Russia, China, and other nations that have launched cyber attacks against the United States do not fear retribution and see no reason to change their behavior, the nominee to head the U.S. Cyber Command said.
Army Lieutenant General Paul Nakasone told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 1, 2018, that cyber threats against the country have grown significantly, and the United States must impose costs on online “adversaries” to make them stop.
“They don’t fear us,” said Nakasone, 54. “It is not good.”
“I think that our adversaries have not seen our response in sufficient detail to change the behavior,” he said. “They don’t think much will happen.”
His comments echoed statements by the current cyber commander, Admiral Mike Rogers, in testimony before the same committee on Feb. 27, 2018.
“I believe that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin has clearly come to the conclusion that there’s little price to pay and that therefore, ‘I can continue this activity’,” Rogers said.
“Clearly, what we have done hasn’t been enough” to deter Russia, he said. “They have not paid a price that is sufficient to change their behavior.”
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign by hacking internal Democratic party e-mails and waging an online disinformation campaign on social-media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Intelligence chiefs recently warned that Russia is using the same tactics to try to influence the midterm congressional elections in November 2018.
China, Iran, and other nations have also been accused of staging cyber attacks on U.S. facilities and government targets, although they have not been accused like Russia of attempting to interfere in the U.S. political system.
Several senators asked Nakasone what the United States should do to combat nations that infiltrate government networks, steal data from contractors, or try to influence American elections.
“We seem to be the, you know, cyber punching bag of the world,” said Senator Dan Sullivan. “Should we start cranking up the costs of the cyberattacks on our nation?”
Nakasone, who currently leads U.S. Army Cyber Command and is expected to win confirmation in the Senate, was cautious when asked what to do.
He said he would provide a series of options to U.S. President Donald Trump and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, including alternatives that would involve actions other than retaliatory cyber attacks.
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH-181) underway in the Pacific Ocean as U.S. Navy Sea Hawk helicopters hover nearby. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
Japan once had the second-most powerful carrier force in the world – on December 7, 1941. On that date, they had six fleet carriers and five light carriers in service, with two fleet carriers on the way. That was in comparison to the United States, which had seven fleet carriers in service with a whole lot of carriers on the way.
Today, Japan has regained the number two slot in terms of aircraft carriers. Currently, they have three in service and one on the way. Now, they don’t call their aircraft carriers aircraft carriers. Instead, they are calling them “helicopter destroyers” – to create the impression they are replacing the four vessels of the Haruna and Shirane classes. These two classes each packed two five-inch guns forward along with an eight-cell ASROC launcher. At the rear, they had an over-sized (for a destroyer) hangar capable of carrying three SH-3 Sea King (later four SH-60) helicopters.
Take a good look at the Hyuga-class “helicopter destroyers.” Put it next to a Nimitz-class carrier. Aside from the size difference, the Hyuga design obviously has much more in common with a Nimitz than Japan’s past helicopter destroyers. In fact, the Hyuga and her sister Ise, at just under 19,000 tons, outweighed Thailand’s Chakrinaruebet, which displaces about 11,500 tons, the Italian Giuseppe Garibaldi (10,500 tons), and the Spanish Principe de Asturias (16,700 tons). While Hyuga has a 16-cell Mk 41 VLS capable of firing RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles and RUM-139 Vertical-Launch ASROCs and two triple 324mm torpedo tubes, the primary objective is to support helicopters – up to eighteen of them. In a sense, they are like the last ships named Ise and Hyuga, which ended up as hermaphrodite battleship/carriers at the end of World War II.
It should be noted the Hyuga has also operated V-22s, and the Spanish, Thai, and Italian carriers, while smaller, successfully operated versions of the AV-8B Harrier. With a top speed of thirty knots, the Hyuga can move quickly – and generate a lot of wind over the bow. That is very useful when you want to launch a V/STOL aircraft with a load of bombs and missiles.
Japan’s latest aircraft carrier – helicopter destroyer – is the Izumo. She’s 27,000 tons, carries 28 aircraft, and is roughly the size of Spain’s Juan Carlos I, Italy’s Conte di Cavour, and about 20 percent larger than the now retired Invincible-class carriers the Royal Navy used. It should be noted that the Spanish, Italian, and British carriers operated Harrier jump-jets as well.
The Izumo also dispenses with the heavy anti-air and anti-sub armament that the Hyuga-class carriers carried. Izumo‘s only weapons are two Phalanx close-in weapon systems and two Mk 31 launchers for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile. Izumo is currently in service while Kaga is on the way. In short, Japan is not confusing the Izumo‘s purpose – at least in terms of the equipment on board. Izumo is still called a helicopter destroyer, even though she’s really an aircraft carrier.
A 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer conducts a training mission in the vicinity of Japan where they integrated with Japan Air Self Defense Force assets, May 12, 2020. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman River Bruce)
The Air Force‘s B-1B Lancer bomber is about to move front and center in the U.S. military’s power-projection mission in the Pacific.
As part of its mission “reset” for the B-1 fleet, the Air Force is not only making its supersonic bombers more visible with multiple flights around the world, it’s also getting back into the habit of having them practice stand-off precision strikes in the Pacific, a dramatic pivot following years of flying close-air support missions in the Middle East.
The “nice thing about the B-1 is it can carry [the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile], and that’s perfectly suited for the Pacific theater,” Maj. Gen. Jim Dawkins Jr., commander of the Eighth Air Force and the Joint-Global Strike Operations Center at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, said in an interview Tuesday.
“Not only are we resetting the airplane’s mission-capability rates and the training done for the aircraft, we’re also resetting how we employ the airplane to get more toward great power competition to align with the National Defense Strategy,” added Dawkins, who supports the warfighting air component to U.S. Strategic Command, as well as operations within Air Force Global Strike Command.
According to the 2018 NDS, “China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.”
Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson stated that China has become “a pacing threat for the U.S. Air Force because of the pace of their modernization” in the region.
The Pentagon’s strategy prioritizes deterring adversaries by denying their use of force in the first place.
During a simulated strike, crews “will pick a notional target, and then they will do some mission planning and flying through an area that they are able to hold that target at risk, at range,” Dawkins said.
