This soldier stayed awake for 40 years after being shot in the head - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This soldier stayed awake for 40 years after being shot in the head

After the outbreak of World War I, young Paul Kern joined millions of Hungarian countrymen in answering the call to avenge their fallen Archduke, Franz Ferdinand. He joined the Hungarian army and, shortly after, the elite corps of shock troops that would lead the way in clearing out Russian trenches on the Eastern front. In 1915, a Russian bullet went through his head, and he closed his eyes for the last time.


Which would be par for the course for many soldiers – except Kern’s eyes opened again in a field hospital.

Many, many other Austro-Hungarian eyes did not open again.

From the moment he recovered consciousness until his death in 1955, Kern did not sleep a wink. Though sleep is considered by everyone else to be a necessary part of human life. There are many physical reasons for this – sleep causes proteins in the brain to be released, it cuts off synapses that are unnecessary, and restores cognitive function. People who go without sleep have hallucinations and personality changes. Sleeplessness has even killed laboratory rats.

But for 40 years, Paul Kern experienced none of these symptoms. His biggest issue with being awake for 24 hours a day was the costs associated with being awake and functional for that extra eight hours.

The face you make when you haven’t slept since 1915 and have time to do literally everything.

Doctors encountering Kern’s condition for the first time were always reportedly skeptical, but Kern traveled far and wide, allowing anyone who wanted to examine him to do so. The man was X-rayed in hospitals from Austria to Australia but not for reasons surrounding the bullet – the one that went through his right temple and out again – was ever found.

One doctor theorized that Kern would probably fall asleep for seconds at a time throughout the day, not realizing he had ever been asleep, but no one had ever noticed Kern falling asleep in such a way. Other doctors believed the bullet tore away all the physical area of the brain that needed to be replenished by sleep. They believed he would find only an early death because of it.

Don’t let Adderall-starved college students find out about Russian bullets.

Kern did die at what would today be considered a relatively young age. His wakefulness caused headaches only when he didn’t rest his eyes for at least an hour a day in order to give his optic nerve a much-needed break. But since Paul Kern had an extra third of his days given back to him, he spent the time wisely, reading and spending time with his closest friends. It seems he made the most of the years that should have been lost to the Russian bullet in the first place.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin’s nuclear-powered missile is probably just a really ‘bad idea’

Russia claims to be developing an unstoppable nuclear-powered cruise missile, a weapon with roots in technology the US considered too expensive, too complicated, too dangerous, and too unnecessary to pursue.

Little is known about Russia’s doomsday weapon, as it has been described, but the missile has links to systems the Americans and Soviets looked at during the Cold War, systems that both sides eventually gave up on.

During the Cold War, both the US and the Soviet Union “were looking at every possible idea for how to solve this problem of assured destruction,” John Pike, founder of GlobalSecurity.org, told Insider, explaining that they pursued ideas that while theoretically possible sometimes failed to close the important gap between possible and militarily useful.


In a time of renewed great power competition, the US and Russia, as nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis wrote recently, “seem to be drifting into a new arms race, either out of some bizarre nostalgia or because no one can think of anything better to do.”

Last year, Putin revealed a handful of weapons, some of which have been described as “doomsday weapons.” Among them was the Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, which NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. The Russian president has stated that the aim is to defeat American missile defense systems.

SSC-X-9 Skyfall

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“A nuclear-powered cruise missile is an outrageous idea, one the United States long ago considered and rejected as a technical, strategic, and environmental nightmare,” Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, wrote in an article for Foreign Policy.

In the 1960s, the US looked at developing its own nuclear-powered cruise missiles, but Project Pluto, as the program was called, was ultimately abandoned. “It’s a bad idea,” Pike, a leading expert on defense, space, and intelligence policy, said. “It’s a stupid idea,” he added, further explaining that traditional ICBMs, like the Minuteman, were a “much simpler, much cheaper, and much more effective way to incinerate” an adversary.

Pike, who is deeply skeptical of Russia’s claims, characterized a nuclear-powered cruise missile as “an act of desperation.”

‘Expensive, complicated, dangerous, unnecessary.’

Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told Task Purpose recently that the US gave up on developing a nuclear-powered cruise missile because “it was too difficult, too dangerous, and too expensive.”

The Americans and the Soviets also looked at the development of nuclear-powered aircraft in hopes of fielding bombers with unprecedented endurance, but these projects never panned out. For the US, these planes were going to be the Air Force equivalent of a ballistic missile submarine, Pike explained, noting that “these things could be on continuous patrol.”

In the 1950s, the US tested the NB-36H Crusader that carried an onboard nuclear reactor, but decided against this technology.

(US Air Force)

The problem was that nuclear-powered aircraft, like nuclear-powered cruise missiles, were “expensive, complicated, dangerous, unnecessary,” Pike said, calling such technology “hazardous.” He told Insider that mid-air refueling eventually made this project pointless.

