Marine defenders rang out. Under a hail of gunfire and grenades, the Marines fell back to the final defensive position.
The Marines took casualties almost instantly but they responded with determined resistance. Grenades and mortars rained down on their position as heavy machine gun and rifle fire covered the advance of the attackers. But the Marines mowed down the first wave of attackers and blunted the advance. The remaining enemy took a more cautious approach and searched for an opening.
Howard used the brief lull in fire to call for extraction. Before help could arrive, the Viet Cong mounted another determined charge to take the hill but were again driven back. By this time the Marines were out of grenades, running low on ammunition, and all eighteen had been wounded or killed. But there was still more fighting to do.
After some three hours of fighting, air support arrived overhead. As Air Force planes dropped flares to illuminate the valley, gunships and fighters made strafing runs. They dropped napalm on the advancing enemy. To say the air support was danger-close would be an understatement. Despite the air attack, the enemy was persistent and continued to charge the hill.
At one point the Viet Cong began yelling at the Marines, taunting them. The young Marines of the recon team looked to Howard who gave them the go-ahead to yell back.
Then, with the enemy still shouting taunts, the remaining Marines literally looked death in the face and laughed their heads off. The whole team joined in a chorus of laughter that silenced the Viet Cong.
The Viet Cong came again.
With the enemy still probing their lines, the beleaguered Marines relied on their expert marksmanship and a little trickery to even the odds. Out of grenades, the Marines would watch for movement and then hurl a rock at the enemy.
Intending to escape the impending explosion the Viet Cong would expose their position. Then with deadly accuracy the Marines would take a single shot, conserving ammunition and racking up the body count.
A rescue attempt at dawn resulted in one lost helicopter, with a medevac waved off due to the intense fire. Eventually it was decided to bring in a Marine infantry company to clear the hill and allow the recon team to be pulled out. Reportedly there remained only eight rounds of ammunition between the survivors; the rest had picked up enemy weapons.
Howard’s steadfast leadership and cool under fire during the battle for Hill 488 earned him the Medal of Honor. He was also awarded a Purple Heart, along with every other member of the team. Thirteen members of the team were awarded the Silver Star for their bravery. The remaining four members of the team received the Navy Cross. Six of the Marines of Team 2 received their awards posthumously. The recon platoon was the most decorated unit for its size ever in the history of the American military.
Dr. Jill Biden is a familiar face to military families and Americans alike, with her husband’s role as vice president for eight years. Dr. Biden is once again aiming to open the dialog with military spouses and families and you can join in too.
Speaking to military families isn’t anything new for Dr. Biden. Her own step son Beau served in the Delaware Army National Guard in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps with the 261st Signal Brigade. He was deployed to Iraq for a year, not long after his father took part in the election vice presidential debate.
With Beau serving and being deployed, Dr. Biden experienced the difficulties and challenges of being a military family firsthand as a military mom and as grandmother, watching the struggles of Beau’s children. In previous interviews, she is on record saying that it was the first issue she wanted to work on when President Obama was elected.
As a teacher, Dr. Biden wanted to dive deep into the needs of military families and find ways that the administration could stand in the gap. Alongside the first lady, she championed Joining Forces. That program was widely successful and led to multiple pieces of legislation aimed at improving issues like military spouse employment and education for dependent children.
With her husband now vying for the highest office in the United States, she is turning her focus once again on those who serve the country and their families. Dr. Biden wants to hear directly from military families themselves what their needs are and how her husband, if elected, and his administration can support those needs.
Scary Mommy is widely known and deeply influential in the millennial mother space. Their website, articles and blogs offer a no-holds barred approach to all things parenting, news, stories and trending issues. On Wednesday, October 21, 2020 at 5:30 pm eastern, the organization will host a virtual event and conversation with Dr. Biden. Interviewing her will be military spouse and mother, Kellie Artis.
The theme or title of the virtual event is Helping Families Thrive. Dr. Biden will make the case for a Biden-Harris ticket and what they will bring in the name of support for military families if elected. She will cover the presidential hopeful’s vision for the military community and the plan to uplift all families on day one of a Biden presidency. You can be part of that conversation.
To join the live steam event and listen in on the honest and unfiltered conversation with Dr. Jill Biden and military spouse, Kellie Artis – click here.
Editor’s note: We Are The Mighty is a non-partisan organization. Should the Trump Administration plan a conversation with military families, we will let you know!
Is the Chinese People’s Liberation Army learning more of a lesson from the U.S. military’s Millennium Challenge exercise than the United States? Judging from its new corps of communications pigeons, it could be.
