How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord will celebrate the diversity and honor of its service members, including Sgt. Maj. El Sar, I Corps command chaplain sergeant major, a Cambodian-born American who lived through atrocities as a child in his homeland and is now proud to call America home.

More than 1 million people reportedly died as a result of the Khmer Rogue communist regime’s Cambodian genocide from 1975 to 1979, at the end of the Cambodian civil war. A 1984 British film, “The Killing Fields,” documented the experiences of two journalists who lived through the horrific murders of anyone connected with Cambodia’s prior government.


It was more than a film for Sar, who lost several family members to the horrific killings. He spent time in refugee camps and prisons before arriving in America as a 12-year-old refugee with his mother and siblings.

“I’m proud to be an Asian American,” Sar said. “I don’t forget my heritage — but I’m glad to be an American.”

As a child, Sar grew up in the jungles of Cambodia. He lived through the Vietnam War, Cambodian civil war, Khmer Rogues’ Killing Fields, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia and Thai refugee camps and housing projects, he said.

“I was slapped, thrown in prison, hands tied behind my back, shot at, nearly drowned in a river, walked three days and nights through the thick jungles of Cambodia and evaded Vietnamese troops, the Khmer Rouge, pirates, criminals, Thai security forces and (avoided) more than 11 million landmines,” Sar wrote in a Northwest Guardian commentary published in February 2018.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army
Sgt. Maj. El Sar, I Corps command chaplain sergeant major.

He told of the deaths of his grandparents, father, a brother, uncles, aunts and other relatives. His remaining family members were robbed by Thai security forces.

Sar and his mother, Touch Sar, older sisters, Sopheak and Phon, and younger brothers, Ath and Ann, came to America as refugees. They arrived in Houston, Texas, June 26, 1981.

At that point, Sar had never been to school and had “zero knowledge, skills, abilities or understanding of life,” he said; however, “Coming to America was like arriving in Heaven.”

He learned English by watching television.

“I watched a lot of commercials, like for Jack in the Box and (Burger King) ‘Where’s the beef?'” he said, with a laugh.

In 1989, Sar graduated from Westbury High School in Houston and earned a criminal justice degree from the University of Houston in 1994. Next, he graduated from the Houston Police Academy in 1995.

Although Sar had long wanted to become a police officer, he realized a stronger passion and joined the Army in August 1996.

“I followed my dream to serve my country,” he said.

After basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Sar began a 21-year military career that included multiple deployments and duty stations. He has been at JBLM since June 2017.

“I like travel; I like deployment, and I love serving my country,” he said.

Sar initially wanted to be in the Infantry, but he was told he is color blind, to which he adamantly disagrees. Testing revealed he’d make a good chaplain’s assistant, he said.

Sar became a Christian while watching a film about Jesus while in a refugee camp in Houston.

“I learned about Jesus and how he sacrificed and died for me,” Sar said.

Being a military chaplain is the perfect fit for Sar, he said.

“I can go in the field shooting and spend time helping people,” he said. “I love taking care of America’s sons and daughters.”

Sar and his wife, Lyna, have three children ranging from 9 years old to 11 months.

The couple met through his aunt in Cambodia, who lived in the same village as Lyna.

“One year later, I asked God and he gave me the go ahead,” Sar said. “We’ve been married 15 years. She is a wonderful woman.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Afghanistan is beefing up its air force to fight every threat

Recently, the Afghan Air Force grabbed headlines by dropping its first laser-guided bomb. From here, that might not seem so impressive — the U.S. dropped laser-guided Paveways in Vietnam as early as 1968. But, considering the fact that their military force was decimated by a civil war that began after the Soviets left in 1989, Afghanistan’s military modernization is quite the shock.


Today, as World Air Forces 2018 notes, the Afghan Air Force has 12 A-29 Super Tucanos (with six more on order) as well as 28 MD530Fs (with 154 on order) and ten UH-1H Iroquois utility helicopters. The Afghan Air Force is also acquiring almost 160 UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters, four of which have already been delivered. These aircraft are set to replace a fleet of Russian-designed Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip transport helicopters and Mi-25 Hind attack helicopters.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

Afghan Air Force MD-530F Cayuse Warrior helicopter fires its two FN M3P .50 cal machine guns

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

The Super Tucano is currently a finalist in the OA-X competition (alongside the Beechcraft AT-6B). The UH-60A Blackhawk helicopters are second-hand, but will be upgraded with a newer engine and rocket pods before delivery. Afghanistan is also going to acquire Cessna 208 Caravan light transport aircraft armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

But did you know that, thirty years ago, the Afghan Air Force packed a lot of punch? An inventory of older equipment shows a lengthy list of Soviet designs were once in service, ranging from the Il-28 Beagle and MiG-17 Fresco to the MiG-23 Flogger. But 12 years of civil war wore that force down substantially. By the time Operation Enduring Freedom began, less than 20 planes were flyable. After Operation Enduring Freedom, there simply wasn’t an Afghan Air Force.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

One of what will be up to 160 UH-60A Blackhawks for the Afghan Air Force.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jared J. Duhon)

We’ve got a long way to go before the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS are defeated in Afghanistan, but the new Afghan Air Force should help speed that process along.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Pentagon will partner with a powerful Indonesian special forces unit

The Pentagon is looking to boost counterterrorism cooperation with an elite Indonesian special forces group, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Jan. 23 during a visit to Jakarta.