Close-air support, the B-1’s primary mission in recent years, is a much different skill set than “shooting standoff weapons like JASSM-ER and LRASM,” he said, referring to the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile and Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missiles-Extended Range.
While Dawkins wouldn’t get into specifics of how crews are conducting the practice runs in the Pacific, the non-nuclear B-1s have been spotted recently carrying Joint Air to Surface Stand-Off Missiles.
Photos recently posted on DVIDS, the U.S. military’s multimedia distribution website, show Dyess’ 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons crew members loading a JASSM into the belly of a plane. The B-1 is capable of carrying 75,000 pounds — 5,000 pounds more than the B-52 Stratofortress — of both precision-guided and conventional bombs.
The JASSM’s newer variant, JASSM-ER, has a higher survivability rate — meaning it’s less likely to be detected and shot down — due to low-observable technology incorporated into the conventional air-to-ground precision-guided missile. It is said to have a range of roughly 600 miles, compared with the 230-mile reach of JASSM, according to The Drive.
The LRASM, a Navy missile integrated on both the B-1 and F/A-18 Super Hornet, is able to autonomously locate and track targets while avoiding friendly forces.
Joint air-to-surface standoff missiles are loaded into a 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron B-1B Lancer on the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 9, 2020. The B-1Bs carry the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the Air Force inventory. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman River Bruce)
The precision-guided, anti-ship standoff missile was first tested on a B-1 in August 2017. A single B-1 can carry up to 24 LRASMs, or the same number of JASSM-ERs. The LRASM missile achieved early operational capability on the bomber in 2018.
The vast expanses of the Pacific are well-suited for training with these kinds of missiles, Dawkins explained. Stateside ranges, which may lack surface waters or enough distance between two points, depending on location, cannot always accommodate the needs of bomber crews training with these long-range weapons.
Also, “[when] we deploy, for instance to Guam, taking off from [the U.S.] and going to the Pacific, it allows us to do some integration with our allies, as well as exercise the command-and-control … and also allows us to practice our long-duration flights and work with the tankers,” he said.
The flight was part of the Air Force’s new unpredictable deployment experiment to test crews’ agility when sending heavy aircraft forces around the world, since the need to improve the bombers’ deployability rate is also crucial, Dawkins said.
Mission-capability rates refers to how many aircraft are deployable at a given time. The B-1 has been on a slow and steady track to improve its rate — which hovers around 50% — after being broken down by back-to-back missions in the desert, officials have said.
The B-1 could become the face of the Pacific for the foreseeable future, Dawkins said.
“We want … to be the roving linebacker, if you will, particularly in the Pacific,” he said, adding the mission could also pave the way for incorporating hypersonic weapons into the bomber’s arsenal.
Gen. Tim Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, has expressed support for the B-1 as a future hypersonic weapons platform.
“Basically, the configuration we’re seeking is external hardpoints that can allow us to add six Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapons [ARRW, pronounced “Arrow”], and then you still have the bomb bay where you can carry the LRASM or the JASSM-ER,” Ray told reporters last month. LRASM or JASSM-ER could also be carried externally, he added.
“They’re not doing any testing with the hypersonic on the B-1, but that’s definitely in the mix,” Dawkins said.
If configured with that payload in the future, that would be “quite a bit of air power coming off that airplane, whether it’s JASSMs, JASSM-ERs or some combination of those, and hypersonics,” he said.
It was a cold February in 2014 when I was staying at a tiny U.S. Army installation right near the Demilitarized Zone in South Korea with the rest of my company. We hadn’t been there long before we got our first mail drop, right before Valentine’s Day. Some of us got care packages, but everyone in my platoon got a letter.
These letters were sent by elementary school kids back in the States — probably around third grade — and they were just as you’d expect: immaculate spelling, artwork that rivaled the classic greats, and fine calligraphy. Jokes aside, receiving that letter put me in an interesting head-space.
At that point, the war in Iraq had mostly died down. Marines were still being sent to Afghanistan, but just a handful of months prior, we were reflecting upon the 12th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks that kick-started the whole shebang.
1st platoon, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in South Korea. C. 2014.
What I realized then and there is that, just a decade earlier, I was the elementary school kid writing a letter to some service member who was, at that time, fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. In fact, I was even younger than whoever penned my letter when I saw the events of that fateful September day repeated on the news. The kid who wrote the letter in my hands now wasn’t even around in 2001.
It never occurred to me, especially back at the turn of the century, that I would one day enlist to fight in the same war that started when I was a kid.
When I was growing up, you’d hear this left and right: “Don’t join the military, you’ll go to war and die.” I always dismissed it as ignorant. After all, my father fought in the war before this one and he came back, didn’t he? But, at the time, half of that statement was true. If you enlisted immediately after 9/11, there was a near guarantee you’d go to war.
That sentiment followed me through boot camp.
I joined the Marine Corps at the age of 17 and I was still sure I’d go to war. But, with time comes change — and that’s exactly what happened. From the time I went to MEPS and had an old guy tell me to turn my head and cough to the time I walked across the parade deck at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, everyone said I would go to war. My recruiter, my drill instructors, everyone.
But once I got to the School of Infantry, things had mellowed out a bit.
I never went to war. In fact, a lot of people I served with never did. The crazy thing is that it was the reason we enlisted. We were kids when 9/11 happened and we grew up during the war that it spawned. We had time to grow angry about what had happened and we enlisted for a lot of the same reasons as our predecessors.
Marine Corps Ball in 2014. That’s me on the left.
What blows my mind the most, however, is that I completed my service over two years ago and that war is still going on, even if the Marine Corps infantry isn’t actively involved. Meanwhile, that kid who wrote me the letter is probably sitting in a high school classroom learning about 9/11 as a historical event — not as something that happened to them.
As the U.S. Navy crews of two riverine command boats were being held on Iran’s Farsi island by members of the Revolutionary Guard, their captors began to interrogate the group, demanding to know where the Navy “mothership” was.
The ten crew members insisted on the truth — that there was no mothership, and the 50-foot boats were making a transit of 250 nautical miles from Kuwait to Bahrain on their own.
