Paris attack planners obliterated in drone strike - We Are The Mighty
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Paris attack planners obliterated in drone strike

Two Islamic State leaders behind the terrorist attacks in Paris last year were killed in a U.S.-led drone strike Dec. 4 in Raqqa, Syria, the Pentagon confirmed Tuesday.


The two targets, Salah Gourmat and Sammy Djedou, worked with external terror operations and recruitment of foreign fighters in Europe. They were directly involved in facilitating the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people.

Gourmat and Djedou were close associates of Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, ISIS’s former chief spokesman who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August.

Walid Hamman, the third terrorist killed in the drone strike, was a suicide attack planner, Hamman was convicted in absentia by a Belgian court for a terror plot foiled in 2015.

“The three were working together to plot and facilitate attacks against Western targets at the time of the strike,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters.

All three were part of a terror network led by Boubaker Al-Hakim, who died in another U.S.-led airstrike Nov. 26.

“Since mid-November, the coalition has now successfully targeted five top ISIL external plotters, further disrupting ISIL’s ability to carry out terrorist operations beyond Syria and Iraq,” Cook said.

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US may deploy Patriot missile defense to Russian border

U.S. defense officials say a long-range Patriot missile battery may be deployed to the Baltic region later this year as part of a military exercise.


If the move is finalized, it would be temporary, but still signal staunch U.S. backing for Baltic nations that are worried about the threat from Russia.

Paris attack planners obliterated in drone strike
A Patriot Air and Missile Defense launcher fires an interceptor during a previous test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The latest configuration of the system, called PDB-8, has passed four flight tests and is now with the U.S. Army for a final evaluation. | Raytheon

U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis is visiting one of the Baltic countries — Lithuania. And he’s declining to confirm the specific deployment.

But Mattis says “we are here in a purely defensive stance.”

U.S. officials say the Patriot surface-to-air missile system could move into the Baltic region during an air defense exercise in July. They say it would be gone by the time a large Russian military exercise begins in August and September.

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This is how officials are reacting to White House ban on transgender troops

President Donald Trump is barring transgender people from serving in the military “in any capacity.” He’s citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”


Trump’s announcement on the morning of July 26 on Twitter did not say what would happen to transgender people already in the military.

The president tweeted that after consulting with “generals and military experts,” the government “will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military.”

A Rand Corp. study estimated that there are between 2,500 and 7,000 transgender service members on active duty and an additional 1,500 to 4,000 in the reserves.

Transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban.

The Pentagon seems to have been unaware that President Donald Trump has decided to bar transgender people from the military.

Paris attack planners obliterated in drone strike
Photo by Gage Skidmore

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, refused to answer questions about what Trump’s tweeted announcement means for the current policy, including whether transgender people already serving in the military will be kicked out.

“Call the White House,” he said.

The White House press office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is slamming President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military as “vile and hateful.”

In a statement, Pelosi pointed out Trump’s decision came on the same day in 1948 that President Harry S. Truman signed the executive order desegregating the military.

The California Democrat called Trump’s action “a cruel and arbitrary decision designed to humiliate transgender Americans who stepped forward to serve our country.”

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Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi

She said a study commissioned by the department found the cost of providing medically necessary transition-related care would be $2 million to $8 million a year, a small amount from what the Pentagon spends on military care.

She said the “disgusting ban” will weaken the military and the nation it defends. She said Trump’s conduct is not driven by “honor, decency, or national security, but by raw prejudice.”

The Pentagon, which appeared to be caught off-guard by Trump’s tweets barring transgender people from the military, is referring all questions about them to the White House.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said in a brief written statement that the Pentagon is working with the White House to “address” what he calls “the new guidance” from the president on transgender individuals serving in the military.

Davis said the Pentagon will provide revised guidance to Defense Department officials “in the near future.”

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee is calling President Donald Trump’s newly announced ban on transgender military service “an unwarranted and disgraceful attack.”

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Washington State Representative Adam Smith (left) and former United States Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter (right). DoD photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington says preventing transgender people from joining the military and pushing out “those who have devoted their lives to this country would be ugly and discriminatory in the extreme.”

Smith also is challenging the estimates cited by conservative lawmakers that show the Pentagon end up spending hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade to pay for gender transition surgeries and hormone therapies.