The special forces unit, known as Kopassus, has been accused of a range of human rights abuses, including killings and torture, mostly in the 1990s. Mattis says the group has since reformed.

“That was upwards of 20 years ago, and we’ll look at it since then,” Mattis said after meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, and other leaders.

Mattis’ visit aims to expand overall military cooperation with Indonesia, which is modernizing its military and has shown an increased willingness to push back against China’s territorial claims.

Indonesia is also dealing with the possible return of hundreds of Indonesians who fought with the Islamic State terror group in Syria and Iraq.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis meets with the Minister of Defense of Indonesia Ryamizard Ryacudu during a visit to Jakarta, Indonesia on Jan. 23, 2018. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“We are out to expand in ways that respond to any requests from Indonesia on counterterrorism to include the special forces units,” Mattis said alongside his Indonesian counterpart.

Following those talks, Ryacudu said he would like Mattis to help relax the legal limitations on closer U.S. ties with the elite special forces group.

Rights abuses

Kopassus’ alleged abuses include massacres in East Timor, the abduction and forced disappearance of student pro-democracy activists, and a torture campaign in Aceh during a now-ended insurgency. Rights groups say many of those responsible have not been held accountable.

Amid those concerns, the United States severed ties with Kopassus in 1999. In 2010, the Pentagon took initial steps toward reestablishing cooperation, but the ties have been limited and non-lethal, consisting of staff exchanges and low-level subject matter dialogue.

Mattis says he believes the group has reformed and would now stand up to the scrutiny of the so-called Leahy Law, which prohibits the United States from providing military assistance to foreign security forces that violate human rights.

Also Read: Senate extends controversial spy law that affects US citizen privacy

Joseph Felter, the top U.S. defense official on Southeast Asia, said the Pentagon sees “real value and potential in working with Kopassus as a partner in counterterrorism,” if the State Department were to loosen restrictions.

“They are a very, very effective counterterrorism unit,” Felter said.

The United States already has very close ties with the Indonesian military. Since 2013, Felter said the United States has sold more than $1.5 billion to Indonesia under the foreign military sales program, including the Apache helicopter and the F-16. And Felter says Jakarta is considering buying more F-16s.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army
An Indonesian Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon sits on the flight line during exercise Cope West 17 at Sam Ratulangi International Airport, Indonesia, Nov. 10, 2016. First conducted in 1989, Cope West is a Pacific Air Force lead exercise, normally focusing on airlift, air-land and air drop delivery operation techniques. Cope West 17 is the first-fighter focused exercise in Indonesia in 19 years involving the U.S. Military and the Indonesian Air Force. Both the U.S. F/A-18D Hornets and Indonesian F-16 Fighting Falcons bring unique capabilities affording the associated nations the opportunity to learn and understand each other’s skills, preparing them for real world contingencies and further strengthening their relationship. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron Henson)

“Anytime we can help a partner uphold a free and fair rules-based order in a free and open Indo-Pacific, that’s what we’re here for,” the deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia said.

Vietnam

On Jan. 24, Mattis heads to Vietnam, where China is likely to be a major focus.

The Pentagon last week unveiled a new National Defense Strategy that prioritizes the U.S. geopolitical rivalry with China and Russia.

Vietnam is one of the most vocal critics of China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and has repeatedly clashed with Chinese ships in the area.

During his visit to Indonesia Tuesday, Mattis repeatedly spoke about the importance of the “rule of law” and “freedom of navigation” – comments apparently aimed at China.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Air Force drones are locked and loaded in new base

A $110 million Nigerien air base constructed by the US will finally begin counterterrorism operations using intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) drones after delays due to inclement weather conditions, the military announced on Nov. 1, 2019.

“We are working with our African and international partners to counter security threats in West Africa,” US Africa Command (AFRICOM), the combatant command overseeing US operations in the continent, said in a statement. “The construction of this base demonstrates our investment in our African partners and mutual security interests in the region.”

The base is called Nigerien Air Base 201, and is located in the desert region of Agadez, a strategic transit area for migrants. Both US and Nigerien aircraft will use the runways to launch armed and unarmed air assets against extremists operating in West and North Africa, the military said.


While the US-constructed base will be under Nigerien control, American forces will have exclusive use of around 20% of the roughly 9-mile base, military officials previously said to Stars and Stripes.

The base was expected to be operational in 2018, but the rainy season and other “environmental complexities” caused a delay, a US official said to The Air Force Times.

Here’s are some key details about Nigerien Air Base 201:

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

An Airman from the 724th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron marshals a C-130J Super Hercules at Nigerien Air Base 201, Agadez, Niger, August 3, 2019. This was the first C-130 to take-off at Air Base 201, marking the beginning of limited Visual Flight Rules operations at the base.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)

Around 600 US Air Force Airmen are estimated to deploy for six-month tours.

The construction process of the base proved to be a challenge for around 350 service members involved in the project. Dry conditions caused concrete to dry and crack freshly-poured concrete.

“We’re building a base from nothing, from scratch,” US Air Force Lt. Col. Brad Harbaugh said in 2018. “This was all historically nomadic land.”

Source: Stars and Stripes

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

US Air Force engineers construct a dining facility on Nigerien Air Base 201, Niger.

(Staff Sgt. Daniel Asselta)

The construction project has also benefited Nigerien locals.