Yet, here Russia is purportedly trying to revive this troubled idea to threaten the US. “A lot of technology has developed,” Kristensen told TP. “It could be some of what the Russian technicians are taking advantage of, but so far it seems like they’re not doing a good job.”

Indeed, testing hasn’t gone very well. There have been around a dozen tests, and in each case the weapon has not worked as intended. A recent explosion at the Nyonoksa military weapons testing range that killed a handful of people is suspected to be linked to the Burevestnik, although Russia has not been particularly forthcoming with the details of what exactly happened.

Russia has indicated that it was working with new weapons, and recently-released data on the cloud of inert radioactive gases created by the blast suggests that a nuclear reactor was likely involved, giving support to the theory that this may have been part of testing for a nuclear-powered cruise missile.

As for Russia’s Skyfall, expert observers suspect that Russia is either bluffing and that the weapon’s stated development is a deception or that Russia is covering up its failings as it tries to get a Cold War-era bad idea to fly.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This company owns a private fleet of aerial refueling tankers

The fact that there are some private air forces out there flying fighters to train American (and other) pilots may be a surprise. But did you know that there’s also a company that built its own tanker fleet?


Omega Air Refueling has been around for nearly 20 years and claims to be the only company that does commercial aerial refueling. The company was formed in 1999 as a subsidiary of Flight International prior to becoming independent in 2004, and has flown over 5,000 refueling missions since its formation.

According to company reps at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo at National Harbor, Maryland, those 5,000 missions have included over 21,000 refueling “plugs” involving over 12 million gallons of fuel.

The Omega 707 tanker. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

The first plane the company acquired was a Boeing 707-300 that used to fly for Pan Am. Since then, it acquired two other 707s (losing one in a 2012 crash), and a DC-10. The company has not only provided commercial aerial refueling services to the United States Navy, but it also has helped Australian and British forces make long-range deployments.

Omega’s KDC-10. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

All of Omega’s tankers use the probe-and-drogue system of refueling. The 707s and the DC-10 trail drogues at the end of hoses. Planes equipped with a refueling probe then fly in, and plug the probe into the drogue to refuel. This can lead to close calls, like some that WATM reported on.

An Omega 707 refuels the X-47B over the Atlantic Ocean. (US Navy photo)

The company’s planes were used to help certify the Navy’s X-47 unmanned combat air vehicle for mid-air refueling. In 2010, Omega helped to fill in when Airbus missed a deadline to deliver KC-30s to the Royal Australian Air Force (the company also turned to the United States Air Force).

A plane comes in to refuel from Omega’s KDC-10. Note the drogue at the end of the fuel hose. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

Ironically, while the company was founded to help support the Navy and Marine Corps, many of its tanker pilots come from the United States Air Force, which operates KC-135 and KC-10 tankers.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Vietnam draft wasn’t as random as you think

December 1969 was not a very merry Christmastime for many American families. The war in Vietnam was ramping up and the draft lottery was held for the first time. 366 blue capsules were drawn, each containing a day of the year. Each calendar date was assigned a number based on draw order. The lower the draft number, the higher the possibility was of being drafted.


The first drawn, September 14, was assigned 001.

The final tally is on this table, with months and dates listing out American draft numbers for 1970.

Related: This is how to see if you would have been drafted for Vietnam

Conscription in the United States was a common practice, especially during wartime. It had been a part of American life since the Civil War. It wasn’t until 1975 that the draft disappeared and the U.S. military turned into an all-volunteer force.

But back in 1970, one Ph.D. student in computer planning saw the “random” Vietnam draft lottery as flawed — mathematically flawed. According to a New York Times article from the period, he wasn’t the only one.

Mathematicians and statisticians challenged the legality of the process, as it did not produce a truly random result. As the Times’ article points out, hundreds of thousands of men were already preparing for service in Vietnam.

The Nixon White House and the Selective Service System claimed they made a great effort to produce a random result, one that was as fair as possible. Pentagon experts, at the time, estimated that anyone with a number over 200 was unlikely to get drafted.

Experts said the resulting monthly average number could have been predicted if the capsules containing the dates early in the months were on the bottom and the later days were at the top and the capsules were not adequately mixed — which is exactly what happened.

The monthly average draft number from the 1970 draft.

David Stodolosky, the aforementioned Ph.D. student, is the one who filed a suit against Selective Service, based on the findings that the drawing wasn’t truly random. His lawyers argued that President Nixon’s orders called for a random draft and that wasn’t what they got.

His argument was that later birthdates were drawn much earlier than others and, thus, were more likely to be drafted for wartime service.

The student tried to get an injunction against the government pressing men into service until the draft lottery process was truly randomized — a task as simple as attaching numbers to dates using a random number table and then sorting them.

A judge refused the injunction. Besides, a live lottery made for a much better show.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The crazy steam-powered gun of the Civil War

The Civil War was one of the first industrialized wars, helping lead the world from battles conducted by marching men with muskets around each other on a large field to battles fought between small, quick-moving formations with repeating rifles, quick-firing guns, and higher-powered artillery. But not all of the weapon designs that debuted had a lasting effect on warfare.