Reportedly, the captors were incredulous, telling the group they didn’t believe the boats could make the distance on their own.
“Yeah,” at least one of the Navy crew members reportedly laughed. “I wish you could tell my people that, because we told them these boats can’t do that.”
This exchange, revealed for the first time in a Navy command investigation made public Thursday, highlights many of the key findings regarding the circumstances that led to the 15-hour detention of the ten sailors Jan. 12.
The 170-page probe found shoddy training, poor preparation, communication gaps and leadership failures all were to blame for the international incident, which was manipulated into a propaganda victory by the Iranians.
Among other discoveries, the investigation found that members of the riverine boat crews had been up all night before the planned transit attempting to repair the poorly maintained boats, a violation of policies requiring ample rest before journeys of that length.
They determined that the sailors had unknowingly passed through Saudi Arabian territorial waters before accidentally entering Iranian territorial waters. And they found the sailors had committed multiple code-of-conduct violations while detained, demonstrating a lack of understanding of policy and insufficient training.
In all, the investigation recommends that eight Navy officers and petty officers be held accountable for leadership and conduct failings in the incident.
Transit gone wrong
According to the investigation, the transit of the two riverine boats, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 began in the afternoon Jan. 12. The boats were ordered to transit from Kuwait to Bahrain to support an upcoming military exercise, a longer distance than the crews, or anyone from the squadron, had ever covered before in the vessels.
The boats planned to meet up with the Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy before sunset to refuel, and altered their course as soon as they got underway to reach the cutter faster, but without notifying anyone of their plans, according to the investigation.
From the outset, communications were a problem. The second riverine boat, 805, eventually established satellite communication with officials from the parent unit, Task Force 56.7, in Bahrain. The lead boat, 802, never established satellite communication.
Shortly into the journey, just before 3:30 p.m. local time, the boats unknowingly entered and passed through Saudi Arabian territorial waters. Just after 3:45 p.m., they entered Iranian waters around Farsi Island, which lies between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Persian Gulf. The Monomoy, monitoring the journey, notified task force officials that the boats appeared to be in Iranian territorial seas.
Fewer than 30 minutes after the boats entered the region, boat 802 discovered a loss of lube oil pressure. The two boats decided to go “dead in the water” to investigate the engine issue, just 1.5 nautical miles south of Farsi island.
Minutes later, two small Iranian boats approached, crew-mounted weapons pointed at the riverine boats. Some of the riverine crew members went to man their own crew-mounted weapons, but the captain of the lead boat, a Navy lieutenant and the only officer in the group, waved them off in an attempt to de-escalate.
As Iranian troops racked their weapons and pointed AK-47s and .50-caliber guns at the sailors, the officer made another attempt to extricate the boats from the worsening situation, ordering the lead boat’s coxswain to accelerate through the Iranian boats in a getaway attempt. But the coxswain disregarded the order, telling investigators later that he thought members of the crew would be killed if he followed it.
Two additional Iranian boats arrived, and members of the guard boarded the riverine boats, tearing down the American flags they were flying and hoisting Revolutionary Guard flags in their place. They blindfolded the sailors, taking their personal belongings and tying their hands together with pieces of Iranian flag, according to the report.
Then the guided the two riverine boats to Farsi island, where the sailors would spend their brief period as detainees.
The ten sailors were kept together in a room, where they were first interrogated together, then one-by-one, in sessions ranging from 15 minutes to two hours. Iranian captors would bring in food and attempt to film the sailors with a video camera as they ate. The lead boat captain resisted these efforts to film the crews, but ultimately told the sailors they should eat because it wasn’t clear when their next meal was coming.
In perhaps the most significant misstep during this period of detention, the lead boat commander agreed to read scripted remarks on camera in front of an Iranian “news crew” in which he apologized for the mistake of ending up in Iranian water and said the incident was “our fault.” He did this in exchange for the promise of release, the investigation found, against military code of conduct rules for such situations. Unbeknownst to him, the release of all the sailors had already been secured by the U.S. government and their departure from Farsi island was imminent.
Because of unit upheaval and reorganization in previous years, Coastal Riverine Squadron 3 and its parent unit, Coastal Riverine Group 1, found themselves undermanned and overtasked. The crews of the two command boats had missed key skills training periods due to operational commitments, the investigating officer found, and were lacking navigation training as well as training needed to prepare them to operate in the Middle East during their deployment.
Poor communication meant that the then-commander of Task Force 56, Capt. Kyle Moses, didn’t realize the units were inadequately prepared for deployment, the investigator found. On top of that, the investigation determined, the task force fostered a “can’t say no” command climate, meaning that lower-ranking troops fell in line rather than raising important concerns.
Neither Moses, nor the commander of Task Force 56.7 in Bahrain, nor the Kuwait detachment officer-in-charge, understood the poor condition of the riverine command boats, neither of which was fully operational, the investigation found. Neither task force had a sense of ownership of the boats, officials said.
This lack of leadership and training was considered by investigator to be an extenuating factor in the conduct of the riverine boat crews, which made a series of bad choices starting with “blindly” deviating from course at the outset.
The two boat captains did not understand proper procedure for addressing an engine failure underway. They failed to keep their weapons manned while dead in the water to guard against a surprise attack. Both captains failed to exercise self-defense when the Iranians demonstrated hostile intent, the investigation found, due to a lack of understanding of how to do so. The lead boat captain surrendered both boats to the Iranian authorities, the probe found. While the military code of conduct acknowledges that troops may be captured, it forbids surrender if they have the means to resist.
And while detained, the crews showed some confusion about what they were permitted to say. The investigator found some volunteered pieces of information apart from name, rank and serial number, including the top speed of the riverine boats and the fact that the parent command owned a third boat. The sailors’ comment about telling their command the boats couldn’t make the journey demonstrated lack of trust in their chain of command to the detaining forces, the investigator said, and could have been used for propaganda purposes.
Discipline and recommendations
Despite the missteps of the captain of the lead boat, the investigating officer accounted for his junior rank and lack of fleet experience and oversight, recommending only that a copy of the investigation be forwarded to his commander for appropriate oversight.