Around million was spent on the asphalt for the base, in addition to million for rubble. Nigerien locals were also employed for day-to-day jobs on the base, such as dining facility operations.

Source: Stars and Stripes

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

A US Air Force air advisor gives instructions to a Niger Armed Forces member while an interpreter translates the instructions during a training exercise at Nigerien Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)

Numerous terrorist group operate within the region.

In a new report released by the State Department on Friday, US officials say terrorist groups like Boko Haram and ISIS continue to operate in the region. US analysts say that terrorist elements have proliferated due to Niger’s limited military and budget.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

Niger Armed Forces members clear a corridor during a training exercise with the US military at the Nigerien Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer)

Four US troops and four Nigerien soldiers were killed in a 2017 terrorist ambush.

On October 4, 2017, 11 US troops and 30 Nigerien forces were ambushed by ISIS-related militants near the Niger-Mali border.

Four US troops were killed, in addition to four Nigerien partner forces, in a battle against overwhelming terrorist forces. The US military awarded six medals to the Nigerien soldiers who fought in the battle, including two Bronze Stars.

A US-led investigation found that US’s ISR assets did not have enough fuel to provide cover for American forces, in addition to inadequate rest for the troops. Roughly an hour and a half after the battle began, two French fighter jets responded by driving the enemy forces away.

Source: The Army Times

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

US Airmen load a C-130J Super Hercules at Nigerien Air Base 201, Agadez, Niger, Aug. 3, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lexie West)

Since 2013, the number of US troops in Niger has risen.

In 2013, President Barack Obama announced that 100 US service members would deploy to Niger for “intelligence collection.”

Roughly 800 US troops were operating in Niger by 2018. The terrain and its borders with Chad and Mali make the country an optimal transit route for terrorist militants seeking to travel to Europe, according to the State Department.

In 2018, AFRICOM publicly announced it had started deploying armed drones in a separate Nigerien base, dubbed Air Base 101, near the capital of Niamey.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why soldiers probably shouldn’t worry that much when studying for the board

It’s one of the most nerve-wracking moments for a young specialist or sergeant hoping to move up in the ranks: stepping in front of the promotion board. In preparation, troops feel compelled to study and memorize every last question that the battalion’s first sergeants and sergeant major could possibly ask.

Throughout the process, each first sergeant will ask you questions that they believe to be paramount to both your role in particular and to NCOs in general. The subjects span the gamut, ranging from something like handling medical emergencies to spouting off regulations verbatim. And there’s no clear way of knowing what they’ll ask, so it’s best to study everything.

With that being said, you don’t have to go insane trying to fit every last regulation number in your head right before stepping into the board. You should still study and if you say that you didn’t because of an article you read on We Are The Mighty, you will be laughed by your chain of command — and me, as I hold my DD-214. Okay, especially by me, who may or may not screencap the conversation and send it to US Army WTF Moments. I digress.

Passing the board is about much more than your ability to parrot off semi-relevant information to higher ranking NCOs. It’s about your chain of command gauging your competency and potential to lead.


How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

If your squad leader didn’t have faith in you, they never would have put you on that list.

(U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)

Long before your name even appears on any kind of candidate list, your first sergeant will consult your first line supervisor. If they think you’re ready, they will have a quick chat and your squad leader or platoon sergeant will argue for your promotion. If not, they aren’t even going to raise your hopes.

Your squad leader is (or should) always going to fight for you to advance your career. The moment your first sergeant is convinced that you’re ready for the next level of responsibility, you’ve successfully persuaded one-fifth of the board members.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

It’s the big moment. Don’t lose your cool or else you’ll get rejected and have to come back again when they think you’re ready.

(U.S. Army photo by Timothy Hale)

Then it comes time to actually study. Your squad leader can’t cheat for you and give you the answers, but they can find out which topics each first sergeant might ask about. This means you should definitely take their advice if they advise you to study certain areas.

Next, we arrive at the big day: the promotion board. Keep as level of a head as you can. I don’t know if this will help you or stress you out further, but in the time between the previous person walking out and you showing up, they’re discussing you among themselves. It could be nothing more than a simple nod and a “I like this guy” but, make no mistake, they are talking about you.

Something as small as that nod of approval could seal your fate before you march in. The rest of the proceedings are just to convince anyone still on the fence.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

Another bit of advice, try to take the board while you’re deployed. The questions tend to be easier (since your deployment is proving your worth to the Army) and you don’t need to get your Blues in perfect order.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth, 4th SBCT, 2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office)

You’re sitting in the chair now and the first sergeants are hitting you with questions. You find yourself stumped. There are two old tricks I’ve heard from NCOs but, as always, read your audience and choose wisely.

Some say you should give an answer and be confident about it, even if you’re not sure that it’s right.This shows that you’ll stick to your guns — but it could also make you seem like a complete dumbass.

Others say you should be humble, and respond with a respectful, “first sergeant, I do not know the answer to that question at this time.” If you admit you don’t know, it shows that you are honest — but it could also mean you’re unprepared if it was an easy question.

Both are technically good responses, but they could bite you in the ass. It all depends on the board members.

The first sergeants may drop some heavy-hitters on you, but the heaviest of all will come from the sergeant major. Impress him and you’re as good as gold.

