Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri was with Saddam from the very beginning and on through to the very end when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 spread him and his compatriots to the winds. The next thing he knew, he was the King of Clubs on the U.S. military’s now-famous most-wanted Baathist decks of cards.
Unlike most of the people who appeared on the deck, Al-Douri was one of seven figures who managed to completely evade capture. Also unlike most of his fellow Baathists, the 77-year-old Baath party chairman also kept fighting the fight for Saddam’s Iraq – a fight he continues to this day.
He was said to have helped the rise of ISIS.
The United States left Iraq as a ruling force back in 2011. By then, most of the people featured on the deck of cards were either captured, killed, or some combination of the two. The only exceptions were seven individuals who managed to flee the invasion and then evade capture somehow. Al-Douri was one of these evaders. Not only did he manage to evade capture for the entire duration of the Iraq War, but he also launched his own insurgency against the Americans, calling it the Naqshbandi Army.
Its full name is the Army Men of the Naqshbandi Order, and its ideology is a blend of pan-Arab nationalism (like the Baath party before it) and fundamentalist Islamic beliefs. They clashed with other Sunni groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq while fighting a guerrilla war against the Americans. The entire group operated in independent cells of seven to ten men. Al-Douri was said to be leading this group from neighboring Syria.
In April 2015, it was believed Al-Douri was killed by a Shia paramilitary group in Iraq’s Salahuddin Province, but DNA testing was inconclusive, and his insurgent group denied the reports. Al-Douri appeared on television and other media later, discussing events that took place after his death, so it was soon widely accepted that the body found was not Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri. With the Americans (mostly) gone from Iraq, Al-Douri and his fighters have started to turn their attention to Iranian forces in the country, troops Al-Douri fought as a Baathist for years during the Iran-Iraq War.
He has since declared that Iranians will be the groups next targets in the coming years, blaming Iran for “directly invading” Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has promised to form a special team to kill or capture Al-Douri, but one has yet to materialize.
Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over China’s largest-ever naval parade in the South China Sea on April 12, 2018, according to Reuters.
The parade involved more than 10,000 naval officers, and dozens of naval ships, and aircraft, according to CGTN.
Xi told his troops that it “has never been more pressing than today” for China to have a world-leading navy, Reuters reported, telling them to devote their undying loyalty to the party.
China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, is the world’s largest armed forces. The PLA is currently trying to modernize its forces, investing heavily in new technology and equipment, and unnerving its neighbors, Reuters reported.
Here’s what the parade looked like:
48 naval vessels took part in China’s naval parade in the South China Sea on Thursday.
As well as China’s first and only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
76 aircraft also took part in the parade.
Such as J-15s.
And even helicopters.
Xi himself was onboard a destroyer called the Changsha.
Where he watched four J-15s take off from the Liaoning.
While addressing his troops, Xi told them to devote their loyalty to the party.
The Air Force has given Boeing a $20.9 million contract to procure the GBU-57 massive ordnance penetrator — a bomb designed to destroy hardened underground targets like those found in North Korea or Iran.
The announcement does not disclose how many bombs were ordered, but it did say the work is expected to be done by July 31, 2020. Boeing is to get the total amount of the contract at the time of award.
The 30,000-pound GBU-57 is the US’s largest nonnuclear bomb. A GPS-guided bunker-buster, it is “designed to accomplish a difficult, complicated mission of reaching and destroying our adversaries’ weapons of mass destruction located in well-protected facilities,” the Air Force fact sheet for the weapon states.
That includes fortified positions and underground targets, like bunkers or tunnels. It is designed for operational use by the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, which can carry two at a time, but hasn’t been used in combat, and its deployments, if any, are not known.
‘Hard and deeply buried targets’
Under a 2011 contract cited by The Drive, the Air Force paid Boeing $28 million for eight of the bombs, as well as for additional parts and for a redesign of the B-2’s bomb bay. But the latest order comes after the Pentagon successfully tested and deployed an upgraded version, the GBU-57D/B, which may have a different unit cost than previous models.
The latest upgrade, the fourth for the bomb, “improved the performance against hard and deeply buried targets,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Bloomberg in January 2018. The spokeswoman said the upgrade had been completed and the current inventory was being retrofitted.
Few details about the upgrade have been released, but, according to The Drive, it likely includes a modified fuse, which is responsible for detonating the weapon. The fuse is a complicated component that needs to function with precision after a fall from high altitude and the shock of burrowing through earth or other barriers.
The Pentagon’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation said in its fiscal year 2017 report, that the GBU-57 had successfully completed several tests at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico over the past year, dropped from B-2s on “representative targets” that “demonstrated effectiveness of the Enhanced Threat Response (ETR)-IV weapon modifications.”
A weapon that ‘boggles the mind’
The GBU-57 is 20.5 feet long, 31.5 inches in diameter, and carries more than 5,300 pounds of explosives. Much of the remaining weight is a high-performance steel casing that, along with its narrow diameter, is meant to help the weapon burrow into the ground. Some estimate it could penetrate up to 200 feet of earth before detonating.