He says those figures “have no basis in fact” and likely were “cooked up by right-wing advocacy organizations whose real interest is not to support military readiness but to further discrimination.”

Ash Carter, who as secretary of defense last year ended the ban on transgender people serving openly in the military, is criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to ban their service.

Carter issued a statement July 26 saying that the important thing for choosing who is allowed to serve is whether they are best qualified.

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Former United States Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter.

“To choose service members on other grounds than military qualification,” he said, “is social policy and has no place in our military.”

Carter added that transgender individuals already are serving capably and honorably in the military.

A national LGBTQ advocacy group says President Donald Trump’s decision to bar transgender people from military service is an “all-out assault” on these individuals.

Stephen Peters, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, tells The Associated Press that Trump’s decision was “alarming” because it comes after a decade of progress toward inclusion in the military. Peters says the decision is “morally reprehensible,” ”patently unpatriotic,” and dangerous because it “puts a target on the backs of thousands of service members.”

Trump announced on Twitter that he is barring transgender people from service in the military “in any capacity.” He cited “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

Peters says the decision doesn’t appear to have factored in the effect on military morale and readiness.

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Tammy Duckworth (right) is sworn in as assistant secretary of veterans affairs for public and intergovernmental affairs by Judge John J. Farley on May 20, 2009. Photo from Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a double amputee veteran of the Iraq War, is slamming President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the military.

Duckworth said in a statement July 26 that when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down, she didn’t care “if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender, or anything else. All that mattered was they didn’t leave me behind.”

The Illinois senator said anyone willing to risk their lives for their country should be able to serve no matter gender or sexual orientation or race.

She said, “Anything else is discriminatory and counterproductive to our national security.”

 

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Here are 6 foreign weapons systems the Pentagon should buy now

America has had a long tradition of picking up some foreign weapons. Whether it was getting military aid from France during the Revolutionary War to borrowing Spitfires from England in World War II to using Israeli Kfirs as aggressors in the 1980s, our troops have put foreign-designed systems to good use. This idea makes even more sense in the face of the Pentagon being forced to tighten the belt while global threats proliferate.


So here are six foreign warfighting platforms that DoD should buy now:

1. Spain’s Alvaro de Bazan-class frigates

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With the retirement of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, the United States could use some additional hulls in the water. The Littoral Combat Ship has had some good moments (like USS Freedom making four drug busts in seven weeks during a 2010 SOUTHCOM deployment), but that ship is still wrestling with teething problems, not the least of which is the fact that the missionized software packages that were supposed to make the LCS unique aren’t working.

The Navy plans to buy 20 frigates in the future, but perhaps they ought to look at getting Spain’s Alvaro de Bazan-class frigates instead. With a SPY-1 radar, a five-inch gun, and a 48-cell Mk 41 VLS that can fire Standard surface-to-air missiles, Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, and Vertical-Launch ASROCs, it would be a direct replacement for the Perry-class ships.

2. Denmark’s Absalon-class multi-role ships

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Denmark’s been building flexible warships for decades, thanks to the use of Stanflex technology. One of the more intriguing designs to emerge from this philosophy is the Absalon, a 4,500-ton ship that has a five-inch gun, and five “flexible” stations. These stations can carry a variety of weapons – usually 36 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles and 16 RGM-84 Harpoons.

But the real secret is that the Absalon also can serve as a small roll-on/roll-off vessel, a supply ship, or even as a treatment point for casualties. With a top speed of 24 knots, the ship can keep up with the large-deck amphibious assault ships like the Wasp and America classes. Also, at $225 million per hull, they are about five-eighths the cost of a Freedom-class littoral combat ship.

3. Ukraine’s BTMP-84

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Infantry has a tough job on the conventional battlefield. They can’t keep up with the tanks, but they are needed to support the tanks. They also, of course, need some support on the battlefield. But how to get troops to the battlefield, yet still get them some support? Ukraine’s BTMP-84 may be the answer to that.

The Ukrainians stretched a T-84, added some road wheels, and got a vehicle with the T-84’s firepower (a 125mm main gun with as many as 36 rounds of ammunition, a 12.7mm heavy machine gun, and a 7.62mm coaxial machine gun), plus the ability to carry five infantrymen. While it doesn’t carry as many troops as a Bradley or LAV-25, its firepower more than makes up for that.