Every unit and promotion board is different but, generally speaking, the sergeant major will ask you situational questions to determine your worth as an NCO. One question that stuck out for me was as follows:

You and a friend are drinking heavily by the lake. Your friend gets seriously injured and needs to get to the hospital. It’s fifteen minutes away on a path that no one takes, including law enforcement. Your cell phones are both out of service but you know the park ranger will make their rounds in one hour. Do you take the risk and drive there drunk? Or do you wait it out and risk them bleeding out?

It’s a trick question. You should answer in a way that demonstrates your understanding of military bearing and being an NCO. The only correct answers are, “I would never put myself in a position where myself and a passenger get drunk without having a legal way home” or “I would stabilize their wound then get to a point with better reception.”

Then again, I’ve also heard of a sergeant major asking a quiet and shy specialist to sing the National Anthem at the top of their lungs. It’s nearly impossible to know what’s going on in a sergeant major’s head.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why so many in the military are getting STDs

Unfortunately, we’ve got some decidedly unsexy news for you. The number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases is on the rise across the U.S. Specifically, there’s been in increase in cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis – the later of which was on the verge of extinction just ten years ago.


Just how bad are the increases in STDs? According to the military’s Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, released September 2017, the number of syphilis cases has doubled over the course of a decade.

While there’s been an increase in cases among civilian populations, the rate of STDs is three to six times higher among the enlisted. Many military medical professionals are starting to ask themselves, “why is it that the odds of contracting an STD increase when a troop first puts on a uniform?” The reasons are many.

First, joining the military makes you part of an expanded social network. Not only are troops looped into a group that’s made up, primarily, of young adults, they’ll also be sent to bases in new cities with entirely new local populations. Couple those two additions to a troop’s existing community back home—that’s a lot of potential partners.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Oliver Arceo draws blood for a Sailor’s annual Human Immunodefificiency Virus (HIV) test at North Island Medical Clinic, Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Marie A. Montez)

Second, demographics matter: almost half (44%) of troops enlisting are from the South, where gonorrhea and chlamydia are most present. Many STDs have delayed or subtle symptoms, meaning it’s easy to unwittingly bring something with you to the barracks. Now, this isn’t a dig at the south—just plain statistics.

Third, perception is key. A recent study of Navy women reveal that many believe carrying or insisting on the use of condoms makes them appear sexually promiscuous. We all remember our high-school health teachers parroting that abstinence is the only way to prevent STDs entirely, but the second best (and more reasonable) solution is to use protection. Unfortunately, there’s a stigma associated with contraceptive use, potentially contributing to the rate at which STDs are spreading.

This isn’t a new problem. As far back as WWI, the military has struggled with STD rates among the ranks, and it’s no surprise why. Being part of the military means high stress, so it only makes sense that troops seek an outlet. However, it’s still mystifying as to why the enlisted, who have free access to health care, condoms, and screenings are affected more than civilians.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army
Hello, ladies. (British Army Poster used during WWII, 1944)

We’re not going to tell you to keep it in your pants, but we do suggest you bag it up. Not just for your health, but for the health of your partners, your partners’ partners, and populations worldwide.

Articles

This man found $2.5M in gold stashed aboard a surplus Russian tank

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, military surplus gear is like a box of chocolates — you never know what’s inside until you open it up and look.


For one lucky buyer, Nick Mead, who owns a tank-driving experience business in the United Kingdom, a $38,000 purchase of a Chinese-built Type 69 main battle tank off of eBay was a bargain, since he scored $2,592,010 of gold that had been hidden in the vehicle’s diesel tank! That represents a net profit of over $2.55 million.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army
Chinese Type 69 tank. (Photo from National Defense University)

According to militaryfactory.com, a battle-ready Type 69 main battle tank is armed with a 100mm gun, a 7.62mm machine gun, and can be equipped with a 12.7mm machine gun. The tank has a crew of four. Over 4,700 of these tanks were produced by China.

But this tank, while produced by China, was exported to Saddam Hussein’s regime. Saddam bought as many as 2,500 Type 59 and Type 69 tanks. While many were destroyed during Operation Desert Storm, this one survived the BRRRRRT!

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army
Marines look over a captured Iraqi Type 69 tank. (DOD photo)

The tank is believed to have also taken part in the original invasion of Kuwait. During the occupation of that country, Iraqi forces looted just about everything that wasn’t blasted apart. That included gold and other valuables.

Mead discovered the gold when checking out the tank after he’d been told by the tank’s previous owner that he’s discovered some machine-gun ammo on board. Mead then discovered the gold hidden in the fuel tank.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army
Nick Mead holds one of the gold bars he discovered when checking out the Type 69 tank he bought on eBay. (Youtube screenshot)

Currently the five bars of gold, each weighing about 12 pounds, are in police custody as they try to trace the original owners.

Articles

China could be preparing for a paramilitary invasion in the East China Sea

Tokyo delivered a humiliating public protest to Beijing for the intrusion of a vast Chinese “fishing fleet” escorted by more than a dozen coast guard and other law-enforcement vessels in or near waters of the disputed Senkaku islands.


Such protests are common in the ongoing cat and mouse game in the East and South China Seas, but they are usually delivered in private. In this case, Tokyo decided to turn its protest into political theater.

China’s Ambassador to Japan, Cheng Yonghua, was summoned to the foreign ministry, where news and television camera were waiting to film the encounter. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida kept Cheng waiting for ten minutes then entered, a stern look on his face, gesturing Cheng to sit down.