And one of the designs that fell by the wayside was the quite weird “steam-powered cannon.”

As the world entered the late 1800s, breakthroughs in technology like steam engines and metallurgy allowed the world to make great industrial breakthroughs, and weapon designers hoped to harness those breakthroughs to make the U.S. military more powerful.

William Joslin and Charles S. Dickinson thought the breakthroughs in steam could make a lost weapon design suddenly work: Steam-powered guns. And they had a plan to greatly increase the rate of fire of weapons, possibly as high as 400 rounds per minute. And this was when muskets fired at 3 rounds per minute.

Historically, steam powered guns worked similarly to a conventional rifle, but instead of relying on gunpowder exploding to create high pressure and propel the bullet out of the barrel, they featured a chamber filled with water that would be heated into steam.

When water is heated into steam, it expands to 1,600 times its starting volume. So, it can give a bullet plenty of umph, but it takes a lot of time and heat to build up the pressure necessary to fire the weapon.

But Joslin and Dickinson were at the forefront of a new, steam-powered weapon design. Instead of using steam to build up pressure in the firing chamber, a steam engine would quickly rotate a mechanism and fire the round using centrifugal force.

Basically, this is a mechanized version of David and his sling to hit Goliath, but at 400 rounds per second.

The design showed promise, but the inventors had a falling out, so Dickinson created his own version and won funding for a prototype in 1860. By 1861, it was on display in Baltimore. History buffs will notice that the Civil War started in 1861, so this was an auspicious time to show off a new weapon design. Which, yes, could fire 400 balls per minute.

A steam engine powered a rotary wheel that flung ball ammunition in a closed circle before releasing it at high speeds from a barrel that could pivot within a large metal shield protecting the crew. The entire device was weighty, requiring a large boiler in addition to the barrel, rotary, and shield, and typically had to be moved with horses.

A member of the crew needed to keep feeding balls into the weapon as it tore through rounds. And it wasn’t horribly accurate, so they really needed to keep the balls going. While the weapon is sometimes described as a cannon, it fired .38-caliber rounds, larger than a 7.62mm round but still 24 percent smaller than a .50-cal.

But the worst shortcoming of the weapon was the actual speed of the rounds when they left the barrel. The centrifugal force couldn’t generate nearly the velocity that a chemically propelled or even steam-pressured round enjoyed. In fact, the Mythbusters built one and tested it, and they couldn’t get the rounds to pierce a pig at just a few feet.

Media coverage of the weapon at the time managed to muddle up some details, and the weapon became associated with Ross Winans, a states-right activist and steam expert in Maryland. The public became worried that this was a super weapon and Winans could deliver it to the Confederacy. The weapon even became known as the Winans Gun.

Baltimore police seized the weapon and then returned it to Dickinson who later tried to sell it to the Confederates. Union forces seized the weapon and it served during the war in a number of defensive positions at infrastructure in the North, but it never saw combat.

Machine Gun Powered By Steam – Mythbusters

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Machine Gun Powered By Steam – Mythbusters

While it would be cool to say that the weapon went on to change warfare or inspire new weapons that were wildly successful, the truth is that the invention of the Gatling gun and then proper machine guns made the steam-powered Winans Gun unnecessary.

And while the Winans showed some promise during the Civil War, when its high rate of fire made it seem worth the effort to improve the weapon’s muzzle velocity, other weapon breakthroughs that were incompatible with the Winans relegated it to the dustbin.

The increased prevalence of rifled barrels didn’t work well with centrifugal weapons, and weapon cartridges allowed other weapons to catch up in rate of fire but didn’t benefit centrifugal weapons. And as it became clear that attacking forces needed to become more mobile, a massive weapon requiring a steam boiler was a clear loser.

Steam obviously still has a role in warfare, nearly all nuclear-powered weapons we’ve ever designed used steam to carry the power from the reactor. But steam projectiles have, sadly, disappeared, ruining our plans for the SteamPunk Revolution.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This historic film shows the Lone Survivor raid of World War II

If you’ve read the book Lone Survivor, written by former SEAL Marcus Luttrell, or seen the 2014 movie adaptation of the same name, then you’re very familiar with the incredible tale of survival and valor. But prior to Luttrell’s involvement to that 2005 operation, there was another well-known “love survivor” raid.

The tale of Torpedo Squadron Eight at the Battle of Midway has since become legend. All 15 of the squadron’s Douglas TBD Devastators that were sent out that day were shot down. Of the 30 crew aboard those planes, the only survivor was Ensign George Gay. The others were all killed in action.


Some people believe that this squadron’s sacrifice is what pulled down the Mitsubishi A6M Zeros that were providing combat air patrol for the Japanese carrier force, known as Kido Butai, thus opening the way for Douglass SBD Dauntless dive-bombers to deliver the bombs that left three Japanese carriers fatally damaged in the span of five minutes. This is, however, an over-simplified view.