“He was placed in a difficult position, albeit one in which his own actions placed him and nine other sailors in danger,” the investigating officer wrote. “His deployment to the Fifth Fleet area of operations lacked any form of oversight and he lacked basic mentorship and development from his entire chain of command. Left to his own devices, he emulated the poor leadership traits he witnessed firsthand within his own chain of command.”
The report also recommends discipline for the commander of the second boat and the coxswain who disobeyed the order to accelerate away, asking that the investigation be forwarded to their chain of command for action.
Discipline is also recommended for Task Force 56 Commander Moses, the Task Force 56 chief staff officer, the commanding officer and executive officer of Coastal Riverine Squadron 3, and the Kuwait officer-in-charge at the time of the transit.
The Navy announced that CRS-3 executive officer Cmdr. Eric Rasch had been relieved from his post in May. Moses was relieved earlier this month. Actions regarding the other officers have not been made public to date.
The investigating officer also recommended an immediate operational training and readiness stand-down for Task Force 56 to ensure adequate training and readiness, as well as the implementation of monthly live-fire training and a review of policies and procedures for maritime operational centers.
In view of the confusion surrounding who was in charge and the chain of command once the riverine boats got underway and the lack of familiarity with the boats’ capabilities, the investigator recommended developing a career track “specifically for the competitive selection and detailing of post-department head surface warfare officers to officer-in-charge billets at the coastal riverine squadrons.”
The report casts a strongly unfavorable light on the actions of the Iranian guards, who the investigating officer found accosted and detained U.S. sailors in an innocent passage through territorial waters, against international norms. The riverine boats were inappropriately searched and communications wires cut, the probe found. And many of the sailors who were interrogated had their personal space invaded during periods of questioning as Iranian interrogators sought to intimidate them into giving up information.
These findings appear to run somewhat counter to remarks from Secretary of State John Kerry, who negotiated the sailors’ release and thanked Iranian authorities for their quick response.
“All indications suggest that our sailors were well taken care of, provided with blankets and food and assisted with their return to the fleet,” Kerry said Jan. 13.
In a largely damning report, there are a few commendations. The investigating officer recommended that the No. 2 gunner aboard the second riverine boat — the only female sailor among the ten detained — be recognized for her quick thinking in activating an emergency beacon while “kneeling, bound and blindfolded” at Iranian gunpoint, in a brave but ultimately thwarted attempt to call for help.
The commanders and crews of the cutter Monomoy and the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, which coordinated to track the captured sailors and provided assistance on their return, were also recommended for special recommendation.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson was expected to discuss the findings of the investigation on Thursday.
Last night’s 92nd Academy Awards had most military-connected folks rooting for Adam Driver to win best actor.
Driver, who was nominated for his role in the Netflix film, “The Marriage Story,” served in the Marines as a mortarman. He was previously nominated for his role in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman.” Unfortunately, Driver didn’t take home the statue (Joaquin Phoenix did for his portrayal of Joker), but we looked to see what other veterans had won an Oscar for best actor.
Turns out, there were quite a few. These 20 veterans have all won entertainment’s most prestigious acting award:
Unlike some in Hollywood that hid behind their status, Stewart signed up right away and joined the Army when the U.S. entered WWII. Serving all the way to 1968, Stewart’s military exploits are an article in and of itself.
Stewart was nominated five times, winning once for “The Philadelphia Story.” He also received a well-deserved Honorary Oscar in 1985.
Robards served in the Navy and saw a lot of action in his time. He was out at sea when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, where he was stationed. His ship was later sunk in the South Pacific, with Robard treading water for hours until he was rescued. The second ship he served on suffered a kamikaze attack off the coast of the Philippines.
Robards decided to become an actor while serving and had an illustrious career.
He won two Oscars; one for “All the President’s Men” and “Julia.”
Marvin was a badass on screen with his steely-eyed demeanor, a trait no doubt perfected during his time in the Marines during WWII. He fought in the Battle of Saipan, earning a Purple Heart when he was hit by machine-gun fire and then by a sniper.
Marvin later won the Oscar for his role in “Cat Ballou.”
Probably the most famous leading man of them all, Gable served in the Army Air Forces during WWII, seeing combat in the skies over Europe. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal. Legend has it that Hitler was a fan of Gable and offered a reward for him to be captured alive.
Gable earned an Oscar for this role in “It Happened One Night” and surprisingly not for “Gone with the Wind.”
George C. Scott
Another post-WWII Marine, Scott was stationed at 8th and I in Washington D.C. where he served as an honor guard at services held at Arlington National Cemetery.
Nominated several times, Scott famously told the Academy that he would refuse the award if he won for Patton on philosophical grounds. The role was so iconic, he won anyway.
James Earl Jones
Before his voice terrified moviegoers as Darth Vader, James Earl Jones served in the ROTC at the University of Michigan. He then went to become a first lieutenant in the Army.
He received an honorary Oscar in 2011 for his many iconic roles. His filmography is lengthy and includes The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Sandlot, Lion King, Clear and Present Danger, and many more.
He’s made us laugh in Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, and Young Frankenstein.
Before his life of comedy, Brooks had a more serious role defusing landmines in Germany during World War II.
Brooks won an Academy Award for his screenplay of “The Producers.”
A badass of the silver screen, Eastwood served stateside during the Korean War.
Eastwood is an Oscar legend winning four times against 11 nominations. He won two Best Director Awards and Two Best Picture Awards for “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby.”
He was also nominated for two amazing military movies, “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “American Sniper.”
Before he “loved the smell of napalm in the morning,” Duvall served stateside during the Korean War.
After his stint in the Army, he went on to achieve greatness in acting with seven Oscar nominations (including for “Apocalypse Now” and “The Great Santini”), winning for “Tender Mercies.”
Known for many military roles, including “McHale’s Navy” and “The Dirty Dozen,” Borgnine served in the U.S. Navy in 1941 and was discharged, only to rush back into service when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
He won an Academy Award for his role in “Marty” in 1955.
Arguably one of the best-looking actors of all time, Newman served in the Navy during World War II. He tried to become a pilot, but color blindness prevented him from doing so. He instead served as a radioman and turret gunner.
Newman also is an Oscar legend with a nomination in 5 different decades. He won an Honorary Oscar in 1985, and had a Best Actor win the next year for The Color of Money.”