“Relations with China are becoming noticeably wors[e] because China is trying to change the status quo,” Kishida lectured Cheng, who looked embarrassed by the media presence. He said the Diaoyu, as China calls them, were Chinese territory and the two nations should “strive to reach a solution.”

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army
A boarding team from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) | U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery

Japan has become used to Chinese Coast Guard intrusions into its claimed territorial waters. On the average of once every two weeks, two or three Chinese ships slip into Senkaku waters. They stay for a couple hours then leave.

But there had been nothing like what happened August 8 when a flotilla of more than 230 “fishing boats” escorted by up to 28 Chinese Coast Guard and other law enforcement vessels virtually surrounded the Senkaku islands for several days.

It was not immediately clear exactly what message the Chinese were trying to convey, although Tokyo has been very vocal in supporting the Philippines in its legal action against China resulting in the July 11 ruling that confirmed all of Manila’s charges.

Was the latest intrusion a dress rehearsal for war?

The various scenarios for war in the East China Sea, and possibly in the South China Sea, usually fall into two main categories. There is the “accidental” fight scenario. A Chinese destroyer’s radar locks onto a Japanese warship. The Japanese captain fires back in self-defense and the incident spirals out of control.

That is one scenario. Another, possibly more realistic, is the “swarm” scenario: Several hundred “fishing boats” sail from ports in Zhejiang province for the Senkaku, where they overwhelm the Japanese Coast Guard by their sheer numbers.

This time, the fishing boats land some 200 or so commandoes disguised as fishermen or “settlers.” The Senkakus are not garrisoned by Japanese troops, so no shots are fired. The Chinese side says it is not using force, merely taking possession of what it claims to be its sovereign territory.

Tokyo feels obliged to respond, although the Chinese landing force is too large to dislodge by ordinary policing methods, such as those that have been used in the past when a handful of activists – Chinese and Japanese – tried to land on the disputed islands and plant their flags.

That would put Japan in the position of being the first party to fire shots, possibly landing elements of the Western Infantry Regiment, which was created and trained specifically to recapture islands. Meanwhile, Tokyo hurriedly consults with Washington seeking assurance that it will honor its commitments to defend Japan.

On more than one occasion, including in remarks from President Barack Obama himself, the United States has stated that the Senkaku come under the provisions of the joint security treaty as they are administered by Japan.

In the most recent incident, the estimated 230 Chinese fishing vessels escorted by Chinese law enforcement vessels made no effort to land anyone, though the Japanese Coast Guard shadowing the vessels kept a sharp eye out for any sign of it.

China boasts the world’s largest fishing fleet, but it is a matter of debate among security analysts as to extent to which China’s fishing fleet constitutes a paramilitary force, or as they sometimes say, a “maritime militia.” Somehow, a swarm of Chinese Fishing boats always seem to materialize on cue in disputes in the East and South China Sea.

The use of fishing boats, not to mention the nominally civilian coast guard, tends to blur the distinctions between what is civilian and what is military. In any conflict, the Japan and the U.S. would have to deal with ostensibly civilian boats that could flood the battlefield turning it into a confusing melee.

“China’s fishing fleet is being encouraged to fish in disputed waters . . . and are being encouraged to do so for geopolitical as well as commercial reasons,” says Alan Duport, a security analyst at the University of New South Wales.

Swarm tactics have been used often in the South China Sea. Hundreds of boats converged in the Gulf of Tonkin in 2014 in the dispute over the oil-drilling rig that the Chinese erected in Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Beijing has dispatched swarms of fishing boats to Laconia Shoals off the coast of Sarawak to fish in Malaysia’s EEZ, with escorts of coast guard vessels to protect them should Kuala Lumpur try to arrest them. Similar confrontations have taken place in Indonesia’s South Chia Sea EEZ.

China has been commissioning new coast guard vessels, either converted navy frigates or purpose-built cutters, at an astonishing rate to the extent that it can now deploy ships in various corners of the contested waters simultaneously.

It may be better that principle actors in the unfolding conflict are civilian vessels. But certainly lurking nearby and ready to respond are the warships of the regular Chinese, Japanese, and America navies.

popular

How the British paid respect to the Marines in the War of 1812

The War of 1812 isn’t remembered very much nowadays. Often considered America’s second war of independence, not much really changed on the map as a result of the war. But what’s more incredible than the story of the War of 1812 itself is the incredible number of small stories to which the war gives context.

The Battle of New Orleans, for example, was fought by pirates, American Indians, slaves, and civilians alongside the U.S. Army… after the war was over. Then there’s the outrageous fact that the biggest naval battles of the war happened on the Great Lakes, not at sea.

The event that few ever forget, however, is the British burning of Washington, D.C., when they put the Capitol and other government installations to the torch. British troops even had dinner at the White House before setting it ablaze. But there was one building in the DC area that was spared — and, potentially, for a very good reason.


It was the only time the American capital was ever occupied by a foreign country and the thought seems next to impossible these days. Some 4,000 British troops landed at the Chesapeake Bay and made their way eastward, toward Washington. The only thing standing in their way was 6,500 American militiamen and 420 U.S. Marines. The British routed the Americans so bad, the battle went down in history as “the greatest disgrace ever dealt to American arms.” Worse than that, it left the door to Washington open and the redcoats just walked right through it.