Ensign George Gay (right) with a gunner from Torpedo Squadron Eight.

(US Navy )

It should be clear, though, that Torpedo Eight’s attack was the first in a chain of events that culminating in a Japanese loss so devastating the force could never recover. According to the book Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, written by Anthony P. Tully and Jonathan B. Parshall, the attack by Torpedo Squadron Eight came in almost an hour before the dive-bombers arrived — around 9:18 AM. Their attack took no more than 17 minutes. Gay was perhaps the only pilot to get close enough to drop a torpedo against a Japanese carrier before he ditched his plane. He attempted to rescue his gunner, Robert K. Huntington, but was unsuccessful.

The reason Torpedo Squadron 8 attacked alone was because Hornet’s air group commander, Stanhope Ring, made an incorrect guess. Waldron, commander of Torpedo Squadron 8, and Ring had often disagreed on where the Japanese carriers might have gone. This time, Ring ended up missing the Japanese carriers — flying too far to the north. Waldron was dead on target, though.

World War II’s answer to Michael Murphy is Lieutenant Commander John C. Waldron, who received a posthumous Navy Cross for Torpedo Eight’s attack.

(US Navy)

At 9:38am, Torpedo Squadron Six began their attack, launched from the USS Enterprise. This lasted until about 10:00. Torpedo Squadron Six’s attack came from a different angle than Torpedo Eight’s — four of that squadron’s planes returned to the Enterprise.

It was during Torpedo Six’s attack that Wade McCluskey, leading the Dauntless dive bombers from the Enterprise, would sight a Japanese destroyer trying to catch up with the rest of Kido Butai after trying to chase off the submarine USS Nautilus (SS 168). As McCluskey’s Dauntlesses arrived over Kido Butai, so did the Yorktown’s strike of 12 Devastators and 17 Dauntlesses, escorted by six F4F Wildcats.

Of the fifteen pilots in this photo, only one lived.

(US Navy)

The Devastators of Torpedo Three would be savaged by the Zeros, but the Dauntless dive-bombers would turn the tide of war in five minutes, largely because the torpedo squadrons had not only drawn fighters down, but their attacks forced the Japanese carriers to maneuver in ways that precluded the launching of their own planes.

Torpedo Eight’s attack, the first in this deadly series, had set the entire sequence in motion — a sequence that would forever cripple the Japanese Navy, leading to victory for the Allies at Midway.

Learn more about Torpedo Eight in the film below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyrawK_MUF8

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Articles

Taliban kill a 10-year-old boy for effectively defending against them last year

A few days ago, Taliban gunmen shot and killed as 10-year-old Wasil Ahmad, who was held up as a hero by his fellow Afghans for leading a militia’s defense against a Taliban siege last year.


A man on a motorcycle shot Ahmad in the head as he walked out of his house in Tarinkot in Urozgan Province, an agricultural intersection of Pashtun tribes. The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility.

The boy just left militia life to enroll in the fourth grade and was no threat to the terror group, a spokesman for the Afghan independent human rights commission told the New York Times.

The boy’s uncle is a former Taliban commander who switched sides to support the Afghan government, along with 36 of his followers, one of which was the young boy’s father. His uncle, Mullah Abdul Samad, was appointed commander of the local police militia and soon became the government’s main force fighting the Taliban in the Oruzgan province. The Taliban laid siege to Samad’s district in 2015. Young Wasil Ahmad’s father was killed in that fighting and so Wasil took command of the garrison’s defense.

“He fought like a miracle,” Samad told the New York Times, adding that Wasil had fired rockets from a roof. “He was successfully leading my men on my behalf for 44 days until I recovered.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Heroic Marine’s quick thinking saves family of three

U.S. Marines are known for their fast thinking and courage in a time of need. Marines are taught from day one the core values of honor, courage, and commitment. U.S. Marine Cpl. Alexandra Nowak, an administrative specialist with Alpha Company, Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, exemplified unwavering courage when she saved the lives of three people Sept. 20, 2019.

Nowak was driving to pick up her 2-year old daughter and mother at the airport on Interstate Highway 15 in Escondido, California, when she witnessed a multi-car collision resulting in a sports utility vehicle rolling onto its side.

Nowak, a native of Forney, Texas, sprang into action to help the vehicle’s occupants. She was able to successfully retrieve the driver’s uninjured 9-month old and 4-year old children from the vehicle and help them to safety.


After pulling back the broken windshield, Nowak realized that the driver’s arm was almost completely severed. Nowak then retrieved the tourniquet she kept in her vehicle and proceeded to administer first aid and keep the driver conscious until first responders arrived.

“I remember she asked me ‘Am I going to die?’ and I told her, ‘No, I am not going to let you die,'” Nowak said.