Before he portrayed the gladiator turned freedom fighter Spartacus, Douglas served in the Navy during WWII from 1941 – 1944.
He would later be awarded an Honorary Oscar in 1996 after earning three nominations during his illustrious career.
Fonda left acting and enlisted in the Navy during World War II and served in the Pacific, earning a Bronze Star.
When he returned to acting, he would have a legendary career with two nominations, including a win for “On Golden Pond.”
Heston served in the Army Air Forces during WWII as an aerial gunner. He was stationed in Alaska, which was under threat from the Japanese.
Heston had a legendary career with epic roles in “The Ten Commandments,” “Planet of the Apes,” and “El Cid,” and won an Oscar for his role in “Ben-Hur.”
While it is easy to imagine Freeman serving as a radio operator, he actually served in the Air Force as a Radar Repairman.
While earning several nominations, he won for his role in “Million Dollar Baby.”
Before his iconic, “They call me Mr. Tibbs!” line, Poitier served in the U.S. Army, lying about his age in order to serve.
He won the Oscar for his role in “Lilies of the Field.”
Known for many roles, his most famous being the Huron warrior Magua, who cut out the heart of his vanquished foe. Studi enlisted in the Oklahoma National Guard and served in Vietnam.
He was awarded an Honorary Oscar, the first Native American to be so honored.
Hackman lied about his age and enlisted in the Marines as a radio operator in 1946, rising to the rank of Corporal.
Nominated five times in his illustrious career, he won twice for “the French Connection” and “Unforgiven.”
Lemmon had an amazing and long career showing off his chops in movies like “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Before that, Lemmon served in WWII as a Naval Aviator toward the end of the war.
He later won two Oscars for his roles in “Mister Roberts” and “Save the Tiger.”
Palance was known for his rugged looks, which studio execs claim he got from surgery to repair injuries he suffered when jumping out of a burning bomber while training during WWII.
He was nominated three times and won for City Slickers, which he celebrated by doing one-armed pushups on stage.
Canadia inventor Gerald Bull was obsessed with the idea of building a supergun that could launch satellites into space — a spacegun — circumventing the expensive and wasteful use of rockets. In the ’60s, he worked with the Canadian and U.S. governments on supergun technology, but all research was shut down once the Vietnam War began. Determined to make his vision a reality, he sold weapons in South Africa to build up some cash, but was caught and jailed for six months. In the ’80s, Bull was tapped by the Iraqi government, and began working on Project Babylon for Saddam Hussein, which included “two full-sized Big Babylon 1000mm calibre guns and a prototype 350mm calibre gun called Baby Babylon.”
“Using nine tonnes of special supergun propellant, Big Babylon would have been theoretically capable of firing a 600kg projectile across 1,000 kilometres, putting Kuwait and Iran well within striking distance from inside Iraq. Alternatively, the gun could be used to launch a 2,000kg rocket-assisted projectile carrying a 200kg satellite.”
“Bull wasn’t ignorant to the possibility that Iraq could use his supergun technology to fire missiles, but he justified his actions by pointing out that it would be an impractical weapon, says Hall. Its size meant that it would not be possible to move the gun once it was constructed; it only pointed in one direction, was slow to fire, could be easily located and easily destroyed if anyone wished to. Everyone would know where it was, and everyone would immediately know if it had been fired from the seismic tremors it caused. The recoil force from the gun would have totalled 27,000 tonnes – equivalent to a nuclear explosion – and would have registered as a major seismic event around the world.”
While tests began on Baby Babylon, Big Babylon was never completed as Bull was soon after assassinated while entering his own apartment. Shot twice in the head and three times in the back, there were no witnesses, and while the killer was never identified, Israeli intelligence agency Mossad has been linked. Head over to the BBC to read the full story.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. became the sole superpower on the world stage, and was able to take advantage of the vast global influence it had amassed since the late 19th century.
But in recent years, this power has been fading.
From the South China Sea to the Middle East to Latin America, places where the U.S. once comfortably exerted its economic, military, and political power are slowly beginning to slip out of America’s grip, and often into China’s. Although former President Barack Obama initiated this trend in some regions through calculated disengagement, it has accelerated sharply under President Donald Trump.
Here are 10 regions where U.S. influence has faded most dramatically:
10. The South China Sea
The strategic and oil-rich South China Sea is one of the most contested waterways in the world, and the U.S. and its allies have competed with China for control of it for years. While the Obama administration took a tough stance on the issue and even forced China to back down from further expansion in the area in 2016, the Trump administration has instead pursued other priorities.
While on his trip to Asia this month, Trump articulated a largely incoherent policy on the South China Sea together with Vietnam and Philippines, but focused mainly on trade and North Korea. As a result, China has had a much freer hand in asserting its dominance in the region, and has expanded military bases, strengthened missile shelters, and built up small reefs into developed islands from which it can project its maritime influence — all to the detriment of U.S. power in the area.
Vietnam and China recently reached an agreement on the sea, and China’s foreign minister indicated it was a sign that the countries in the region did not trust the U.S. anymore to resolve such disputes.
9. The Pacific
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers)
The U.S. has long had a powerful military and economic presence in the Pacific, and Obama had hoped to create even closer ties between the U.S. and east Asia through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The controversial agreement was also seen as an effort to counter expanding Chinese trade power in the region.
In one of his first moves in office, though, Trump decided to pull the U.S. out of the agreement. In response, the remaining 11 countries that signed onto the TPP formed their own pact without the U.S. earlier this month, cutting the U.S. out of potentially profitable export opportunities and diminishing its influence along the crucial Pacific Rim.
“It’s a huge setback for the United States,” Deborah Elms, the executive director of the Asian Trade Center, told Voice of America. “If you are an exporter, this is deeply damaging.”
U.S. Ambassador to the Asian Development Bank Robert Orr agreed.
“When Trump abdicated TPP and then told regional nations to go on their own as the U.S. would, it was inevitable that a new formulation of TPP would emerge not only without American leadership, but also without even an American presence,” he said.