4. Brazil’s EE-9 Cascavel Armored Car

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With the retirement of the M551 Sheridan in the mid-1990s, the 82nd Airborne is in need of some armored firepower. That two-decade search could end with the EE-9 Cascavel.

With a 90mm main gun and 44 rounds, this 13-ton vehicle can keep up with Strykers, and it can provide much more sustained fire support (Stryker Mobile Gun Systems only carry 18 rounds for their 105mm main guns). The vehicle, about the size of an M113 armored personnel carrier, could be carried by a C-130.

5. UK’s Systems Hawk 200

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Combat aircraft are expensive these days. Both the F-22 and F-35 cost over $100 million per airframe – and billions in RD. Yet having a lot of airframes is not a bad idea. The Hawk 200 is a possible solution.

With the same APG-66 radar used on the F-16, the Hawk can fire Sidewinders and AMRAAMs, making it a solid choice for air-defense. It also can carry almost 7,000 pounds of bombs or air-to-surface weapons. The U.S. Navy already operates the similar T-45 Goshawk, which means that some logistical support capability already exists. The Hawk 200 could be America’s lightweight joint strike fighter.

6. Israeli Sa’ar 6-class corvettes

Paris attack planners obliterated in drone strike

The United States has made use of Israeli weapons in the not-so-distant past. The Marines’ Shoulder-launched Multi-purpose Assault Weapon is one such weapon. So was the RQ-2 Pioneer, best known as a spotter for naval gunfire from Iowa-class battleships during Desert Storm.

Now, Israel’s new Sa’ar 6 corvettes might be something to look at. With a 76mm gun, 16 anti-ship missiles, and 32 surface-to-air missiles, these vessels could enable the U.S. Navy to counter Russia’s Buyan-class corvettes and Gepard-class light frigates.

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Vietnam vets meet the soldier who saved them from a VC ambush

Fifty-one years after saving a squad of U.S. Marines from walking into an ambush by Viet Cong, Don Medley walked into a surprise gathering organized to honor him.


Members of the squadron Medley saved May 12, 1966, gathered Friday at Stone Hearth restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, for a surprise dinner. Medley, a former U.S. Army Warrant Officer, had believed he and his wife, Dianne, were meeting one of the Marine veterans, Earl Davis, and his wife, Claudia, for dinner.

In reality, three other men Medley saved, along with their wives, were waiting to meet him. Those honoring him traveled from South Carolina, Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee.

“I told my wife that one day I’d like to meet some of the guys on the ground that I helped,” Medley said. “This is the day.”

Medley, of Hodgenville, appeared stunned and overwhelmed by the handshakes, hugs and greetings he received as he stood near the doorway of the room reserved for the occasion.

“Thank you, for my wife and kids,” one man said.

The words “thank you” repeatedly resounded in the room that held a dining table adorned with a centerpiece of white flowers highlighted with small U.S. flags. Placemats also were emblazoned with U.S. flags.

“This is such an honor for me,” Medley said, his voice wavering as he received gifts of gratitude. “It’s unbelievable.”

Like other members of Bravo Company of 1st Marine Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Earl Davis had wondered over the years who the Cessna pilot who saved them was. After an article was published in Vietnam magazine last year, Medley’s identity became known.

Davis received contact information for Medley on Dec. 26. He decided to coordinate the surprise gathering.

During the gathering, Medley recounted the day he was flying his Cessna over a rice paddy and noticed Marines advancing toward a trench line holding enemy forces. He dropped a smoke grenade on which he had scrawled a brief message warning the Marines, but they continued to advance.

He soon noticed there were more enemies in a tree line, making the number much larger. He dropped a second smoke grenade warning them and included the words, “I’m calling Arty,” referring to notifying artillery. His message saved them, the men said.

“We’ve been looking for this guy for over 50 years,” Ray Maurer said. “I just broke up when I saw him.”

Maurer and his wife, Bernadette, made the trip from Georgia.

Carl Whipple of Tennessee attended the gathering with wife, Myrtle Ruth.

“We all wanted the opportunity to meet him,” he said.