“What is exciting is when we release our 30,000-pound MOP, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator,” B-2 pilot Lt. Col. Justin “Vapor” Grieve told The Kansas City Star. “When you release that, you can feel it. The plane will actually raise up about 100 feet, and then it’ll settle back down. It’s pretty cool. It’s fun.”
A former Pentagon official who saw footage of GBU-57 tests during 2014 and 2015 told Politico in 2015 that the weapon “boggles the mind.”
Those tests came amid a period of heightened tension with Iran, which developed an extensive underground network of labs and other facilities involved in nuclear-weapons development.
More recently, US tensions with North Korea — which has an extensive network of underground tunnels, command-and-control bunkers, and missile and nuclear facilities — have again raised the possibility the GBU-57 could used over a battlefield.
In fall 2017, B-2 bombers and other aircraft were heard during an exercise over Missouri that appeared to simulate airstrikes on airports in the state, according to a recording obtained by The Aviationist.
During one night of the exercises, an aircraft involved radioed a message about a “possible DPRK leadership relocation site,” whose coordinates pointed to a Jefferson City airport hanger. It’s not clear whether the use of unsecured radio channels was a mistake or done on purpose.
Three B-2 bombers arrived in Guam in January 2018 in what the Air Force called a planned deployment.
Iran and North Korea are not the only countries that have developed extensive underground infrastructure. China’s strategic missile forces have a 3,100-mile network of tunnels under mountains in the northern part of the country. According to a 2009 Jamestown Foundation report, Chinese state media refer to the complex as an “underground Great Wall.”
Michael Fumarola didn’t see the rush of ocean as he sped toward the beach and toppled from his surfboard. He face-planted in the wet, goopy sand and gulped the salty water.
Red-faced and gasping for a quick breath, the blind veteran with multiple sclerosis from the Cincinnati VA Medical Center sucked in some San Diego air and couldn’t help but smile.
“That was great!” he yelled.
His instructor, Felipe Rueff, slapped his hands on both sides of his face.
“Atta boy! Do it again?”
Fumarola is one of more than 130 veterans from across the nation in San Diego, California, Sept. 15 to 20, 2019, for VA’s National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. The annual event, presented with the Wounded Warrior Project, brings amputee, paralyzed, blind, and other veterans to learn adaptive surfing, kayaking, sailing, hand cycling and more.
Michael Fumarola gives a high five after coming in from the surf.
(Photo by John Archiquette)
Empower and develop
“This is one of the highlights of VA’s commitment to veterans,” said Dave Tostenrude, acting director of the Summer Sports Clinic. “This is one of those events that reaches a broader range of vets.
“What we’re looking for are vets looking to make changes in their lives, and we don’t care where they come from or what their issues are, we’re going to work with them, we’re going to empower them and develop a plan to be active at home.”
Dana Cummings, a Marine Corps veteran who only learned to surf after he lost a leg in a car accident, brought his company, AmpSurf, to the clinic to give the veterans one-on-one training.
“Listen,” he told the veterans before they hit the water, “Don’t worry. You’re going to be fine. I tried this before I lost a leg and failed miserably, now I do it all the time. It’s going to be a lot of fun and you’re going to have a great time.”
Cummings went over the basics of surfing, then vets, instructors and volunteers hit the surf.
“Hell, yeah, let’s do it!” said Brandon Starkey, a veteran who lost his leg in a car crash 15 days after coming home from Iraq. “If someone says they can’t do this, I call them a liar, because the only limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves.”
Fumarola was wheeled down to the surf in a special wheelchair with wide wheels, made to run over the wet sand.
“You think you’ll be able to do it?” someone asked.
“I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out,” he laughed. “I’ve never done it. But you gotta do it to find out. Someone doesn’t want to try it, that’s just B.S.”
Bobby Hutchinson says coming to Summer Sports was part of his transformation to get out of the house, despite an amputation.
(Photo by John Archiquette)
First time for everything
A few feet down the beach, Bobby “Hutch” Hutchinson, who lost a leg in Desert Storm, was still able to get up on one knee as he rode the surf to the beach.
“Hey, I’m surfing, or trying to, anyway,” he said. “I got up on one knee, tried to get up and kind of wiped out, but I’m having a blast. There’s a first time for everything and here I am. I told some friends I was doing this and they said I’d better videotape it because they want to make fun of me.”
But for Hutchinson, from the St. Louis VA, it was about more than just a day at the beach.
“It’s about getting out of the house and having something to look forward to,” he said. “It gives you hope, you know? It gives you something to try, something different. It’s always good to try something new and color outside the box.”
It was also emotional for the instructors.
“I’ve been surfing for 47 years and teaching for 11,” Rueff said. “You see these guys drain the water, riding it all the way into the beach, it’s great. There is a healing power to the water. You can’t tell because I’m all wet, but I get really emotional.”