8. The Philippines
America’s deep historical ties to the Philippines stretch back to the 1898 Spanish-American War, when the U.S. acquired the islands from Spain. Since then, the U.S. has maintained bases in the Philippines and has enjoyed immense cultural and political influence on the islands.
Along with Israel, Turkey has been considered the most reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East for decades and has been a crucial member of the NATO alliance since 1952.
Yet few of America’s ally relationships have become as strained as the one with Turkey in recent years. Peeved by America’s escalating diplomatic chastisement of its authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the U.S.’s continued support for Kurds in Syria, Turkey has diverged from the U.S. on numerous regional issues.
China, in particular, has stepped up to the plate in Africa, and the value of its investments on the continent outweigh America’s by a factor of 10. While the Obama administration had at least tried, unsuccessfully, to expand its reach in Africa from a security standpoint, the Trump administration, which has slashed foreign aid funding, has been “asleep at the wheel” according to Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Other officials, like former U.S. representative to the African Union, Reuben Brigety, agree.
“The most disturbing thing is they are looking beyond us at this point,” Brigety told U.S. News and World Report. “As [African countries] are getting their act increasingly together… They are no longer waiting for us to figure out what we may be doing.”
While Americans and Europeans often viewed Africa from a security lens, the Chinese have used state-owned corporations to entrench China’s geopolitical influence on the continent through industrial, infrastructure, and mining projects.
5. Latin America
The U.S. has also increasingly become outpaced by China in Latin America, right in the U.S.’s backyard.
As the U.S. has devoted its attention to other regions of the world, China has stepped in to fill the void economically, and has now replaced the U.S. as the main trading partner of regional giants like Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina. Militarily, China has also been angling itself as a weapons provider in Latin America, and its developing Pacific Navy may well come to play a role in Pacific South America in years to come.
Following years of American involvement, the countries of Latin America formed a new international group called the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that excludes the U.S. and Canada — and instead of meeting on the American continent, CELAC held a major conference in Beijing in 2015, according to CNN Money.
Evan Ellis, a Latin American expert and professor at the U.S. Army War College, told CNN that, like in other parts of the world, China is offering investment and trade benefits with no strings attached.
“China provides a source of financing and export markets without pressures to adhere to practices of transparency, open markets, and Western style democracy,” Ellis said.
All of this is very appealing to Latin American countries like Venezuela, among others.
When the U.S. passed a new sanctions bill against Russia this past July, it included a clause that said Congress could also levy sanctions against companies that worked on Russian export pipelines — and the Germans, whose companies are planning to do just that on the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline, erupted in protest.
President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said the EU was prepared to retaliate economically against the U.S. for the moves.
The diplomatic awkwardness on the energy issue reflects an increasing distance Germany and the European Union have felt toward the U.S. ever since the Obama years — Europeans’ trust of the U.S. has fallen by more than half since 2009. More recently, politicians in western Europe have complained about Trump’s refugee policy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel summed up Europe’s increasing distance from the U.S. in May of this year.
“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days” she said. “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
3. The Arab Middle East
In 2009, Obama made a sweeping speech in Cairo that promised a new future for the Middle East, and especially for the Arab nations that make up its core. At the height of the Arab Spring two years later, it seemed like the U.S. had committed itself to use its power in the region to advance Arab democratic interests.
Yet in 2017, from Iraq in the east to Lebanon and Jordan in the west, it is no secret that U.S. influence in the Arab Middle East is at historic lows. Iranian regional dominance in the Fertile Crescent and Yemen, instability in Saudi Arabia, and the continuing appeal of Islamism over Western liberalism all mean that America’s ability to direct politics in the region has become seriously undermined.
After decades of American interventionism in the Arab Middle East that have borne little fruit, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently stated that if Trump withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal, “no one will trust America again.”
However Arabs’ distrust of the U.S. has deeper causes than just American waffling on deals like the one with Iran — Obama’s inaction on Syria, which many Arabs saw as a betrayal, along with America’s continued singular focus on stamping out terrorism in the region have dampened hopes that the U.S. has ever had the best interests of Arabs in mind.
The U.S. has long striven to maintain influence on the southeast Asian mainland, perhaps most directly through the Vietnam War, and has frequently served as a bulwark in the region against China.
This bulwark seems to be weakening though, and China has been rapidly supplanting U.S. influence throughout the region by investing heavily where Americans will not. While in past decades human rights and democracy had to be cultivated in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia for the U.S. to do business there, with Trump stepping back and downplaying the importance of human rights on his recent Asia trip, southeast Asian nations have been given a freer hand — and in many cases have turned to China as a partner instead due to its strategic economic know-how.
China has long sought deeper involvement in the affairs of countries in its own backyard, and America’s disengagement on issues like the South China Sea have allowed it to unilaterally extend political and economic influence over southeast Asian countries on the mainland.
Among locals though, Chinese influence isn’t necessarily a good thing. A recent survey conducted from Singapore showed that 70% of Southeast Asians see U.S. influence as positive for regional stability, however 51% also stated that the U.S. had lost power in the region to China since Trump took office.
The U.S. and Pakistan have been ardent allies throughout the Cold War and into the War on Terror, but recent political differences and the growing influence of China in the country have strained American power in the south Asian country.
Pakistan, which has been India’s arch-rival since 1947, has instead turned to China, just like so many other tepid U.S. allies around the world. Pakistan’s top foreign policy advisor Sartaj Aziz indicated as much in June of this year.
“Pakistan’s relations with China are the cornerstone of our foreign policy,” Aziz said.
A short hike North of Los Angeles’ famed Sunset Boulevard in Will Rogers State Park will lead you to a seemingly out-of-place, abandoned WWII-era complex fit for a king. But this ranch wasn’t built for a king; it was built for a Führer.
What is today condemned and covered with graffiti was built by American Nazi sympathizers to be a world-class command center for Adolf Hitler’s “Thousand-Year Reich,” Left Coast Edition. Built with the intention of winning the hearts of the Hollywood Elite, the bunker was also supposed to regale Hitler with the luxury and symbolic power of wealth that only a bunker in LA could provide.