Whipple described the experience as heartfelt and said it was “a God thing” that sent Medley to fly over the squad 51 years ago.

“We’re indebted,” he said.

Dan Ferrell of Missouri said the gathering was a much-needed opportunity to express his thanks to Medley.

“I’ve never been able to put this behind me,” said Ferrell, who has post-traumatic stress disorder.

Medley was presented with a watch that was set at 10:30, the approximate time he dropped the first smoke grenade. He also was given mementos including a framed collection of items, among which was a signed letter of thanks.

Choking up in the process, Davis read the letter during the presentation. Later, he said the emotion he felt at that time summed up what he was feeling and how special the occasion was.

“It means a whole hell of a lot,” he said.

Similarly, Medley visibly was moved during the gathering and said the items he received will be displayed with honor in his den.

“It’s overwhelming,” Medley said. “This vindicates my whole year in Vietnam.”

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91-year-old twins finally getting medals earned during World War II

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The Barrett brothers before Richard’s medal ceremony. (Screen grab of Fox 4 News broadcast.)


Twin brothers who went to war together are receiving medals 70 years after they took off their combat boots.

Richard and Robert Barrett, 91-year-old veterans of World War II, never knew they supposed to be getting medals nor were they looking for these accolades. A family member happened to discover the oversight after requesting replacement copies of their Army records – the originals had been destroyed.

The crowd gave a standing ovation after Richard received the Silver Star and Bronze Star with additional military honors from Congressman Sam Graves, who had expedited the process for them.

The brothers, who were 18 when they shipped off to war, recalled their time in combat:

“We were just kids when we heard our first machine gun fire and [we said] ‘Oh that’s great, that’s fun, machine gun fire,'” said Richard, “But a little later the Germans started shooting those 88 artillery shells, and things changed after that.”

He was also quick to point out that he is 5 minutes older than his brother Robert, and joked, “Of course, I had to take care of him in combat; he was kind of a puny kid.”

The Barretts showed humility as they talked with Fox 4 News about being honored for their service:  “It’s nice, but we’re both kind of humble about it,” Richard said. “We don’t let it get to be a prestigious deal for us. Awards or no awards, I’d do it again.”

“We saw some rough times,” Robert added. “We slept on some cold ground, but there are other men that did so much more than we did too.”

Robert will receive his medals in a separate ceremony.

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Trump really wants to end North Korean nuclear threat

U.S. President Donald Trump has asked officials to give him options for removing the threat of a nuclear-armed North Korea, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said April 9.


As a U.S. Navy strike group steamed toward the Korean Peninsula to send a message to North Korea, McMaster told Fox News, “This is a rogue regime that is now a nuclear-capable regime…so the president has asked us to be prepared to give him a full range of options to remove that threat to the American people and our allies and partners in that region.”

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The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on Feb. 13, 2017. (KCNA/Handout)

McMaster described the U.S. decision to send the Carl Vinson Strike Group to safeguard U.S. interests in the Western Pacific as “prudent.” He said that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed at their summit in Florida early April that Pyongyang’s “provocative behavior” developing nuclear weapons was unacceptable.

“Presidents before and President Trump agreed this is unacceptable, that what must happen is the denuclearization of the peninsula,” McMaster said.

A South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said April 10 the deployment of the Carl Vinson to the Western Pacific region was in response to the “serious situation on the Korean Peninsula.”

Moon Sang-gyun said it is understandable that the U.S. and South Korea are “fully preparing for possible provocations by North Korea, considering that possibilities of Pyongyang’s strategic provocations, including nuclear and missile tests, are increasing.”

North Korea has been trying to develop a long-range missile carrying a nuclear warhead that is capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, a distance of about 8,000 kilometers. It has staged five nuclear tests so far and could be preparing a sixth.

North Korea recently conducted a ballistic missile test in spite of U.N. Security Council resolutions banning such launches.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, without directly naming North Korea, told ABC News, “If you violate international agreements, if you fail to live up to commitments, if you become a threat to others, at some point a response is likely to be undertaken.”

The Carl Vinson Strike Group was making a port call in Singapore and was scheduled to sail for Australia when the U.S. Pacific Command ordered the ships to sail north instead.