In 2002, the U.S. military held one of its largest wargames ever, pitting the United States against a fictional Iran-like country. The U.S. was pretty surprised when its Marine Corps leader, retired Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper took control of the Iranians and soundly beat the United States with old-style tactics and communications that made America’s playbook useless.
Van Riper was as old school a Marine as they come. He knew the U.S. would target his communications infrastructure, so he planned to defend his fake Iran without it. Instead of microwave communications and cell phones, he coordinated his defense with motorcycle couriers and fake prayers broadcast over loudspeakers.
When it came time to fend off the attack, the U.S. lost in two minutes.
Instead of learning a lesson from Van Riper’s tactics, the planner just tied his hands and put him in a situation where he couldn’t win. In his opinion, nothing was learned from the exercise.
Maybe the United States didn’t learn anything from it, but China might have. China is pouring billions of dollars into new defense spending as tensions with the United States ramp up. Some of that might be going to its own version of a stealth fighter, but another portion is going to what Chinese state television calls a “reserve pigeon army.”
In 2020, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army purchased more than 10,000 military pigeons so it could bolster its internal communications abilities, in case its more modern methods suddenly, somehow became unusable.
“These military pigeons will be primarily called upon to conduct special military missions between troops stationed at our land borders or ocean borders,” Chinese military expert Chen Hong told China Central Television.
The earliest recorded use of pigeon messaging was in the Roman Empire, 2,000 years ago, and pigeons have been vital to communication in peace and in war ever since. The only way to stop them is hawks, and later, shotguns.
Military pigeons are able to fly at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour while carrying a load of up to 3.5 ounces, as the Chinese have been breeding pigeons for racing sports for centuries. As for range, it could be virtually limitless, depending on how fast the message is needed to arrive. One pigeon sent by Emperor Li Shimin of the Tang Dynasty flew a message for 177 miles.
Messenger pigeons, also known as homing pigeons, are not only useful to Chinese military planners trying to maintain communications over oceans during wartime, they can also be used in the vast mountainous areas of the Himalayas, which have seen recent clashes with India along its border.
Homing pigeons are easily trained to fly between one or two locations by using food as an incentive for the animal. Changing the route is as easy as changing the food.
Using pigeons isn’t new to the Chinese. Chinese armies have been using messenger pigeons for centuries. Pigeons were among China’s earliest domesticated animals and were used as pets and messengers as far back as the Eastern Han Dynasty in 25 A.D.
They were also used to great effect during World War II — and the pigeons left behind by American aviators who flew against the Japanese in China are central to the PLA’s new communications backup plan.
There’s a lot of debate over which President has the most impressive military background, and history provides no clear winner. That doesn’t matter though, because today, YOU decide. We’ve rounded up some of the best and brightest Commanders-in-Chief in American history, and want your feedback on their stories of war, heroism, and military ingenuity. Read through the list, pick your favorite, and cast your vote! The favorite might surprise you.
1. Teddy Roosevelt
Teddy Roosevelt didn’t do anything halfway, especially when it came to military strategy. When war broke out in Cuba in 1898, he ditched his post as assistant secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley to form his own volunteer Calvary regiment, the Rough Riders. It was basically a club of badass cowboys, college athletes and lumberjacks who were used to tearing it up on horseback — only now they did it for America, which was even cooler. Once Teddy rounded everyone up, they headed to Cuba, where they would forever leave their mark in the Spanish-American War at the Battle of San Juan Hill.
With only 500 Spanish villagers left standing to protect the town, the nearly 8,000 American troops at the battle thought it was just about over. They soon discovered, however, that higher ground gave their enemies a distinct advantage, and Teddy ordered his Rough Riders up the slope — despite the fact that the men were now on foot and hundreds had already fallen.
Teddy’s men successfully charged and captured both Kettle and San Juan Hill, leading to the Spanish defeat and ultimate surrender just a few weeks later. His military valor and infectious tenacity both at the front lines and behind the podium would later ignite a huge political following, and make him one of the greatest leaders of the United Sates.
2. John F. Kennedy
When most people think of JFK, his military service in World War II tends to take a back seat to the more colorful aspects of his personality and presidency. And while anecdotes about his charisma, good looks and alleged affair with Marilyn Monroe make for great cocktail party banter, one of the most interesting segments of Kennedy’s life happened long before Camelot.
In 1941, the 24-year-old Kennedy volunteered to serve in the Navy. He would soon become a Lieutenant, Junior Grade, and command the Patrol Torpedo Craft (PT) USS PT 109, attacking the Japanese shipping boats dubbed “The Tokyo Express.” The Tokyo Express supplied Japanese forces that were based throughout the island network of the Pacific, and it was the duty of the small PT boats to cut them off before they could reach their destination, as well as aid the U.S. Army and Marine Corps for onshore attacks.