Or Scientology, but the Stephens weren’t asstrict as Scientologists, they were just Nazis. (Photo by Domas Mituzas)
We tend to forget the world of the 1920’s and 1930’s wasn’t so cut and dry as we like to imagine. While Fascism wasn’t as popular as other social movements, it hadn’t entirely slid off its rocker into the genocidal megalomania we associate it with today. That is to say a lot of people though Fascism was a good idea, including a number of Americans.
One such American was Jessie M. Murphy, a widower who purchased a 50-acre tract of land North of Los Angeles, the namesake of the Murphy Ranch. The only problem is Jessie Murphy never existed. Jessie Murphy was really a pseudonym created by Winona and Norman Stephens, who fancied themselves “Silvershirts.”
Silvershirts were members of the Silver Legion of America, an organization of Nazi sympathizers founded by a North Carolinian named William Pelley. The Silvershirts were a white supremacist, anti-Semitic group who wore campaign hats and blue trousers to go with their silver shirts, sort of like glittery drill sergeants with a red “L” over their hearts.
Kinda like that, but with more glitter, I think. (For the record, Laverne De Fazio was definitely not a Nazi)
Pelley even ran for President in 1936, but was trounced with everyone else who thought running against President Franklin Roosevelt was a good idea. Once elected, Pelley hoped to create a “Silver Revolution” and turn the U.S. into a Fascist state.
The Stephens built the Los Angeles compound sometime in the 1930s at the behest of a Nazi agent known only as “Herr Schmidt.” It was designed to be a long-term, self-sufficient base for Nazi activities in the United States. Complete with water storage tanks and a bomb shelter, it cost the Stephens the equivalent of $66 million in today’s U.S. dollars.
The Silvershirts there were rounded up the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Three days later, Hitler declared a state of war between Nazi Germany and the United States. The complex fell into a state of disrepair and is now property of Los Angeles County.
If the Axis powers had won World War II, it seems LA might have been the capital of the Western Reich.
Between May 26 and June 4, 1940, more than 338,000 Allied soldiers from England, France, Belgium and elsewhere escaped death or capture at the hands of the overwhelming Nazi blitzkrieg. Hundreds of vessels, military and civilian, crossed the English Channel to bring these men home.
The reason they had the time to evacuate from the beaches of France is that 35,000 to 40,000 French troops stayed behind to give them that time. These valiant troops held against superior numbers, firepower and air power in a delaying action that earned the respect of even their enemy commander.
After eight months of little fighting following the start of World War II, Germany finally began its invasion of the Netherlands on May 10, 1940. Before the French could respond, the German Wehrmacht had already overtaken much of the Netherlands and was moving toward Belgium. The French, along with the British Expeditionary Force moved into Belgium to meet them.
The Allied force was quickly flanked by a surprise German advance through the dense Ardennes Forest. Despite a series of counterattacks, the Allies were forced to fall back. It wasn’t long before the German Army reached the coast and swung south, threatening every French port on the coastline.
Then, when the Germans reached the outskirts of Dunkirk, they suddenly stopped, worried that the pocket containing a massive Allied ground force might try to break out. The pause gave the Allies time to form a defense and mount Operation Dynamo, the evacuation of the Allied force from the beaches of Dunkirk.
The French, meanwhile, brought five divisions to the town of Lille. Bravely meeting the German advance head on, the French were cut off from the main force at Dunkirk. Outnumbered, they fought on for four days in an effort to make the evacuation operation happen. In that time, the stalwart French defense allowed for an estimated 100,000 troops to be evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk.
Seven German divisions led by the legendary commander Gen. Erwin Rommel met the French First Army at Lille, which had by then created a substantial pocket. Rommel brought four divisions of infantry led by three Panzer divisions to the siege. But the French knew where the German army was positioned. They had captured a high-ranking German officer while on a routine patrol. They used the documents captured by the patrol to attempt a breakout of the pocket.
On two separate occasions, the French First Army valiantly attempted to break out of the pocket they’d created, and even managed to push the Germans back across the Deûle River, but were forced back across the river each time. Meanwhile, the suburbs of Lille turned into a battleground with both sides fighting house-to-house.
Only when the French supplies of food and ammunition began to run out, did individual units begin to surrender. The Germans fought back, eventually forcing a surrender of a number of smaller units. By June 4, 1940, the entire French force around Lille was forced to capitulate.
The Germans were so impressed with the French First Army’s performance that the German commander, Gen. Alfred Wäger, allowed the honours of war to the defeated French. The defenders of Lille were allowed to form up and march out of the city with drums beating and flags flying – a testament to their defense of the French homeland.
The time they bought allowed the British Expeditionary Force to escape from Dunkirk and live to fight another day – D-Day.
Let’s be clear — all battles suck for a foot soldier, even the smaller ones. But there were some in recent times that sucked more than others for the lowly grunt, with body counts piling up, bad commanders and leadership with a total lack of respect for the lives of their men.
Here is a partial list of five of the worst modern battles to be a bottom-of-the-barrel foot soldier.
1. The Battle of Kiev, 1941
The Battle of Kiev lasted from August 23 – Sept. 26, 1941. The German army, led by Fedor von Bock, Gerd von Rundstedt, and the famed Heinz Guderian, continued their spearhead towards Moscow but Hitler reconsidered.
Instead, he ordered Bock, von Rundstedt, and Guderian to focus their attack on the city of Kiev. The total amount of German forces heading towards Kiev numbered a little over 500,000. The reason for this was that Kiev was third largest city with a large concentration of Soviet forces with likely more than 627,000 Red Army troops facing the German onslaught.
How bad was it? In order to crush the Soviets in Kiev, the Germans were forced to systematically reduce the pockets of resistance. In other words, the Germans had to work at making each line (pockets of resistance) buckle and break.
Because of this, the fighting was unsurprisingly up close and personal. The total number of dead were 127,000 Germans and 700,544 Soviets — that’s over 800,000 killed in the battle for Kiev.
2. The Battle of Verdun, 1916
The Battle of Verdun lasted from Feb. 21 – Dec. 18, 1916, between the armies of France and the German Empire. Located in northeastern France, when the battle of Verdun kicked off, 30,000 French soldiers faced 130,000 German soldiers. Seeing that 30,000 troops were not enough, the French bolstered their forces to a staggering 1.1 million men. The Germans countered this by delivering 1.25 million troops.