Fumarola said it was an experience he’ll never forget.
“I enjoyed the hell out of it. I learned I can do it. There ain’t nothing I can’t do. Life is great. Love it! Live it!”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday urged countries to immediately stop waging conflicts around the world in light of a “common enemy.”
“It is time to put armed conflict on lock-down and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” Guterres said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic that has placed numerous countries on lockdown. “The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith. It attacks all, relentlessly.”
“Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world,” Guterres said, adding that health networks in “war-ravaged countries” have since collapsed.
Due to the pandemic that has killed over 16,100 people and infected more than 367,000, Guterres said it was “time to put armed conflict on lockdown” and called for an “immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.”
The novel coronavirus spread across the world from China sometime late last year, according to health officials. At least 168 countries and territories reported cases of the coronavirus, prompting the World Health Organization to label it a pandemic on March 11.
China, where the epicenter of the coronavirus took root, appeared to make progress in stemming the number of infections by imposing strict lockdowns, according to its government. The country reported 39 new cases on Sunday, seven fewer cases from the day before.
In other parts of the world, however, the number of cases continues to increase. Italy saw the highest number of coronavirus-related fatalities, surpassing China, with 6,077 deaths. The US reported 483 deaths as of Monday afternoon.
“To warring parties, I say, ‘Pull back from hostilities. Put aside mistrust and animosity. Silence the guns, stop the artillery, end the airstrikes,'” Guterres said.
“End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world,” he added. “It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now.”
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — If the 13 years of running Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America has taken an emotional and physical toll on founder and CEO Paul Rieckhoff, he doesn’t show it. Watching him in action at the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia is a study in determination and attention to detail. No bypassing staffer is too junior to be engaged, and no veterans issue is too trivial to be addressed.
“If you had asked me 13 years ago that if this far in the future it would still be this hard, I would have said you were full of it,” Rieckhoff says. “Everything is still too hard, from getting candidates to say the right thing to reforming the VA.”
He’s also concerned that philanthropic organizations haven’t responded to a national health problem that he compares to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.
“This is like going to the convention in 1982 and people are kind of peripherally talking about AIDS when their friends are dying,” he says. “So if we accept that 20 vets are dying a day as a base point, we’re going to walk out of these conventions and the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and these other billionaire philanthropic leaders are not going to be focused on veterans issues.”
Rieckhoff spreads the blame for the lack of progress on veterans’ issues — heath care and beyond — across several camps, starting with the commander-in-chief.
“President Obama has failed to provide the country a national strategy, and as a response, you’ve gotten fragmentation,” he says. And, by his reckoning, that fragmentation has taken myriad forms, including divisions among the veteran community itself.
“Too often VSO are having tribal fights when we really should recognize that we’re all really in deep shit because our demographics are our destiny and our demographics are bad,” Rieckhoff warns.
He goes on to explain that the veteran community is about to experience a “tectonic shift” numbers-wise because the World War II generation is all but gone and the Vietnam War generation is dying fast.
“We’re going to go from 12 percent in the population to, at some point, under five percent,” he explains.
In the face of this reality, Rieckhoff says that veteran service organizations and, more broadly, veterans themselves need to unify.
“My big takeaway in the wake of these two conventions is we have to find ways to be united and focused and we have to find ways to multiply our impact,” he says. “If veterans alone are carrying water for veterans’ issues we will lose. We’re just too small. There aren’t enough of us.”
That’s not to say that he doesn’t think veterans have individual impact potential; in fact, Rieckhoff is quick to point out that vets are in a unique position nationwide right now.
“If you’re a veteran and you walk into a Starbucks or a classroom and announce your status you’re going to get 2 minutes of ‘rock star’ respect where people will listen to you for a little while before they jump into their corners for Bernie or Trump or whoever,” he says. “But you have that opening that opportunity to try and be a leader and bring people together. That’s what veterans need to be doing right now. We can bring the temperature down. We can do it through credibility and patriotism and through our example.”
At the same time, Rieckhoff warns vets against being used as props.
“As a community, we have to be really wary about being used. If they want to throw you up on stage with someone, make sure that you’re getting out of it what you need because they’re going to get what they need,” he says. “It’s kind of like when you join the military, right? Uncle Sam’s going to get what he needs out of you. Make sure you get what you need out of Uncle Sam.”
The discussion pivots to the political sphere, and Rieckhoff is at once unflinching and bipartisan in his take on what’s in play for the military community.
“The conventions have been fascinating to watch,” he says. “I think what’s happened in the last four years is both parties realize that veterans make good populism. Last week you had Joni Ernst and a wall of veterans, this week you’ll have Seth Moulton and a wall of veterans. They know – Trump especially – that there is a huge populist undertone to everything veterans.”
But Rieckhoff fears the community may be squandering its time in the spotlight.
“We have lacked a real sharp edge of activism,” he says. “If this was 1968, vet protestors would be in the convention.”