The work was hard, but nothing extraordinary — until disaster struck on August 2, 1943. Kennedy had the PT 109 running silent, hoping to go unnoticed by the Japanese, when the watercraft was blindsided by the Amagiri, a Japanese destroyer running perpendicular to the boat at 40 knots. The large warship ripped Kennedy’s boat in half, gutting the watercraft and sending the entire crew into the ocean. One of the surviving men, engineer Patrick Mahone, was badly injured by fuel that had exploded below decks, and Kennedy towed him through the water to a small island that was four miles away, gripping his life vest to keep his head above water. When the eleven survivors finally collapsed on the sand, they had been in the ocean for nearly fifteen hours.
If that’s not impressive enough, JFK got his men off the island by carving a message into a coconut and giving it to two natives, who then delivered it to the PT base at Rendova, ensuring the rescue of Kennedy and his crew.
The men were rescued on August 8th, four days after their boat was destroyed. JFK would later encase the coconut shell in wood and plastic and use it as a paperweight for his documents in the Oval Office. How is this not a movie yet?
3. Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson is one of the more, if not the most, notorious presidents the United States has ever had. His bombastic personality and deeply controversial decision to move Native American tribes to reservations has left many people skeptical — if not deeply disapproving — of his contributions as Commander- in-Chief.
Before he stepped foot in the White House, however, Jackson was making waves in a different way. When he was only 13 years-old, Jackson’s mother was killed during the British invasion of South Carolina in 1788, and Jackson and his brother were taken prisoner by nearby troops. When ordered to shine an officer’s boots, Jackson refused, causing the officer to slash the side of his face with his sword. His brother would later fall ill and die while they were still in confinement, leaving Jackson alone. The event would leave physical and psychological scars that lasted into Jackson’s adult life, and likely forged the defiant, fearless personality that would bring him military success.
Jackson served as a major general in the War of 1812, leading U.S. forces against the Creek Indians, who were British allies at the time. After a five-month assault against the natives, Jackson secured the U.S. an overwhelming victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. The best-known example of Jackson’s military valor, however, was not even technically part of the War of 1812 under which it was fought. The Battle of New Orleans occurred after the close of the war, but before the Treaty of Ghent — an agreement signed by British and American representatives that effectively ended the war — had reached Washington.
Jackson and a rag-tag band of slaves, frontiersman, militia fighters and pirates took down a full-frontal assault from British forces, despite inferior numbers, training and supplies. News of the impossible victory took the nation by storm, and people were so enamored with Jackson’s military prowess that they didn’t really care when word got out that the entire battle was essentially pointless.
The battle wasn’t entirely devoid of merit, however. The victory helped bar British forces from invading the American frontier, and would later lead to Jackson’s invasion of the Florida territory, which was under Spanish rule at the time. Jackson managed to conquer both St. Mark’s and Pensacola, ensuring the American Acquisition of Florida later in 1821.
Other interesting points of Jackson’s military history: He was the first and only President to be a former prisoner of war, and is estimated by many historians to have competed in nearly 100 duels. Old Hickory was no pushover. In one duel against Charles Dickinson, a local horse breeder who had insulted Jackson’s wife in the National Review, Dickinson shot Jackson square in the chest, at which point Jackson shot back, shooting his opponent dead. He carried the bullet in his chest for the rest of his life.
4. George Washington
George Washington is a figure that completely encompasses American identity, and is treated by many as a kind of national demi-god. Politicians, historians and school teachers around the nation continue to sing the praises of the father of the United States, but it’s easy to forget what this guy actually did among all the patriotic white noise.
One of the first aspects of his life that tends to fall by the wayside is his military achievements. Young Washington’s first taste of war came in 1752, when he joined the British military at twenty years old to fight for control of the upper Ohio Valley during the French and Indian War. Before he became a soldier he had trained as a land surveyor, and his superiors were quick to have him lead expeditions in and around Virginia, the state he grew up in.
During one expedition under British Gen. Braddock, the French and their Native American allies ambushed Washington and the rest of the troops. Braddock was killed almost immediately, and Washington promptly took over, leading the surviving soldiers in a carefully executed retreat. The governor of Virginia would later raise Washington’s rank to colonel to reward him for his military valor, and he was tasked with protecting much of the western frontier.