There was one bright silver lining to the Battle of Bladensburg, however. Navy Captain Joshua Barney and his 360 sailors and 120 Marines didn’t get the order from Gen. William H. Winder to retreat from the battlefield. Eventually, it was this force of just shy of 500 left to fight the entire British Army, often using their fists or the sailors’ arsenal of cutlasses. They would not be able to hold back the entire enemy force, but they made their stand last for two full hours.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army
Marines making do at Bladensburg.

This stand gave many in Washington, including Congress, President James Madison, and his wife, Dolley, time to escape the city. Dolley Madison was able to take many of the White House’s most treasured artifacts with her.

A battle that was so mismanaged with a victory so lopsided lasted only a short few hours. That the most intense fighting was done against the United States Marines and the Navy did not go unnoticed by the British forces. Nonetheless, they pressed on to Washington.

The burning of the American capital was not just some sudden spark of victory-fueled euphoria. The Americans burned the capital of British North America, Canada, at York (modern-day Toronto) the previous year. Now, the British would get their revenge, torching the Capitol Building, the Library of Congress, the White House, and many, many other government buildings.

One of the few buildings that was spared in the melee was the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ house at the Marine Corps Barracks. The reason for this, according to Marine Corps legend, is that the British were impressed by the Marines’ performance at the Battle of Bladensburg and, thus, spared the house out of respect.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army
The Home of the Commandants at Marine Barracks Washington is the oldest continuously used public building in Washington, DC. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough)

 

This could be the reason, or even a secondary one, but some historians say it’s likely that the house was just overlooked in the chaos of the burning city. Still, an unscathed structure so close to the burning Navy Yard seems unlikely to go unnoticed, especially because the house looks everything like a military target and the British had all the time they needed to double check.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The 10 weirdest military mysteries

The world is full of mysteries and the military world is no exception. Each war has been accompanied by strange stories, potential double agents, secret messages and unsolved disappearances. Scary? Intriguing? You tell me! Keep scrolling to learn about the top 10 mysterious events in military history.


1. The foo fighters were more than a band name. 

Almost everyone has heard of the foo fighters, but few realize the origins of the 90s rock band name. In WWII, the foo fighters were a genuine concern. At night, American and British aircraft pilots frequently spotted bright lights in the distance. At first, they assumed the lights were Russian or German flyers. Until they began to move, that is.

The lights would change direction and speed away faster than any aircraft possibly could. Hundreds of reports were recorded, with some pilots even reporting dogfights with them. Since no one was able to figure out what the crafts were or who piloted them, they were given the nickname “foo fighters.” To this day, it’s one of the biggest military mysteries of WWII.

2. The Red Baron’s killer was never found. 

The Red Baron, a German fighter pilot during WWI, was so famous that even Snoopy knew of his aerial prowess. He was one of the most lethal fighters in history, with over 80 confirmed kills. He was a serious threat to the Allied forces throughout the majority of WWI, until he was mysteriously shot down.

A Canadian pilot named Roy Brown claimed to have shot down his plane, but the details of his story didn’t quite make sense. No one knows for sure who killed him, but whoever it was would have had their name in the history books. The Red Baron was such an amazing pilot that the Allies helped to give him a decent burial in France in honor of his skill.

3. A Hungarian soldier turned out to be a serial killer…and he was never found. 

During WWI, a man named Bela Kiss enlisted in the Hungarian army. He notified his landlord that he would be away for some time, and left for war. Some time later, the landlord heard that Kiss had died in combat, so he decided to rent the house to someone else. When he arrived to clean it out, however, he walked into a house of horrors. Several bodies were inside preserved in alcohol, all belonging to women who had disappeared.

It turns out, Kiss had been tricking women into marriage before killing them and taking control of their finances. Despite an extensive search, and a few reported sightings, he was never found.

4. A plane vanished out of thin air, starting the legend of the Bermuda Triangle. 

It’s hard to imagine that six planes could straight up disappear, but that’s what happened. On December 5, 1945, five Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers, collectively known as Flight 19, stopped responding to the control tower while on a training flight. A Mariner flying boat was deployed to search for the missing planes, but the Mariner soon vanished too. While no bodies or wreckage was ever found, 27 men and six aircrafts were never seen again.

While many rumors cropped up over the years, the disappearance probably has nothing to do with the supernatural. The most likely explanation is that Flight 19’s leader, Navy Lieutenant Charles Taylor, got so disoriented that he led the planes out to sea until they ran out of gas and crashed into the Atlantic. The rescue sea plane is likely to have exploded, as flying boats were prone to catching fire. Still, after all these years the resting place of the planes have never been found.

5. A strange ad was placed in the New Yorker magazine. But who published it? 

Anyone can put an ad in the paper, but one published in the New Yorker was more than a little suspicious. The ad was for a real game called “Deadly Double,” but the copy gave a not-so-secret message: “We hope you’ll never have to spend a long winter’s night in an air-raid shelter, but we were just thinking … it’s only common sense to be prepared. If you’re not too busy between now and Christmas, why not sit down and plan a list of the things you’ll want to have on hand. … And though it’s no time, really, to be thinking of what’s fashionable, we bet that most of your friends will remember to include those intriguing dice and chips which make Chicago’s favorite game: THE DEADLY DOUBLE.”

A similar ad for the same product included the phrase, “Warning! Alerte! Achtung!” Okay, then. The dice shown in the ad’s images were even more strange. Instead of numbers 1-6, numbers like 7, 20 and 12, were shown. Some believe these bizarre ads were really a hint to American spies that an attack on Pearl Harbor was on the horizon. The creator’s widow has denied any suggestion that the game had any connection with spy activity, but it still seems a little fishy.