He introduces a broader theme, saying, “It’s a very complicated psycho-social situation we’re in where our community has been asked to sacrifice over and over again, but the public has reasoned that those in the military are self-selected as people who are willing to sacrifice over and over again. You can send us on 12 tours and we’re not going to make that much of a stink.
“The bigger issue is the lack of precedent for the lack of involvement in our country in a time of war. There’s no precedent in American history for this much war with this small group of people for this long.”
That societal reality has yielded some things of concern, not the least of which, according to Rieckhoff, is the fact that there are very few veterans in positions of real power.
“None of the candidates in either party is a veteran,” he points out. “Neither chairman of the VA on either the House or Senate side was a veteran. Jeff Miller and Bernie Sanders can’t run around talking about how wonderful they were when they presided over the largest VA scandal in American history.
“Bernie Sanders used the scandal to pass the omnibus and Jeff Miller is running around with Trump, using his time on HVAC for that. That’s politics, I get that. But At the end of the day veterans are still screwed.”
Rieckhoff likens the situation to “asking a plumber to fix your television.”
He uses what’s going on at the VA as an example, saying, “Bob McDonald is an army of one right now. He’s getting his legs cut out from under him by the Republican congress and Democratic leadership won’t touch him, so he’s almost out of time. He’s a good man who’s tried, but likely he’ll be out. The probability is we’ll get a new VA secretary who’ll get nominated in February or March, confirmed in March or April, and maybe he gets to work in June. So, six months into 2017, we’ll have the vision of a new VA secretary.”
Rieckhoff wants veteran leaders “who are still on the sidelines” to engage.
“There should be a coordinated and independent effort to recognize that these are trying times politically and we need to have a new call for these folks to serve,” he says. “You had the ‘Fighting Dems” in ’06 and I told Rahm Emanuel that ‘you have a political jump ball here,’ and he didn’t see it.
“The Fighting Dems wasn’t started by the party; it was started by that crew – Patrick Murphy and Tammy Duckworth and Joe Sestak. That was the first iteration. Four years later the Republicans had their own round, but there was never really a coordinated campaign by either party to recruit veterans. There was a coordinated campaign to push out veterans and to celebrate veterans, but there’s not actually a farm team.”
Rieckhoff goes further, actually recommending a ticket that a large percentage of veterans would support right out of the gate.
“If [former NYC mayor] Mike Bloomberg and [retired Admiral and former CJCS] Mike Mullen started their own party tomorrow, a third of our membership would go with them . . . probably a third of the country would go with them,” he opines.
Rieckhoff sums the landscape up as “crazier,” and, again, he believes that presents a unique opportunity for the military/veteran community.
“We’re some of the only people who can go to both conventions and understand both sides,” he says. “That’s the powerful position for us whether it’s gun control, immigration, Islamophobia, gay rights, marijuana, or whatever. We can be a unique bridge builder between both sides. The Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements are great examples. The veterans community is on both sides of those.”
For all of the impact potential veterans might have, Rieckhoff is also mindful of negative stereotypes that exist among the civilian populations, something he blames in large part to “media laziness.”
“The only description the media had of the Dallas shooter was that he was African-American, and he was a veteran,” he points out. “Why? Because they have to file a story quickly and those were the only two things they could verify. That accelerated media cycle perpetuates lazy reporting. And when you have a vet who fits the stereotype they run with it.”
Rieckhoff exhales and contemplates the requirement to constantly attend to the pubic’s perception of vets, and that reminds him of the accomplishments of the community and, specifically, the legacy of IAVA.
“When IAVA started in 2004 the veterans landscape was a desert,” he remembers. “Now it’s a metropolis. We are very proud of the fact that a lot of people who come through the IAVA team have gone on to do really cool stuff.”
A quick review of the current roles of IAVA alums bears this out. Vet leaders like Abdul Henderson (now on the Congressional Black Caucus), Bill Rausch (now at Got Your 6), Tom Taratino (Twitter), Matt Miller (Trump campaign), and Todd Bowers (Uber) all spent time on the IAVA staff.
“We built IAVA to be a launching pad,” Rieckhoff says. “I’d rather have Tom Taratino at Twitter changing the culture than have him at the House VA Committee talking to a bunch of other veterans for the ninetieth time.”
But in spite of the challenges, Rieckhoff is bullish on the future of the veteran community.
“In 10 years, disproportionally CEOs are going to be veterans, candidates are going to be veterans, entrepreneurs are going to be veterans,” he says. “And that’s going to be exciting to watch.”
Soldiers with over 16 years of service who want to transfer their Post-9/11 GI Bill to a dependent must do so before July 12, 2019, or risk losing the ability to transfer education benefits.
Last year, the Department of Defense implemented a new Post-9/11 GI Bill Transfer of Education Benefits, or TEB, eligibility requirement, which instituted a “six- to 16-year cutoff rule,” said Master Sgt. Gerardo T. Godinez, senior Army retention operations NCO with Army G-1.