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An SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 15 flies past the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson during an air power demonstration. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans)

“Third Fleet ships operate forward with a purpose: to safeguard U.S. interests in the Western Pacific,” Commander Dave Benham, Director of Media Operations for the U.S. Pacific Command Third Fleet, told Voice of America.

“The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible, and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability,” Benham said.

The strike group includes its namesake aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, as well as three guided-missile destroyers.

Pyongyang’s reaction

Pyongyang has repeatedly defied international warnings about conducting missile launches and testing nuclear devices.

On April 9, a North Korean Foreign Ministry official was quoted on state-run media as vowing to step up the country’s defenses to protect itself from airstrikes like the U.S. carried out against Syria on April 6.

The unidentified official told the Korean Central New Agency the airstrikes were “absolutely unpardonable,” and proves Pyongyang is justified in having nuclear weapons.

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North Korea continues to develop missiles that could potentially strike America. (Photo: The Heritage Foundation: 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength)

While Trump has not set out a clear strategy for dealing with the isolated nation, he has criticized the administration of former President Barack Obama for its policy of “strategic patience,” in the face of North Korea’s ongoing efforts to develop long-range nuclear strike capability.

Trump has also called on China, North Korea’s strongest ally, to take stronger action to curb those nuclear ambitions.

Unilateral action?

Earlier in April, Trump suggested the U.S. might take action unilaterally if China wasn’t willing to do more.

“If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will,” Trump told The Financial Times on April 2. ” China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won’t. If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.”

Tillerson said that Xi, at his summit with Trump, signaled a willingness to do more to rein in North Korea.

“They have indicated that they will and I think we need to allow them time to take actions,” Tillerson said of China.

Voice of America Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Behind the scenes of ‘The Outpost’ and other films, this Army vet helps bring authenticity

Jariko Denman loved two things as a kid: the military and movies.

Every day after school, he’d watch films like Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, or Uncommon Valor.


“I wanted to be in the military, and I was fascinated by war, and that was really the only way I could kind of get a glimpse at it was through movies,” Denman said.

Even then, he could tell when certain things were fake, or not as they would’ve happened in real life.

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Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.

“It’s always something that I’ve really kind of been drawn to is making those things better.”

Now, he gets to do it for a living as a tech advisor in Los Angeles, consulting for military films on everything from the screenplay to costumes and props.

“Anytime there’s a firefight or any big gun scenes, I’m working with the stunt department to choreograph those fight scenes to not only get a great shot that’s entertaining and looks good but also authentic — that guys are doing things they’d normally be doing and making it as authentic as possible,” he said.

Denman’s passion stems from a family history of military service; both of his grandfathers served in the Navy during World War II and his father and brother retired from the Army. He joined the Army straight out of high school and spent 20 years in the service, including a dozen or so in the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Fort Lewis, where he deployed 15 times (and met Black Rifle Coffee Company co-founder Mat Best).

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Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.

He ended his career in 2017 as an ROTC instructor at St. John’s University in Queens, New York City, and was thinking about traveling or going to school after retirement. That’s when a friend who knew someone in the film industry asked Denman if he’d be interested in advising on a National Geographic miniseries, The Long Road Home.

“It was something that I thought would just be a cool experience less than would be an opportunity for a future career,” Denman said. But a few months later, he got his second gig. Then another.

So far, he’s worked on a TV series, five recruiting commercials for the Army, and four movies, including The Outpost, which came out earlier this year and is based on the true story of the 2009 Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan.

Paris attack planners obliterated in drone strike

Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.

Denman said he’s usually hired during a movie’s preproduction stage to help department heads know the type of uniforms and guns that would have been used at the time a movie is set.

The Outpost producer Paul Merryman said Denman gave him a full education on plate carriers and the type of equipment each soldier would have carried at the time that distinguished him from another.

“It was much more complex than any one of us thought,” Merryman said. “He was crucial because if something was wrong, we were going to get called out for it. Our director knew that early on. Jariko was always like, ‘They’re going to call bullshit on that. This is inaccurate. If you do it this way, you’re going to get laughed at.'”

“Jariko is very unfiltered in the best of ways,” he continued. “That made the collaboration work that much better because we can get straight down to it: What’s wrong? How do we fix it? How do we do this right?”