Escondido Fire Department Officials and witnesses at the scene credit Nowak’s quick thinking and bravery as the main reason that the driver did not suffer more severe medical issues or even death.

“I was courageous, yes. Would I do it again? Yes. Do I hope I have to do it again? No,” Nowak said.

Those who work with Nowak said her willingness to help was not surprising.

“It’s not surprising that she stopped to help,” said Sgt. Shannon Miranda, an administrative specialist with Alpha Co., HS Bn., MCI-West, MCB Camp Pendleton. “Her mom skills always kick in and she always tries to help people out.”

Nowak acted as any Marine should act in a traumatic event. With quick thinking and implementing the skills taught to her within the Marine Corps, she became a hero to the three people saved that day and an example to all Marines within the Corps.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

5 military parenting hacks civilians need

We all know military kids have grit. They are resilient. Gone are the days when the moniker of brat was the norm. These kids kick butt. But clearly, they didn’t get to be this awesome on their own. Along with genetics, military parents pass down life skills and civilian parents should take notice.

Not only that, military parents start at a disadvantage. We don’t have the luxury of choosing where we live, how much time we spend together as a family or if making friends at our new duty station will be easy or a string of awkward interactions or being repeatedly ghosted.

However, the byproduct of this lack of choice are parent life hacks that redefine parenting, military style:


1. The art of the cannonball

When you have to jump into friendships, school, new surroundings, etc. – ad nauseum – there is no room for hesitation. You must just take a leap, no matter the water temperature or the distance to the splash. Military parents model what it is to roll with life when plans that were already written in Jell-O change again when new orders are cut.

Military kids are often the new faces on the playground asking, “Wanna play?” As they get older it gets harder, but they still try. They never stop trying. They jump in because they know they’ll have to start the process all over in two to three years.

2. Let it go and embrace the suck

When you grow up without being able to control the world around you, your “normal” changes. Military kids know that “normal” is not a thing. This life lesson is one that all kids – and adults – need to learn. Of course, letting go of control is in no one’s comfort zone. It is ongoing — a choice to make the best of each crappy situation. Because as military kids and parents know, the crap will be closely followed by amazing – new favorite restaurants, friends and places to explore.

Sure, sometimes new is not better, and you find yourself stationed in rural Fallon, Nevada instead of sunny San Diego, California. But just as a cardboard box can be magically transformed into Star Wars X-wing fighter, rocks are actually buried treasure and white walls are blank canvases when presented with a permanent marker – hard is just an opportunity to invent a new perspective.

3. Herd parenting for the win

Because military spouses morph into solo parents during deployments, they are often forced to (begrudgingly) rely upon others. The kindness of strangers at grocery stores, parents who invite kids over for playdates and judgement-free friends who come over, bottle of wine in hand – these things save lives. They also help kids learn that asking for help is okay. Not only is it okay, it is usually more fun. There are also other adults to yell at your kids, so you don’t have to be the bad guy 24/7. Parenting takes a village, but for military families their lifestyle makes a village.

4. Yes sir/ma’am!

For those who are not from the south, calling someone ma’am or sir is risky. Using these pronouns could be considered an insult if addressed to someone of an insufficient age, and could be wise to avoid.

But the thing about the military is it sends people from all regions of the U.S., mixes them together and orders them to be polite. Respect is part of the culture, even if it is just surface level and mandatory. Military kids can certainly be wild, but they know the consequence of answering a question with “yea” instead of “yes ma’am” outweighs the use of extra syllables.

5. It is not about them

Well, a lot of it is about them. Older kids have the youthful wisdom to connect news stories about war to what their parents do. Their ears perk up when they hear someone mention the military. They have become so a part of this process that they know when it is NOT about them, but about a greater, larger purpose. Without being told, military kids know that a happy life is not always an easy life. They know what it is to sacrifice and the honor that comes through service. This value placed on service leads many to follow in their parent’s footsteps by joining the military themselves.

Life hacks aside, we know that despite their resilience, military kids have to grow up fast. Many have anxiety, struggle at school as a result of frequent PCS moves and act out when mom/dad is deployed. They have to say goodbye to parents as if it were the last time and worse yet, sometimes it is. Their lives are harder than most and we as parents do our best with what we have.

But sometimes, if we are lucky enough to stumble into solid friendships, awesome duty stations and model optimism more often than not, our kids will rebound from this lifestyle with character birthed from chaos.

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The awesome way ‘Jedi Knights’ helped win Desert Storm

When Gen. “Stormin'” Norman Schwarzkopf was preparing for a counter-offensive against Iraqi invaders in Kuwait, he was disappointed by the initial plans put forward by his staff. The plans looked, to him, like they might fail — or at least require many more lives, time, and lost equipment than any coalition nation would be happy losing.


Into the breach stepped the “Jedi Knights,” graduates of a new Army training program, the School of Advanced Military Studies, that emphasized creative thinking combined with a deep understanding of maneuver, logistics, and the art of war. These Jedis worked with other planners and commanders to make seemingly impossible maneuvers, like the vaunted “left hook” that crippled Iraqi defenses, possible.