Further, soldiers who want to transfer their education entitlement must have at least six years of service, he said. All soldiers must commit to an additional four years of service to transfer their GI Bill.
However, soldiers who are currently going through the medical evaluation board process cannot transfer GI Bill benefits until they are found fit for duty under the new DOD policy.
(U.S. Army photo)
“For Purple Heart recipients, [all] these rules do not apply,” Godinez said.
Prior to the new policy, there were no restrictions on when a soldier could transfer their education benefits.
Since 2009, over 1 million soldiers have transferred their GI Bill benefits, Godinez said.
“To transfer their GI Bill, soldiers have to go into milConnect website, login with their common access card, then select the tab there that talks about the transfer education benefits,” Godinez said.
If a soldier needs additional help, they can visit their installation’s service and career, or education counselors. In July 2019, the new rules will be in effect and those soldiers with more than 16 years of service will not be eligible to transfer education benefits.
“Soldiers need to [review this benefit] to make an educated decision,” he said.
North Korean soldiers shot at and wounded a fellow soldier who was crossing a jointly controlled area at the heavily guarded border to defect to South Korea on Oct.13, the South’s military said.
North Korean soldiers have occasionally defected to South Korea across the border. But it’s rare for a North Korean soldier to defect via the Joint Security Area, where border guards of the rival Koreas stand facing each other just meters (feet) away, and be shot by fellow North Korean soldiers.
The soldier bolted from a guard post at the northern side of Panmunjom village in the Joint Security Area to the southern side of the village, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. He was shot in the shoulder and elbow and was taken to a South Korean hospital, the South’s Defense Ministry said. It wasn’t immediately known how serious the soldier’s injuries were or why he decided to defect.
South Korean troops found the injured soldier south of the border after hearing sounds of gunfire, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said, requesting anonymity, citing department rules. South Korean troops didn’t fire at the North, he said.
The defection came at a time of heightened tension over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and could escalate animosities between the rival countries. North Korea has typically accused South Korea of enticing its citizens to defect, something the South denies.
About 30,000 North Koreans have defected to South Korea since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, but most travel through China.
Panmunjom, once an obscure farming village inside the 4-kilometer-wide (2 1/2-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone that separates the two Koreas, is where an armistice was signed to pause the Korean War. Jointly controlled by the American-led U.N. Command and North Korea, the DMZ is guarded on both sides by hundreds of thousands of combat-ready troops, razor-wire fences and tank traps. More than a million mines are believed to be buried inside the zone.
American presidents often visit Panmunjom and other DMZ areas during their trips to South Korea to reaffirm their security commitment to the South. President Donald Trumpplanned to visit the DMZ to underscore his stance against North Korea’s nuclear program when he came to South Korea last week as part of an Asian tour, but his plans were thwarted by heavy fog that prevented his helicopter from landing at the border area.
At Panmunjom, North Korean soldiers wearing lapel pins with the images of late North Korean leaders often use binoculars to monitor visitors from the South. They stand only several meters (yards) away from tall South Korean soldiers wearing aviator sunglasses and standing motionless like statues. This makes the area a popular stop for visitors from both sides.
Areas around Panmunjom were the site of bloodshed and defection attempts by North Koreans in the past, but there have been no such incidents in recent years.
The most famous incident was in 1976, when two American army officers were killed by ax-wielding North Korean soldiers. The attack prompted Washington to fly nuclear-capable B-52 bombers toward the DMZ in an attempt to intimidate North Korea.
In 1984, North Korean and U.N. Command soldiers traded gunfire after a Soviet citizen defected by sprinting to the South Korean sector of the truce village. The incident left three North Korean soldiers and one South Korean soldier dead. In 1998, a North Korean solider fled to South Korea via Panmunjom.
HISTORY’s six-hour miniseries event, “Grant,” executive produced by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and biographer Ron Chernow and Appian Way’s Jennifer Davisson and Leonardo DiCaprio and produced by RadicalMedia in association with global content leader Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B) will premiere Memorial Day and air over three consecutive nights beginning Monday, May 25 at 9PM ET/PT on HISTORY. The television event will chronicle the life of one of the most complex and underappreciated generals and presidents in U.S. history – Ulysses S. Grant.
Grant: Official Trailer | 3-Night Miniseries Event Premieres Memorial Day, May 25 at 9/8c | History
Garry Adelman has been a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg for more than a decade. Seen here holding the first Civil War photo he owned, given to him by his grandmother when he was 17 years old.
Garry Adelman is the Chief Historian with American Battlefield Trust. He is a Civil War expert, published author and the vice president of the Center for Civil War Photography. He appears on the forthcoming miniseries “GRANT” that will air over three consecutive nights beginning Monday, May 25 at 9PM ET/PT on HISTORY.
The American Battlefield Trust has preserved more than 15,000 acres of battlefield land, hallowed ground, where Grant’s soldiers fought.