During his service under the British militia, Washington’s view of the colonies’ mother nation soured. He felt that the British military commanders had little understanding of colonial life and were rude and dismissive towards colonial leaders. This seed would later grow into Washington’s full-on rebellion against British rule, when he formed the Continental Army in June of 1775 and was elected commander-in-chief.
Washington immediately set about forming a navy, creating policies on how to interact with Loyalists, and leading campaigns to gain allies both on the home-front and abroad. The most impressive military moment of Washington’s time as general, however, was arguably the crossing of the Delaware.Washington and his men had hunkered down in Brooklyn Heights, anticipating a British attack on New York City. Gen. Sir William Howe, the British commander of the navy, had other plans. Howe drove Washington’s army out of Long Island and captured the majority of the colonial army, claiming New York City.
Despite this defeat and the colossal British military force — a whopping 34,000 redcoats to a measly 2,400 American soldiers — Washington didn’t give up.
Instead, in the early, freezing hours of December 26, 1776, Washington and his surviving men crossed over the Delaware River, initiating a surprise attack on Hessian soldiers gathered in Trenton, New Jersey. They would ultimately capture 900 men, later prompting British forces to abandon New Jersey. This embarrassing display of British defeat was a huge source of hope and pride for the American colonists. Washington had many military victories big and small during the Revolutionary War, but his military prowess in New York invigorated an entire people, giving the patriot cause the fuel that it needed to continue to fight — and win — the war for America.
5. Ulysses S. Grant
Though many historians and war buffs contest that Robert E. Lee was one of the greatest American generals of history — and certainly the greater of the two military leaders of the American Civil War — President Ulysses S. Grant made incredible gains for the United States.
Before he became a Civil War hero, Grant graduated from West Point in 1843 and fought in the Mexican War under Gen. Zachary Taylor, where he would gain valuable military experience and be praised for his combat skills and bravery on the battlefield. During this time however, Grant began to fall into a depression. Without the anchor of his wife, Julia, and their young family, he felt alone and aimless. He would eventually turn to alcohol as a means of easing his distress, before retiring to civilian life in 1854 in an attempt to regain control of his life.
When Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers at the start of the Civil War, however, Grant rushed back to the battlefield. He began as the colonel of a regiment in Illinois before being promoted to Brigadier General. Then, after his success in the Western Theater in 1863, he was granted command of all Union armies in 1864. From there, Grant’s star would rise to immeasurable heights.
Grant was also referred to as “Unconditional Surrender Grant,” a nod to his demands at Fort Donelson and Fort Henry, two crucial Confederate posts that he captured. Some felt that his military strategy and trademark terms of surrender were too brutal, but Lincoln stood behind him, reportedly stating, “I cannot spare this man, he fights.”
It was under Grant’s leadership that Gen. William T. Sherman wreaked havoc on Georgia, burning his way through the South during his March to the Sea, also known as the Savannah campaign. Grant himself would fight against Lee and the Confederate forces at Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor and Petersburg, instigating brutal slaughter on both sides of the battle but ultimately weakening the rebel army. Lee Finally broke under Grant’s relentless attacks at the battle of Richmond, where he would flee and then later surrender at Appomattox, securing Grant’s victory and his place in the American Military’s Hall of Fame.
Colby Buzzell was almost killed when his entire battalion was ambushed by insurgents in Iraq.
“I heard and felt the bullets whiz literally inches from my head, hitting all around my hatch and making a ping, ping, ping sound,” Buzzell said, recalling how the enemy armed with rifles and RPGs attacked from rooftops, alleys, windows from every imaginable direction.
Even worse, a few minutes after the battalion fired their way out of the kill zone, they were ordered to go back to where they got ambushed.
“I literally felt sick to my stomach,” Buzzell said. “I felt like throwing up. My gut, my body, my mind, my soul, my balls were all telling me loud and clear not to go back. I was scared to death, but we had to go back. And, we did.”
Watch how (a scared) Buzzell musters the courage to do things most Americans couldn’t imagine doing in this riveting short video:
President Donald Trump announced “precision strikes” on Syria on April 13, 2018, in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack that reportedly killed dozens of people there earlier this month.
Britain and France have joined the US in the military operation, Trump said.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was suspected of orchestrating a chlorine attack against the rebel-held town of Douma, near the capital of Damascus, on April 7. Although exact figures were unclear, the attack is believed to have killed dozens, many of them children. The New York Times said at least 43 of the victims showed signs of having been exposed to “highly toxic chemicals.”
“This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime,” Trump said on Friday.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price)
Trump called the incident a “heinous attack on innocent” Syrians and vowed that the US would respond: “This is about humanity; it can’t be allowed to happen.”