The SAMS graduates were like this — except for the mask and the lightsaber and the robes.

(Photo by Simon King)

The story started in September, 1990, when Schwarzkopf put out the call for new blood on his planning team. Four recent SAMS graduates were sent straight to him, arriving in theater within weeks of the call. When they were assembled, Schwarzkopf gave them a seemingly impossible task: Draft a new offensive war plan within two weeks while not telling anyone what they were doing or asking any questions that could expose their purpose. For the four top planners, led by Col. Joseph Purvis, this presented a series of challenges. They couldn’t tell any lower-level staff why they needed to know details, like exactly how many trucks a unit had or how quickly their slowest vehicles could move on sand up a hill.

Meanwhile, they were tasked with planning an offensive using a force comprised of over 30 nations’ militaries — all with different equipment and organizational structures — against 43 Iraqi Divisions dug into desert terrain.

I mean, everyone was glad for the help, but the more tank types you bring, the more details you have to keep track of.

(Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. H. H. Deffner)

If that wasn’t challenging enough, someone up their chain (many civilian and military leaders have claimed credit since the war) had envisioned a “Left Hook” attack that required an entire corps to secretly move through the massive desert with limited ability to resupply while facing a numerically superior force.

But this was the exact challenge that the year-long SAMS program prepared graduates for, infusing into them a deep understanding of strategic planning. Purvis’s team at Central Command reached out to other SAMS graduates at both American corps and every subordinate division they could find and set up a backdoor network for asking their detailed questions about equipment numbers and unit strengths.

What emerged from the planning cell, working with troops at Third Army, VII Corps, and XVIII Airborne Corps, was a plan for forces that focused on breaking the Republican Guard units and other forces and had little emphasis on holding ground. ‘Envelope and destroy,’ not ‘clear and hold.’

In other words, rather than focusing on liberating Kuwait and destroying Iraqi forces in the process, the coalition would focus on breaking Iraqi forces and allow liberation to naturally follow. Coalition units wouldn’t need to stay in place and hold ground.

The SAMS graduates across the force worked with the four planners at top to create realistic timelines for movements, emphasizing speed but acknowledging environmental facts, like how an armored column needs time to re-form, refuel, and rearm for attacks after long drives through the desert.

The “Left Hook” was a massive undertaking that needed to be accomplished with secrecy and finesse so the Iraqis would keep their attentions to the east until it was too late.

(Photo by U.S. Navy PHC D. W. Holmes II)

They recommended a large logistics buildup to support a “short duration, high tempo, high consumption ground offensive.”

Translation: If you throw everything at them in the first week, there won’t be anything left to fight against (or with) in the second.

Plans were drawn up that utilized most divisions for their specific strengths. Airborne forces moved throughout the battlefield, guarding supply lines and keeping isolated Iraqi forces cutoff. Air assault soldiers used their helicopters to strike deep into Iraqi territory and disrupt defenses.

VII Corps, commanded by Lt. Gen. Tommy Franks, was the largest armored force the U.S. had ever assembled and was the main effort for cracking the back of Iraqi defenses, crushing the Republican Guard and setting the conditions for liberation.

Iraqi forces had the advantage of being on defense but, uh, still had a rough go of it.

(U.S. Department of Defense)

What followed was one of the most successful ground operations in the history of war. Both the coalition and the Iraqis mustered approximately 650,000 troops each for the combat in Desert Storm, but the better trained, better equipped, and better coordinated attacking force dismantled one of the world’s largest armored forces in just 100 hours.

(H/T to Kevin C.M. Benson, whose doctoral dissertation, “Educating the Army’s Jedi: The School of Advanced Military Studies and the Introduction of Operational Art into U.S. Army Doctrine,” provided a number of important details)

MIGHTY HISTORY

The insane Communist plan to overthrow the Afghan government

In April 1978, an Afghan tank commander rushed to tell President Mohammed Daoud Khan of a coming coup attempt. The President ordered his tank commander to circle to the presidential palace. Khan did not want to be caught off guard. He had only taken the reins of power from the King of Afghanistan five years before and didn’t want the monarchists coming back to power.

But when the critical moment to stop the coup came, the tank commander, with tanks surrounding the president, turned his guns on the palace. He was part of the coup all along.


The day after the revolution.

As coup attempts go, it was relatively bloodless, and thankfully short. But this coup would set Afghanistan on a path that would destroy it from within for the next fifty years or more. Daoud Khan and his family were killed in the palace that day, and the Communists under Nur Muhammad Taraki would ascend to the presidency of Afghanistan. Daoud was himself not a member of the Communist party, but the Communists did help him overthrow the monarchy. Once in power, the new president tried to keep Afghanistan non-aligned in the Cold War.

But when you share a border with the Soviet Union, that just doesn’t seem likely to happen.