Photo by Casey Crawford Copyright 2020
Leaders who lead from the front are very popular, however, even in today’s military there are officers who believe they’re above that. Grant was very hands on, how did he imprint that side of leadership onto his officers?
More than anything he was a product of his time. He would have learned at West Point and his war in Mexico in the 1840s that: Lieutenants, Colonels and Brigadier Generals are expected to recklessly expose themselves to danger at that time to inspire their men. It’s one of the roles of the civil war officers had to do this by possessing unbelievable personal bravery. He was cool under fire and by not being shy to roll his sleeves up to get a job done and remain cool under fire he inspired his troops to do the same.
Photo by Joe Alblas Copyright 2020
Maintaining order and discipline in the chaos of combat is paramount. Was there anything special about Grant’s training methods that turned raw recruits into warriors?
I’m not aware that Grant trained his troops in anyway, substantially different than other civil war commanders. What Grant did was give his soldiers victory.
“If you follow my example, if you stick to your post and do your duty, if you relentlessly pursued and attacked in front of you – I will give you victory- you will be part of that victory.”
That is the key to grant, more than any particular training he gave them. Again, leading by example and giving soldiers a purpose.
Photo by Casey Crawford Copyright 2020
When I was deployed to Afghanistan, my platoon had the luxury of having internet maybe twice a month. How did Grant facilitate communication between his troops and their loved ones?
A lot of people don’t realize but to be a great commander in the 19th century, as today, you do not simply possess the skills of strategy and tactics but rather you need to be an excellent communicator, which Grant was. You need to be an excellent administrator, which Grant was, and in the latter manner; Grant was keeping his troops fed, kept his telegraph lines open, by keeping the mail running, Grant kept his troops happy.
Those troops were able to communicate primarily by letter, sometimes by telegraph, to get important messages home and more importantly to receive letters from home – including care packages. Grant accomplished that through the greatly underrated attribute of being organized.
Photo by Joe Alblas Copyright 2020
Grant’s popularity grew among the civilian population following his victories on the field of battle, how did he feel about becoming a celebrity General?
I think Grant could have done without any of the celebrity he achieved. Some of that allowed him to get certain things done, especially when he became President of the United States. It helped him become President of the United States, however, if Grant could keep a low profile and getting the job done – in this case; winning the civil war – it was all the better for him. An example: He arrived to be the first general to receive a third star since Washington.
He’s going to become a Lieutenant General in the United States Army.
When he showed up to check into his room, nobody recognized him. They didn’t offer him a room, nothing special, until he wrote his name on the ledger then everybody knew he was Ulysses S. Grant. He didn’t go out of his way to make sure people knew that. I think he could have done without every bit of his celebrity.
U.S. Military R.R., City Point, Va. Field Hospital
Brady, Mathew, 1823 (ca.) – 1896
These battles were brutal to say the least. What kind of medical care did Union troops receive?
Medical care in the Civil War really changed during the civil war. In fact, it is night and day between the beginning of the Civil War and the end of the Civil War.
Let me explain what I mean.
By 1862, both North and South recognized the inadequacies of their medical systems. By 1863, both sides had come to possess many of the systems that save lives today. In other words: Triage, trauma and our modern 911 system were all developed during the Civil War.
When they started asking questions: “What is that ambulance made of? What is in that ambulance? How many of each of those things are in those ambulances? Who stocks the ambulance? Who drives the ambulance? How does the ambulance know where to go with the wounded soldiers?
When they do get to a field hospital, who mans that field hospital? Who does the surgery? It was unbelievable the leaps and bounds these simple systems, created by a guy named Jonathan Letterman, made in preserving life during the civil war.
Let’s say I traveled back in time and watched a Civil War surgery being performed. Most were done with anesthesia, they didn’t bite the bullet and sawed through bone while people were perfectly awake, that was a very rare occurrence.
Nonetheless, I may be horrified by the lack of hygiene. I’d say, “Wash that saw!” and the doctor may stare at me and say, “Why?”
“Well, trust me here, you can’t see them but there are these little things that live on all of us. Some are good and some are bad. If the bad ones go in the wrong place you’re going to get really sick!”
They would absolutely lock me up in an insane asylum.
We now know things that the people of the Civil War didn’t. One thing they did know, though, was how to turn a wound into something they could treat. That’s why amputations are so common. They didn’t know how to treat internal injuries the way we do now, but they could cut something off and tie it off to give some chance of survival.
Photo by Casey Crawford Copyright 2020
During Grant’s presidency, he installed a network of spies in the South to combat the growing threat of the Ku Klux Klan. How did these spies gather actionable intelligence for, now President, Grant?
During the Civil War when Grant had something to accomplish he rarely went at it in just one way. Rather, he would think of five different ways to go and deal with a particular problem and maybe one of them would stick. In the case of dealing with the Ku Klux Klan, Grant did everything he could in Washington, through legislation, to enforce the rights of these relatively recently freed African Americans.