He said he once saw Denman yell at the director when one of the actors improvised a line and referred to someone as “Sarge.”

“He cares about how his brothers are portrayed, and he will fight tooth and nail to do something properly and make something look good to prevent someone or a group of someones from being embarrassed because he cares about reputation and integrity, and he cares about the craft,” Merryman said.

Denman sees it as a personal responsibility — not just a professional one.

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Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman.

“Your average civilian doesn’t know any military members or veterans. They’re gleaning all their opinions about who a veteran or who a soldier or a Marine is through pop culture, and that’s through movies and TV now. So, it’s up to us as veterans in this industry to really try to make all these things as […] authentic as possible,” he said.

Denman’s dream is to produce and direct military movies himself, and he’s been using the slower pace of the last few months to work on a few projects.

He’s also currently working on a movie with a famous actor, whose name he can’t reveal just yet. And some days, he still has to pinch himself.

“I was like, Holy shit, I never thought I would be doing this — waking up to go and hang out with this dude all day every day and tell him war stories and wrestle and go shooting, you know,” he said.

“I do enjoy telling people what I do. It’s a cool fucking job. I’m very, very blessed to have it.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

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This Pearl Harbor hero refused to abandon his ship

December 7, 1941, is a heartrending day for Americans — even 75 years later.


Despite the solemn reminder that over 2,000 individuals perished that day, the instances of self-sacrifice and valor offer a source of inspiration to Americans.

Captain Bennion of the USS West Virginia is one of those men, immortalized forever for his stubborn refusal to give up his ship or abandon his men during one of America’s darkest hours.

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Medal of Honor Recipient Captain Mervyn Sharp Bennion. (Photo courtesy of the Naval Historical Center)

Mervyn Sharp Bennion was born in Utah Territory in May of 1887. He successfully graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1910, ranked third in his class. His roommate, Earl C. Metz, recalled the Mormon farmer’s sharp mind during his academic years. “He was able to concentrate mentally to a degree I have never seen equalled. He could read over a thing once and he had it. He had a perfectly marvellous brain and mental processes,” Metz recollected.

After graduation, Bennion served aboard the USS North Dakota as a lieutenant during the First World War. He methodically rose in the ranks of the Navy until he received command of the USS Bernadou in 1932. He returned to the Naval War College for a short time, and served as an instructor. On July 2, 1941, Bennion assumed command of the USS West Virginia of the U.S. Pacific Fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor. A little over five months after receiving the command he would be dead.

His brother, Howard Sharp Bennion, published an account of his deeds in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Captain Bennion was casually shaving in his cabin on the morning of December 7 before heading out to church service. This stillness in his cabin was disrupted when one of his sailors burst through the door and alerted him that a wave of Japanese aircraft was headed directly toward the vessel.

Bennion rushed to the deck and issued a series of orders to prepare for the imminent attack. It was not long before a low flying Japanese torpedo bomber dumped three bombs on the West Virginia, causing severe damage and tearing a hole in its side.

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A rescue operation underway from the burning USS West Virginia after the Japanese attacks. (U.S. Navy, December 7, 1941)

On his way to the Flag Bridge a fragment of metal tore through the air and gashed Bennion in the abdomen. The projectile nearly decapitated him, tearing his torso to shreds and damaging his spine and left hip. He was unable to move his legs and his entrails protruded from his stomach.

A pharmacist’s mate came to his aid and placed a makeshift bandage over the mortal wound. Bennion demanded that the man go attend to other wounded sailors and continued to issue orders amid the chaos.

Bennion refused to be moved an inch from his location until the first Japanese attack ended. During the lull before the second wave arrived, he finally permitted himself to be placed on a cot under a sheltered position on the deck.

As he lay protracted and in agony, he resumed issuing commands and receiving reports when the second wave struck an hour later.

Due to the combination of the loss of blood and shock, he began to lose consciousness. A few of his men tied him on a ladder and carried the makeshift stretcher to the navigation bridge out of the way of flames and smoke engulfing the vessel.

Barley coherent and somehow still clinging to life, Bennion again ordered his men to leave him and look after themselves. Roughly 20 minutes later he passed away, one of the thousands of Americans to perish that day.