Khan, on the right, shaking hands with senior Afghan military leaders

The problem with being non-aligned is that you can really lean one way or the other. When you ask for favors from a superpower, they expect you to fall in line. So it went for Daoud, who asked for help from the Soviets to settle a border dispute with Pakistan. He struggled to keep the USSR out of Afghan foreign policy thereafter. When a rivalry in the Afghan Communist Party ended with the murder of a faction leader, the Afghans were convinced it was Daoud whose hands were dirty – and that they were next. He didn’t have any of them assassinated, but he did have them arrested after protesting the government.

That sealed his fate.

The palace on the day of the coup.

It was on April 27, 1978, that Daoud’s trusted tank commander turned on him. He had already defected to the Communist party. By noon, more tanks were rumbling to the palace, the Army occupied important areas of the city, and the Afghan Air Force took to the skies, all against Daoud and his supporters. When the rebels captured the radio station Radio Afghanistan, they announced to the people what was happening.

By the next morning, the President and his family were dead, the palace was lit up like swiss cheese, and the Communists were in control of the country. It turns out Daoud and his brother charged out of the palace toward the army, guns blazing, like a scene out of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Which eventually led to a Soviet invasion.

The reforms implemented by the Communists were mixed, as was the public reaction to the change in power. The new regime was brutally repressive, executed political prisoners, and brutally put down any resistance from the countryside. This repression turned the people against their Communist government, which triggered the Soviet Union’s Brezhnev Doctrine – any threat to Communist rule in any Communist government is a threat to all Communism everywhere.

The Soviets invaded and occupied Afghanistan for some nine years. The war was a brutal stalemate that severely set back the development of both countries and may have led to the downfall of the USSR.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Hispanic family defines meaning of service

National Hispanic Heritage Month honors those who have positively influenced and enriched the U.S. and society.

For the Fuentes family, that means celebrating the nine brothers who served in the military. Brothers Alfonso, David, Enrique, Ezequiel, Ismael, Marcos, Richard and Rudy all served in the Marine Corps, while Israel served in the Air Force.

Hailing from Corpus Christi, Texas, the Fuentes parents had 16 children: nine sons and seven daughters. The parents worried about the children but supported their decisions to enlist.


David was the first to enlist, joining the Marine Corps in 1957. According to his siblings, other students teased David in high school, calling him a “mama’s boy.” When one of David’s cousins—a Marine—came home on leave, he talked to David, who convinced him to join. That started a tradition that followed through all nine of the brothers.

Most of the brothers have used VA over the years, including receiving health care at VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System.

Reasons for serving

Each of the brothers had different reasons for serving.

“My plans were to quit school and join the Marines to get away from home,” Ismael said. “A friend of mine told me he would do the same. We went to the Marine recruiting office one weekend and were told we were the two highest ranking officers in Navy Junior ROTC, graduate with honors and we will place you both in our 120-day delayed buddy program. We both graduated June 2, 1968, and were in San Diego June 3.”

Another brother said his reason was to possibly spare his children from going to war.

“I volunteered to go to Vietnam,” Richard said. “My thoughts for volunteering is that when I would have a family, I could tell my kids that I already went to war so they wouldn’t have to.”

Echoing that sentiment, another brother said he served to possibly spare his brothers from going to war.

“I did three years in Navy Junior ROTC because I always knew that I wanted to enlist in the Marine Corps and in case it came down that I had to go to war, then maybe my three younger brothers would be spared,” Rudy said. “That was the reason I enlisted, to protect my three younger brothers.”

The youngest brother said he felt compelled to follow his brothers’ examples.

“Being one of the youngest of nine brothers, I did not want to be the one to break tradition, so I enlisted in the Marine Corps and followed in my brothers’ footsteps,” Enrique said.

About the brothers

Alfonso served in the Marine Corps from 1973-1979 as an infantry rifleman. He served at a Reserve unit in his hometown of Corpus Christi. He also deployed to Rome for training.

David didn’t get teased again after he came home on leave in his Marine Corps uniform. He worked on helicopter engines, assigned to the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro in California. David served from 1957 to 1960. He passed away June 15, 2011.

Enrique served in the Marine Corps from June 1975-June 1979. Following training at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, he served on embassy duty in both Naples, Italy, and Sicily from 1976-1978. He finished his time in the Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton.

Ezequiel enlisted in the Marine Corps July 1, 1965, serving as an aircraft firefighter. He served in Yuma, Arizona, and Iwakuni, Japan. He honorably discharged from the Marine Corps June 30, 1969.

Ismael served in the Marine Corps from June 1968 to June 1972. He served at MCB Camp Pendleton as a cook. After dislocating his shoulder, he transferred to the correctional services company.

Israel enlisted in the Air Force in 1966, serving as a weapons mechanic on A-37s and a crew chief on B-58 bombers. He served at Bien Hoa Air Base from 1968-1969 during the Tet Offensive. He discharged in 1970.