However, he also appointed someone he thought he could trust; Lewis Merrill, a very active, athletic cavalryman. He employed a large body of spies in order to try to infiltrate and spy on the Ku Klux Klan. [The Klan] was so persistent, Merrill once joked, “Just shoot in any direction and if you hit a white man, he’s probably part of the Ku Klux Klan.”
That’s how pervasive it was.
His employment of spies, including African American spies, helped preserve some of the lives of his soldiers and helped to ultimately mitigate the Klan and the domestic terrorism that ensued.
President Grant vetoes the 1874 Inflation Bill, bottling the Genie of Butler.
Paine, Albert Bigelow Th. Nast: His Period and His Pictures (New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, 1904)
is a divide between the portrayal of Grant versus the reality, such as the
over blown perception of his drinking problem, which could be linked to his
post-traumatic stress after the Mexican-American War and isolation in
California – was there any real merit to the propaganda?
At one point, yes.
Ulysses S. Grant did in fact have a genuine drinking problem. Call it what you will, but it was really his enemies that took one aspect of him and constantly extenuated that as if it was a constant thing.
For instance, Grant had a drinking problem while out in California long before the Civil War so he must have one contrary to the evidence. If he won a battle, his enemies would still complain that he was a “butcher” because too many people died. Yet, by the time he died, he was loved by everyone – people of the south, the north, black, white, Native American, everybody.
Sadly that didn’t reflect in the 20th century interpretation of Grant. He’s a wildly popular figure who suffered at the hands of historians and only now are people reexamining him under a new light. We’re now more looking more critically at the claims of his drinking, him being a “butcher,” and the other terrible claims.
Photo by Casey Crawford Copyright 2020
Grant and Lee were heralded as both being some of the greatest military minds. Grant mentions to Lee at the Appomattox Courthouse that the two had
briefly met beforehand during the Mexican-American War. Were there any
other interactions between the two – even if it was just Grant seeing Lee from
the edge of the formation?
Certainly not before the war. Grant would, of course, know of Lee when Lee was the commandant at West Point and he was a cadet. Lee, for his part, could not remember Grant from West Point and barely from Mexico. What I don’t think people realize is how much the two worked together in the post-war period to reconstruct the nation. They did correspond and they would meet at least once after that. I find that especially interesting. These commanders that rose to the top of their respective armies because of their skills would, to a certain degree, end up working together to reunite this nation after such a brutal war.
If you could go back in time and offer Grant one piece of advice, what would it be?
I would tell him don’t change a thing except one: When President Lincoln offers to you to go to Ford’s theater on April 14th, 1865 – accept the invitation. Bring a side arm and the two toughest men to guard the door. With that, maybe the life of Abraham Lincoln could have been spared.
Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.
Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.
The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.
The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.
“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.
“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”
The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.
Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.
The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.
Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.
“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”
One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.
“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.
“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”
The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.
McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.
The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.
Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.
However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.
Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.
They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.
It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.
Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.
The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.
“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.
“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.
In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.
Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.
The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.
“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.
“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”
The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.
Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.
The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.
That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.
“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.
“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.
The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.
In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.
The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.
First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.
Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.
All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.
Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.
San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.
Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.
Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.
Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”
“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”
They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.
Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.
The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.
The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”
“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”
The Cold War was a worldwide war that often manifested in bizarre ways that aren’t fully understood, even today. In 1958, Richard Nixon was veep to Dwight Eisenhower’s Presidency and the Cold War was in full swing. Latin America was experiencing a tide of anti-American sentiment, and Nixon was sent to Venezuela on a goodwill tour to help stem that tide.
By the end of his trip, Ike almost had to send the Marines in to get him out.
Crowds begin to form around the Nixon motorcade.
In truth, the U.S. government should have been prepared for what (at the time) was called the most violent attack ever perpetrated on a high American official while on foreign soil. The United States had just granted asylum to Venezuela’s recently overthrown dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez and awarded him the Legion of Merit. Nixon was on a goodwill tour of the entire continent and had already visited Uruguay and Ecuador, and it was well known that Nixon was on his way.
With the wounds of the departed Jimenez still fresh, anti-U.S. sentiment running high, and a long-planned visit from a high-ranking American official in the works, Nixon should have been ready for anything. Instead, he was largely “uninterested,” according to his biography. The VP and his wife arrived to an angry crowd of demonstrators who threw stones and spat at them. Instead of a planned visit and wreath laying at the Tomb of Simon Bolivar, the Nixons went right to the U.S. Embassy. It seems a crowd of Venezuelans had met the Vice-Presidential team at the tomb, attacked them, and destroyed the wreath anyway.
The car’s “shatterproof” glass.