Trump also accused Russia and Iran of being “responsible for supporting, equipping, and financing” Assad’s regime: “What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children,” Trump asked.
“The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep,” the president said. “No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants, and murderous dictators.”
Trump continued: “Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace. Hopefully, someday we’ll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran. But maybe not.”
Britain and France join in the military action
In a statement on Friday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized — within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world. We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none.
“History teaches us that the international community must defend the global rules and standards that keep us all safe. That is what our country has always done. And what we will continue to do.”
An international uproar over chemical weapons
The chemical attack prompted several nations to respond, including the UK, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Israel. Trump had reportedly talked to UK Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron this week, both of whom believed that the Syrian regime should be held accountable.
“I just want to say very clearly, that if they use chemical weapons, they are going to pay a very, very stiff price,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.
Although Trump reportedly advocated for a broad military strike that would punish Syria, and to an extent, its allies Russia and Iran, he is believed to have been met with resistance from Mattis and other military officials, who feared the White House lacked a broad strategy, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
The latest chemical attack follows the suspected Syrian-sponsored sarin attack in April 2017, which reportedly killed 89 people. The US responded by firing 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase that was suspected of playing a role in the chemical attacks.
Despite overwhelming evidence of the government’s involvement in the attacks, Syria has denied responsibility for both incidents.
In addition to Assad’s denials, Russia, one of Syria’s staunchest allies, has also dismissed the allegations as “fake news,” and said its own experts found no “trace of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians.”
On Tuesday, Russia took its response a step further and vetoed the US-backed United Nations resolution that condemned the apparent chemical attack.
US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley rebuked the decision and called it a “sad day.”
“When the people of Douma, along with the rest of the international community, looked to this council to act, one country stood in the way,” Haley said. “History will record that. History will record that, on this day, Russia chose protecting a monster over the lives of the Syrian people.”
Popular comedic actor and retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Rob Riggle volunteered his time to star in a new public service announcement to help showcase the strengths of military veterans.
The PSA titled “What to Wear” is the third in a series created by Easter Seals Dixon Center, a non-profit changing the conversation about veterans and military families to highlight their potential and create life-changing opportunities.
The majority of the PSA’s production team were made up of veterans, including actor and Air Force veteran Brice Williams, who co-stars with Riggle, and director Jim Fabio, who currently serves as an Air Force Combat Camera Officer (all three are pictured above). Fabio was selected out of more than 50 directors — all military veterans — and was mentored by Hollywood producer-writer Judd Apatow during the process.
David Miller is VA’s Male Volunteer of the Year. A Marine Corp Veteran, Miller served in Vietnam during the TET II offensive with 3rd Marine Division (9th Marines).
Miller says he got involved in volunteering “due to the fact that the Vietnam Veterans were ignored and mistreated and misdiagnosed for years after they returned home. I just wanted to make positive experiences to help all Veterans and also to help them with their issues for health and benefits.”
“I speak to youth about how important it is to honor all our Veterans. And after I was diagnosed with my cancer and in a wheelchair for five years, I kept volunteering to not think about my illnesses as well as to help other Veterans with the same problems. This was self medication for me as well.”
The National American Legion Hospital Representative at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center, Miller has volunteered for 27 years and finds the most emotional part of his volunteering is the interest he takes in the hospice and the really sick and disabled Veterans. “It made me thankful for my life, being a cancer survivor.’
He and his wife Kathy Ann live in Largo, Florida. His two grown sons, Jeremiah and Adam, live in Orlando. “They have accomplished so much in their lives.”
Miller says his only real hobby is, “speaking to children and youth about the importance of patriotism and how important it is to honor all our Veterans. They provide the protection that allows them to enjoy the freedoms that they take for granted.”
And he encourages them to volunteer. “I would hope we can start getting more younger people and younger Veterans to volunteer at our VA hospitals and in the community. They would get so much satisfaction from helping our heroes from the past, present and future. Our Veterans are the life blood of this great country of ours. We must make sure that is never forgotten in all our future generations.”
As part of his volunteer duties, Miller visit patients daily and meets several times a week with Veterans them with their claims and benefits. “I also am an advocate for all Veterans who need help with appointments or any other issues at the hospital or in the community.” He also speaks with young Veterans at MacDill Air Force Base who need guidance or help with any VA issues when they leave the service.
Miller adds, “I would just like to say that I am honored and humbled to accept this great accolade as National Volunteer of the Year. With all the service organizations that are involved, there are so many deserving people that should have won this award. I love to help Veterans in all facets of their lives both at the VA and in the community. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to donate my time for such a worthy cause! God Bless our Veterans and God Bless our great country.”