6. Lieutenant Colonel Pete Ellis predicted the bombing of Pearl Harbor over 20 years before it happened.

In 1920, Lieutenant Colonel Pete Ellis was a bit of an oddball in the Navy. He was known for being pretty solitary and working late into the night. When asked what he was doing in his office so late, he said he was working on “a special project.” A year later, he appeared to go mad. He gave a lengthy prediction of the future, including Japan’s attack on several islands on the Pacific, the targeting of Pearl Harbor, and the use of torpedo planes. Considering torpedo planes hadn’t been invented yet, he sounded crazy…except he was right.

All his predictions were dead on. After his prediction, he asked for a 90-day leave, which was personally approved by the Secretary of the Navy. He was given a sealed envelope and sent off to Europe, but he never arrived. He went to Japan instead, where he mysteriously died. A man who knew him travelled there to search for him…but he was found dead too! It’s a strange story with many loose ends, but it’s unlikely that we’ll ever know the details.

7. Ralph Sigler’s death doesn’t seem like an accident. 

Ralph Sigler, an immigrant from Czechoslovakia, arrived in America when he was eight. He enlisted in the Army in 1947 and got married to a German woman shortly after while he was stationed abroad. When his tour was over, he brought her back to the states and the couple had a child. Over a decade later in 1966, FBI agents arrived at his doorstep to let him know he had been randomly selected to participate in counterespionage. The family’s ordinary life was turned upside down overnight.

In the following years, Sigler fed a great deal of false information to the SVR, Russia’s intelligence agency. When he met Russian officials in person, he quickly earned their trust. He identified 14 SVR agents and over time grew worried that the Russians were starting to suspect something. The FBI approached him by this time, but Sigler made plans to retire from the Army

His first contact with Russian officials came in 1968 in Zurich, and he soon earned their trust. Authorities have speculated that Sigler’s work led to the identification of 14 SVR agents. He was given an estimated 0,000 in compensation, every last penny of which he gave to the Army.In the mid-1970s, Sigler worried that he was “getting in too deep” and the Russians were becoming suspicious, which may have led him to offer extra information under pressure. By this time, the FBI had approached him.

The situation grew complicated, and some American intelligence officers were suspicious of his loyalties too. He was forced to take a polygraph test, which showed he was extremely on edge. Concerned, the Army arranged for Sigler to stay at a motel. Sadly, he never left. His body was found in the motel room after he had been electrocuted by two motel lamps. While the Army ruled his death a suicide, most believe he was killed and possibly tortured by Soviet agents. In his last call to his wife, he ominously told her, “I’m dying. I never lied.” He was later awarded the Legion of Merit cross for his sacrifices.

8. During the Vietnam War, troops on both sides claimed to be attacked by large, ape-like creatures. Vietnam doesn’t have apes.

The Vietnam war was chaotic to say the least, but there’s one mystery that has never been explained. Troops from both sides often reported exchanging blows with a group of human-like creatures who had reddish hair and ape-like features. Strangely, there isn’t a single known species of ape in Vietnam.

Other soldiers reported an enormous snake around 100 feet long with a massive, three-foot head. In Vietnamese folklore, such a creature was known as a “Bull Eater.” For comparison, the largest snake ever recorded is a reticulated python named Medusa, who’s 25’2″ long. Either that was a massive exaggeration or a tall tale…or a 100-foot mystery monster is lurking in the jungle.

9. A Revolutionary War hospital dealt with plenty of death, yet no one knows where the dead were laid to rest.

During the American Revolution, there were obviously a lot of injuries. To serve these wounded soldiers, a hospital was built in the new town of Easton, Pennsylvania. Needless to say, 18th-century medicine wasn’t the best. While medical records were poorly kept, it’s safe to say that hundreds or thousands died there. The strange part is that there’s no record at all of where they were buried. Since there was no formal grave yard nearby, the easiest assumption is that somewhere around Easton, there’s a mass grave from the Revolutionary War that has yet to be found. If I lived in Easton, I might move.

10. What happened to Paul Whipkey?

Fast forward a few years to the 50s. Lieutenant Paul Whipkey was working in the Air Force at Fort Ord, California. He was one of the first to witness an atomic bomb test, and he was doing pretty well. When 1957 arrived, however, things began to go awry. Whipkey stopped acting like himself, dropped weight, and appeared to be constantly ill. He developed black moles all across his body and lost all his teeth. While he was at work, two men in suits frequently arrived to speak with him, and colleagues reported that he always appeared tense when the men left. On July 10th, he left on a trip to Monterey, but he was never seen again.

The events following are shrouded in secrecy. The army cleaned out his apartment almost instantly, and he was classified as a deserter. The army seemed reluctant to search for Whipkey, and in 1977 they destroyed all files on him, yet his status was updated from “deserter” to “killed in action.” Some believe he died on a secret CIA mission, but most people believe he suffered from radiation poisoning due to the atomic bomb detonation he witnessed. I guess we’ll never know!

MIGHTY MOVIES

How Godzilla films were actually a metaphor for how postwar Japan saw the world

The new trailer for Godzilla: King of Monsters came out and, like other Godzilla movies of the last twenty years, it has one fundamental mistake: it has nothing to do with the extensive lore behind Godzilla and the large cast of supporting (and opposing) monsters.