As their car made its way through the capital of Caracas, traffic began to build, slowing down Nixon’s motorcade. As the procession slowed, crowds of angry Venezuelans began to mob the vehicle, banging on the windows and shattering the glass. As they attempted to flip the car, the 12 Secret Service agents protecting the Veep drew their pistols and prepared to fire into the crowd. Nixon stopped them and ordered them to fire only on his order. According to Nixon, the Press Corps’ flatbed truck kicked into high gear and began to push through the crowd as protestors began to climb aboard. The truck cleared the way for Nixon’s car to escape to the Embassy.
When news of the incident reached Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Arleigh Burke, he immediately prepared “Operation Poor Richard,” an invasion of Venezuela using the 2nd Marine Division, the 101st Airborne, and the USS Tarawa Carrier Group, all coming from Guantanamo Bay. The Venezuelans weren’t going to have Dick Nixon to kick around.
But despite a lack of protection from the Venezuelan military during the incident, they were omnipresent in the hours and days that followed. The streets had been cleared with tear gas, and infantry and armor units protected Nixon’s motorcade as it went to the airport the next day. The invasion of Venezuela would never have to materialize.
Nixon never forgot the events in Caracas that day, as the violence of the crowd would certainly have led to the death of almost everyone involved. His experience later helped form his foreign policy decisions regarding South America during his Presidency.
The latest trailer for Black Widow has doubled-down on some dad bod cosplay, and I couldn’t be happier. Yes, the newest preview for Scarlett Johansson’s standalone Marvel movie is looking more and more like a James Bond movie, which is great, but the real question is, when is Black Widow’s fake dad going to get his own movie?
In case you missed it, back in December, we got our initial glimpse of David Harbour as the “Red Guardian” in the first trailer for Black Widow. But weren’t we all a little distracted by Baby Yoda and holiday shopping back then? Yeah. I was, too. Now we can get back to what really matters: thinking about David Harbour as Red Guardian and wondering if he is really Black Widow’s dad. Technically speaking, in the comics, Red Guardian is a character whose real name is usually Alexei Shostakov. In some of the old comics, Alexei Shostakov was married to Natasha Romanova, a.k.a. Black Widow. Obviously, Harbour’s version of this character isn’t married to Scarjo, and he acts way more like her dad. In all likelihood, he is not her dad biologically. But in terms of her Russian secret agent family, it seems like Red Guardian is about as dadcore as it gets.
To be clear, the reason why Red Guardian has a costume that emulates Captain America is that’s what Red Guardian was supposed to be: the Russian version of Cap. The old comic book backstory mostly suggests that unlike Cap, there was no super serum involved, so Red Guardian doesn’t have any superpowers. That is until David Harbour came along and added Dadbod to the list of superpowers possessed by the Red Guardian. In the new trailer (you can watch it above) Red Guardian describes what we’re seeing as “water weight,” and we totally get it. Same man. Same.
Not only will Black Widow finally give Scarjo’s titular character her long-overdue solo movie, but it also seems like the Marvel Cinematic Universe is continuing to court its not-so-secret core demographic, as DadBod Red Guardian follows in the footsteps of DadBod Thor. Lots of dads might want to be Cap or Falcon, but there are also plenty who would settle to be Red Guardian.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Mines are some of the most dangerous weapons used on the battlefield. They are the unseen enemy that can totally wreck an army or a navy. While still destructive, land mines are often stuck in one place, easily found, removed, or bypassed once made aware of their presence. Naval mines have come a long way in a short time, and are able to count the number of enemy ships that pass before attacking and can even swarm oncoming warships.
How they take down warships starts with a bang.
A Polish Mina Morska naval mine used between 1908-1939.
The damage a ship takes depends on the power of the mine and its initial explosiveness versus how far away from the ship’s hull the mine is when it explodes. The closer to the ship the mine is, the more direct damage the ship will take. But the direct damage isn’t the only type of damage a mine does to a ship. Other types of damage occur from the bubble created by the underwater explosion as well as the resulting shock wave from the explosives themselves.
Direct damage can be exacted by using more and more high explosives in mines. This will also affect the bubble jet and shock wave. The bubble jet removes water from the area of the explosion temporarily, but when the water comes rushing back in under the surface, it does so at such high velocity that it can penetrate a ship’s hull. The shock wave from a naval mine is enough to tear out the engines from a ship, toss around the crew, and kill divers.
Each kind of damage can do incredibly grievous harm to the ship and its crew. Results from mine detonations can be seen in incidents around the world. When the USS Samuel B. Roberts hit a mine, for example, the U.S. Navy stunned Iran with its response.
Modern mines are simple devices that are designed much like bombs. There is an explosive case surrounding an arming device and explosive train that will detonate the mine when it’s supposed to go off. When mines are deployed, the arming device activates the mine. When the train is aligned with the arming device, the target detecting device activates. This is the trigger that senses when it should go off. There are many kinds of detection devices: magnetic, seismic, acoustic, and pressure mines.
Different kinds of ships generate a different response from different mines, and the mine is smart enough to know when to explode. When it does, the resulting explosion, bubble jet, and shock wave can literally tear a ship in two.