One officer who remained alongside Bennion to the end proudly proclaimed that “the noble conduct of Capt. Bennion before and after being wounded met the highest traditions of the naval service and justified the high esteem in which he was universally held. I consider it my great good fortune to have served under him.”

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The USS West Virginia continued to serve as an active battleship throughout the Pacific, and was present for the surrender of the Japanese on September 2, 1945. (U.S. Navy)

Bennion’s body was transported home and buried with honor in Utah. He was afterward awarded the Medal of Honor for his inspirational leadership. His citation read: “For conspicuous devotion to duty, extraordinary courage, and complete disregard of his own life, above and beyond the call of duty, during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. As Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. West Virginia, after being mortally wounded, Capt. Bennion evidenced apparent concern only in fighting and saving his ship, and strongly protested against being carried from the bridge.”

Despite being incapacitated early in the action at Pearl Harbor, Bennion refused to abandon his ship and nobly encouraged his men until the bitter end.

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This soldier thinks it’s time to retire the Pathfinder badge

The de-activation of the Pathfinder Company at Fort Campbell and the Army’s recent decision to do away with Long Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance Detachments got me thinking: Why do we even have Pathfinder school anymore?


Don’t get me wrong, Pathfinder was a tough course, and I proudly wore the winged torch for much of my career.  But the only reason I went to the school was for the badge, and if most people are honest with themselves, that’s why they went, too.  After all, the course is often derisively referred to as “Badgefinder.”

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U.S Army Civil Affairs Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Soldiers earn their Pathfinder Badge at Fort Bragg, N.C. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres

I learned some useful skills in Pathfinder School, but I probably didn’t need to go to a dedicated school to learn them.  The hardest part about Pathfinder was memorizing the capabilities, tables, and charts necessary to calculate things like forward throw, HLZ and DZ sizes, and cargo capacity.  Those are important things to know how to do, but (like for Air Assault School), you will rely on hard copy versions of that information, not your memory, if you need to do it for real.

Additionally, most of the people who attend Pathfinder end up never being in a Pathfinder unit, much less use those skills operationally.

Pathfinder has a long and proud history, but it has outlived its utility.  It’s time to furl the school’s colors, retire the badge, and put those resources to better use.

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US-backed forces killed a Taliban leader in Afghanistan

Afghan forces backed by the U.S. airpower have intensified the offensive against the insurgents in the country, killing scores of militants including a Taliban shadow governor in fresh air raids, a security official said.


Mawlawi Helal, the Taliban’s self-proclaimed governor for northern Baghlan province, has been killed along with his top four commanders and up to 15 more fighters in Dand-e-Ghori district, Ikramuddin Saree, the security chief for the province, told Anadolu Agency.

Local media reported a few civilian casualties in the raid, but the officials have not acknowledged any.

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U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Daniel Hopping during a mission to disrupt Taliban forces in Larr village and establish a presence in the area. (DoD photo by Cpl. Joseph Scanlan, U.S. Marine Corps/Released)

In February, the Taliban confirmed the death of their governor for Kunduz Mullah Abdul Salam in a U.S. airstrike in the Dasht-e-Archi district.

In mid-April, the Afghan officials also claimed to have eliminated the militants’ shadow governor for Takhar province in the same district.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) has stated in a message that three al-Qaeda affiliates have been killed in an air raid in southern Zabul province.

The Taliban, on the other hand, claimed to have killed a district police chief and 10 other policemen in the Shenkai district of the province.

Also read: 300 Marines will deploy to help counter Taliban insurgents

Zabul lies between Ghazni and Kandahar, where the Taliban are quite active, particularly in the rural parts.

Gul-e-Islam, spokesman for the provincial government, has only confirmed the death of district police chief Saifullah Hotak and one of his guards. He claimed the militants’ assault on security check posts has been repulsed.

The NATO mission in Afghanistan has announced strong desire to eliminate Daesh and other terrorist groups in 2017, however, aspiration for a peace deal with the Taliban has been expressed on a number of occasions.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The last US troop to desert to North Korea dies at 77

Charles Jenkins, a U.S Army deserter to North Korea who married a Japanese abductee and lived in Japan after their release, has died. He was 77.