On one hand, that’s exciting. A fresh take on giant monster fights might be exactly what the Godzilla series needs — and we’re sure it’ll be worth the popcorn money. But on the other hand, it’s a shame that the newer Godzilla films have all moved away from their original, more nuanced meanings.

If you go back and rewatch the original films by Ishiro Honda, in addition to a skyscraper-sized brawl, you’ll get a snapshot of Japan’s post-war foreign relations — if you can properly assemble the metaphors.


How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

You can understand why a McCarthy-era America would tone down the Anti-American sentiment, even if it was delivered through the lens of a giant monster.

(Toho Company)

First, let’s take it all the way back to 1954’s Godzilla. To be clear, we’re not talking about the Americanized version, which was heavily censored. Instead, we’re talking about the Criterion Collection version, which keeps the original dialogue, strictly translated, and the metaphor very much intact.

For those who haven’t seen it, here’s a summary: Godzilla is a monster, created by American nuclear weapons, that destroys Japanese cities. The film was made just nine years after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and seven years after U.S. troops established dominance over the islands and Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution (the no-armed-forces clause) was enacted.

This context is dramatically underplayed in subsequent films, but the key to understanding the original, unaltered version. Still don’t get it? Godzilla is the American military.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

Kinda puts the Godzilla Versus… films into a whole new light when you piece together the metaphors.

(Toho Company)

While Godzilla once reflected the horrors of nuclear weapons and their wielders, his character arc shifts vastly in the dozens of Godzilla films that followed.

Godzilla later started aiding the people of Japan against other Kaiju (Japanese for “strange beast”) and became a beloved icon. It’s no coincidence that these films cropped up as the Japanese public warmed up to the benefits of the Japan-America Security Alliance. During the Cold War, other nations like the Soviet Union, Communist China, and North Korea started muscling Japan, but America’s presence was enough to keep Japan safe.

Mothra, a giant, moth-like creature, was at first a villain, but became a good guy after the 1965 Treaty of Basic Relations between Japan and South Korea passed. Rodan, a giant pterodactyl beast, debuted around the time Soviet aggression over the Kuril Islands, when the Russians made liberal use of flybys. The arrival of King Ghidorah, the three-headed monster, just so happened to coincide with China’s development of nuclear weapons and the other two communist countries in Asia, North Korea and North Vietnam, taking aggressive stances against Japan.

How this soldier escaped the killing fields to join the US Army

The secret metaphor behind the American 1994 reboot of Godzilla? That we don’t understand metaphors…

(TriStar Pictures)

Godzilla, like the United States, was once a hostile, unstoppable force that became the protector of post-war Japan. This metaphor shines through all of the classic movies.

Unfortunately, this metaphor was lost after the Cold War and the subsequent films became simple cash-grabs. So, if you’re looking forward to a fun, explosive, high-stakes action flick, the newest Godzilla is right up your alley. If you’re looking for a little bit of social commentary with your giant monster, revisit the classics.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force delays moving forward with E-4B Doomsday plane replacement effort

The U.S. Air Force is delaying the official solicitation for its E-4B Nightwatch replacement, citing a new acquisition strategy approach.

In an update last week, the service said it recently classified its Survivable Airborne Operations Center, or SAOC, Weapon System program — intended to replace the infamous nuclear command-and control aircraft commonly known as the “Doomsday” plane — as an Acquisition Category 1D program.


That category covers major procurements, typically costing billions of dollars. The “D” classification requires a defense acquisition executive, who reports to the defense or deputy defense secretary, to oversee the program.

Because of the change, the request for proposal “originally planned for release in December 2020 is delayed,” according to the presolicitation notice. The service said additional timeline details would be forthcoming.

Last December, Congress authorized .6 million for the SAOC’s research and development.

The Air Force and the Navy — which oversees the E-6B Mercury fleet, a companion aircraft to the E-4B — want to consolidate the two aircraft’s missions.

The E-4B, also known as the National Airborne Operations Center, can be used by the president and defense secretary to execute operations in the event of a nuclear war; the E-6B “looking glass” aircraft serves as an airborne communications relay between the Pentagon’s National Command Authority and U.S. nuclear submarine, bomber and missile forces.

The Navy keeps 16 E-6B aircraft, which are based on a commercial Boeing 707 and began flying in the early 1990s. The Air Force has four E-4Bs, which are modified versions of the Boeing 747 and have been in service since the 1970s.

Traditionally used by defense secretaries for transport around the world, the aging Nightwatch had to ditch that secondary mission because too many E-4Bs required maintenance, according to a report from DefenseOne. The website noted that the E-4B and the two planes used by the president are among the oldest 747-200s still flying.

Small fleets are a drain on the service because they drive up operational costs, according to a 2019 report, “The Air Force of the Future: A Comparison of Alternative Force Structures,” by Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“[The problem] that the Air Force has right now, which is making its operating costs so much higher, is because they have so many small fleets,” he said.

The E-4B was built to withstand an electromagnetic pulse in the event of a nuclear blast. The Air Force is hoping for the same hardened architecture in its replacement.

“In case of national emergency or destruction of ground command control centers, the SAOC aircraft will provide a highly survivable command, control and communications platform to direct US forces, execute emergency war orders, and coordinate actions by civil authorities,” according to the service’s initial notice, posted last December.

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

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