Marcos joined the Marine Corps under the delayed entry program Nov. 10, 1976—the service’s 201st birthday. He served from June 1977 to August 1982, serving at a motor pool unit in MCB Camp Pendleton and a Reservist with the 23rd Marine Regiment.

Richard served in the Marine Corps from 1966-1970. He served with Marine Helicopter Squadron 463 in Vietnam from July 1968 to December 1969. He served in Danang and Quang Tri as a CH-53 Sea Stallion door gunner and as a maintainer on helicopter engines.

Rudy served from January 1972 to February 1977 as military police, transport driver and weapons instructor. He volunteered five times to go to Vietnam, getting denied all five times. He assisted during the 1975 evacuation of Saigon.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 games World War I soldiers played in the trenches

100 years ago, our great-great grandfathers were in the trenches of France, and fighters on both sides of the war had to while away their time when they weren’t actively working or fighting. And it takes a lot to keep your morale up and your terror down when your work hours are filled with enemy mortars, artillery, and machine guns.

Here are six games and other activities they turned to:


(Note that this article uses information from the letters of British soldiers written in 1915. Unless there’s another link cited, the letters are pulled from this digital file from the British National Archives.)

A large crowd of World War One soldiers watching two boxers sparring in a ring during the boxing championships at the New Zealand Divisional Sports at Authie, France, in July 1918.

(Henry Armytage Sanders)

Boxing

Unsurprisingly, some of the top activities were a little violent, and boxing was a top activity. These could be tournaments where one company or platoon fought another, but they were also often just quick, relatively impromptu matchups. Soldiers talked about the fights in letters, and it seems that the more violent the fight was, the better. One British soldier wrote:

“We are having a good time here in the way of concerts, sports, boxing tournaments etc. The latter was great especially the bout between a Farrier Sergeant and a cook’s mate. They biffed at one another until neither could stand, it was awfully funny.”

The “Christmas Truce” took place around Christmas, 1914, and included some sports events, like football matches.

(Illustration by A. C. Michael of the Christmas Truce created for “The Illustrated London News”)

Football (American and European)

Football was also popular, but was obviously a team-based event that lent itself well to one unit playing against another. American and European football were both played in the trenches, though it’s obvious that European football would be more popular everywhere but the American Expeditionary Force.

The famous Christmas Truce soccer game was part of this tradition, but games were commonly played between allies rather than adversaries. One soldier wrote in a 1915 letter that his unit played against a rival battery in an old cabbage patch. The patch made a bad football pitch, but the letter-writer won, so he wasn’t sore about it.

World War I Gurkhas wrestle on the regimental transport mules.

(H. D. Girdwood, British Library)

Wrestling (sometimes on mules)

Wrestling, like boxing, was popular for the same reasons, but there is a special, odd caveat that wrestling matches were sometimes held on mules. Yeah, like the animals. This activity was featured during a special sports day in October, 1917, but it didn’t include details of the sport.

Likely, it consisted of two riders wrestling until one knocked the other off the gallant steed, but I like to imagine that the mules were combatants as well, because cartoons don’t become real as often as I would like.

Scottish troops and other onlookers watch troops taking part in an organized sports day.

(British photo from the National Library of Scotland)

Wheelbarrow racing, pillow fights, and other improvised events

Other events on that sports day included pillow fights and “wheelbarrow” races. The events were organized to improve morale, but anyone who has spent time with troops in the field knows that games like these are common any time infantrymen get bored.

These games could include pretty much anything the soldiers could think of. The easier it is to play the game without specific gear, the better.

Plays and other performances

But when troops needed to entertain themselves in an organized way, they had more choices than just sports and fighting one another. Sometimes, this resulted in soldiers holding their own plays and concerts, but they could also enjoy performances by professionals when they came around.

Another British letter written in 1915 but digitized in 2014 was penned by a soldier who gave a short, blow-by-blow of the barracks activities. While he was writing, one soldier did a performance where he acted like a dancing monkey with a small cup for change and another soldier started playing the accordion.

A 1929 edition of “Mensch Aergere Dich Nicht,” a game that led to the American game of “Sorry.” The German became popular in Central Powers trenches in World War I.

(Vitavia, CC BY-SA 4.0)

“Don’t Get Annoyed With Me” and other board games

Troops on both sides of the trenches used board games to pass the time because, obviously, video games weren’t a thing yet. Plenty of games were popular in the war. Checkers could be played with bits of metal or buttons on a hand-drawn board, or a travel game of Chess could be popular. And no war has been fought without playing cards since someone figured out how to paint faces on bits of paper.

But German troops could enjoy a game that had been invented just in time for the war, “Mensch Aergere Dich Nicht,” which translates to “Don’t Get Annoyed With Me.” Players moved game pieces around a board and tried to get them “Home,” but the opposing player could knock a piece off just before it reached safety and thereby piss off the other player.

If it sounds familiar, that’s because the game “Sorry” is a close descendant.