Jenkins was found collapsed outside his home in Sado, northern Japan, Dec. 11 and rushed to a hospital and later pronounced dead, a group representing families of Japanese abductees to North Korea said Dec. 12.

Japan’s NHK national television said he died of a heart failure.

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Charles Jenkins, U.S. Army deserter and defector to North Korea who married a Japanese prisoner. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Jenkins, of Rich Square, North Carolina, disappeared in January 1965 while on patrol along the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea. He later called his desertion a mistake that led to decades of deprivation and hardship in the communist country.

Jenkins met his wife Hitomi Soga, who was kidnapped by Pyeongyang in 1978, in North Korea and the couple had two daughters, Mika and Blinda. His wife was allowed to visit Japan in 2002 and stayed. Jenkins and their daughters followed in 2004.

Also Read: Here are a few more reasons not to be a deserter (in case you needed them)

Once in Japan, Jenkins in 2004 was subject to a U.S. court-martial in which he said he deserted because of fear of being sent to fight in Vietnam. He pleaded guilty to desertion and aiding the enemy and was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to 25 days in a U.S. military jail in Japan.

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Charles Jenkins, the Army deserter and defector to North Korea who married a Japanese prisoner. (Image Wikipedia)

Jenkins and his family lived in Soga’s hometown of Sado, where he was a popular worker at a local souvenir shop and could often be seen posing in photos with visiting tourists.

Soga is one of 13 Japanese that Tokyo says were kidnapped by the North in the 1970s and 1980s as teachers of Japanese culture and language for agents spying on South Korea. Pyongyang acknowledged the abductions and allowed a Japan visit in 2002 for Soga and four others, who eventually stayed.

Jenkins, in his 2005 autobiographical book To Tell the Truth and in appearances at conferences on North Korean human rights, revealed that he had seen other American deserters living with women abducted from elsewhere, including Thailand and Romania.

After settling in Japan, he visited North Carolina to see his mother and sister, but he said he had no plans to move back to the U.S.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy needs help fixing its $13 billion supercarriers

The Navy is struggling to fix its new Ford-class supercarriers, so the service has called in outside experts to help find a solution amid delivery delays and rising costs.

The advanced weapons elevators, critical systems that the secretary of the Navy bet his job on, are one of the biggest problems. Only two of the 11 electromagnetic lifts on the USS Gerald R. Ford are currently operational.

The advanced weapons elevators on the Ford-class carriers are designed to move 20,000 pounds of munitions up to the flight deck at a rate of 150 feet per minute, a significant improvement over elevators on the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers able to lift only 10,500 pounds at 100 feet per minute. These lifts are crucial to increasing the aircraft sortie rate, thus increasingly the lethality of the new carriers over their predecessors.


But that requires they work, and right now, they don’t.

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer told President Donald Trump in December 2018 that “the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me.” He told reporters earlier this year that “we’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done. I haven’t been fired yet by anyone. Being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”

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USS Gerald R. Ford.

(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)

The secretary assured the president that problems with the elevators would be resolved by the end of the post-shakedown availability (PSA), a maintenance period following initial sea trials. The PSA was expected to wrap up in July 2019, but it has since been delayed to October 2019.

Trump has fixated on the Ford-class’s electromagnetic catapults that launch planes into the air, and said the future carriers would return to steam-powered catapults.

Even with the delays, the Navy doubted it could solve the elevator problem by the end of the PSA. “The elevators are going to require more work after the PSA,” a Navy official previously told Business Insider. “The elevators are the long pole in the tent,” he said, clarifying that integration remains the greatest challenge.

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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni.

So, the Navy has decided to bring in outside help, Breaking Defense reported July 1, 2019.

“We’ve gathered a team of experts on the carrier right now, which will work with the shipbuilder to get Ford’s weapons elevators completed in the most efficient timeline possible,” Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James Geurts told the defense media outlet in a statement. “We have a full court press on the advanced weapons elevators.”

The team of experts called into work with Huntington Ingalls at the Newport News shipyard in Virginia has experience with electromagnetic systems, electrical engineering, and systems integration. This group will “recommend new design changes that can improve elevator activities for the rest of the Ford class,” Guerts said.

While the Navy has yet to get the Ford working as intended, the service has already committed billions of dollars to the development of three additional Ford-class carriers.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.