The horrors of such a battle need little explanation. All one has to do is look at the photos of the battle site. World War I was a war in which the technology outpaced the tactics and strategies. Because of this, war came to a near standstill as men were mowed down by machine guns and blown to pieces by artillery fire on a daily basis.
If that wasn’t enough, living in the trenches was another misery all its own. Here’s a testimony.
A German soldier writes to his parents:
An awful word, Verdun. Numerous people, still young and filled with hope, had to lay down their lives here – their mortal remains decomposing somewhere, in between trenches, in mass graves, at cemeteries…
In total, the French would lose upwards of 500,000 troops while the Germans lost in some estimates more than 400,000 — nearly 1 million killed on both sides.
3. The Siege of Leningrad, 1941-1944
The siege of Leningrad lasted from Sept. 8 1941 – Jan. 27, 1944. The German army surrounded the city with 725,000 troops and began an on-and-off bombardment and assault of the city which was defended by 930,000 Soviet soldiers.
While the Germans made little advancement into the city, mainly controlling the outskirts, they were effective in starving the city to near death.
While war is indeed hell, the Germans suffered from the typical day-to-day engagements as did the Soviet soldiers. However, the people of the city suffered the worst. Due to the limited amount of supplies, many people ate whatever they could get their hands on, even people.
Once the siege lifted, the Germans suffered 579,985 casualties while the Soviets lost 642,000 during the siege and another 400,000 at evacuations.
4. The Battle of Stalingrad, 1942-1943
The battle of Stalingrad lasted from August 23, 1942 – Feb. 2, 1943. Initially, the Germans besiege the city with 270,000 troops. But by the time the siege was lifted, the Germans army had swelled to 1,040,000 men.
The Soviets at first only had 187,000 personnel to defend the city, but by the time of the counteroffensive, more than 1.1 million troops were on the move.
The horrors of Stalingrad were an outgrowth of the hellish street-to-street and building-to-building fighting. Not to mention the many horrors both sides witnessed and committed.
Red Army Maj. Anatloy Zoldatov, recalled:
The filth and human excrement and who knows what else was piled up waist-high. It stank beyond belief. There were two toilets and signs above them both that read: No Russians allowed.
In total, the Germans would lose 734,000 killed, wounded and missing, while the Russians lost 478,741 killed and missing and another 650,878 wounded or sick.
5. The Battle of Berlin, 1945
The battle of Berlin ran from April 16 – May 2, 1945. The Germans had only 766,750 soldiers on hand to defend the city against 2.5 million Soviet soldiers. The result was a decisive Soviet victory that would lead to Germany’s surrender on May 7, 1945.
As for the horrors of the battle, many German citizens — including children — were forced to defend the city. Of course, this was the norm when the situation grows dire.
Like Stalingrad, the fighting in Berlin would be from street-to-street and building-to-building. However, the German army, like its people, were depleted from years of war and had 2.5 million angry Soviets kicking their door in.
Once Berlin was theirs, the pillaging began. In total, the Germany army lost 92,000–100,000 troops while the Soviets lost 81,116.
A U.S. Army company commander uses one of his interpreters to consult with tribal elders in a village in Paktika Province in eastern Afghanistan following an air assault. (Photo: Ward Carroll)
It was early morning, still dark at Fort Bragg when one of my teammates called from Afghanistan with bad news.
“Both Juma and Ish have been killed,” he said, without any attempt to hide the fact that he’d been crying.
It was May 2006, and the bulk of our unit was one month away from another deployment to Afghanistan. Two of our best interpreters had been stopped at a Taliban checkpoint. A fighter recognized them. He knew they’d been working with the Americans. Their bodies were found the next morning, brutally tortured and mutilated.
I went numb as the words continued through the phone. I scrambled for a note pad to try to capture all the information. It was too much to process. As soon as everyone mustered in the team room, I broke the news. The impact was immediate. To us, it was no different than losing a fellow American soldier.
Congress has authorized 8,750 visas for Afghan interpreters, but only 1,982 have been issued through December, according to the Los Angeles Times. Thousands of interpreters are in jeopardy as the State Department tries to clear the logjam of applications for the Special Immigrant Visa.
The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project, which also assists Afghan refugees, told the Times the SIV process is “prohibitively complicated, bureaucratic and opaque.” The group ran into the same problem at the end of the Iraq War when only slightly more than 6,500 out of 25,000 visas were issued to Iraqi interpreters.
As a Special Forces officer with eight deployments, I can tell you without a doubt that Afghans who have risked their lives, families and futures are going to be left behind to face horrific consequences, like Juma and Ish did, for aiding the United States.
This will have a lasting impact on future wars and U.S. strategic interests. As American forces track terrorists in the Arabian Peninsula and across the African continent, we will need local assistance at many levels, specifically interpreters. Leaving our Afghan allies to die is a clear warning to anyone who would even think about assisting the US in its foreign policy or strategy that unless you are on the Department of State or CIA payroll, you will be left to die.
Interpreters are our eyes and ears when deployed. They know the local customs, cultural norms and religion. They can see when things are out of place and they understand the nuisance of the villages and tribes. When American forces arrived in Afghanistan in 2001, we knew nothing. Our interpreters have kept us safe and even helped us fight. But they also became part of our units, teams and families.
Take Jerry for example.
Jerry (a nickname we gave him) was my personal interpreter during Operation Medusa, the largest Coalition operation in ISAF history. A 22-year-old kid, he emulated our speech, dressed in our uniform and even chewed neswar, the Afghan version of Copenhagen, like the other members of the team.
Prior to the mission, he had gotten married. We told him he could sit this operation out since we knew it was going to be very dangerous and he was a newlywed.
“I don’t think so, my brother,” he said in Pashtu.
Jerry liked to make me practice my Pashtu so that I understood what was being said in tribal meetings behind my back. I remember him smiling like a Cheshire cat, his short thick beard and black curly hair sticking out from under the Special Forces ball cap I had given him as he said, “If you go, I go. If you die, I die.”
Two months after the battle, we were maneuvering thru a village when the vehicle Jerry was riding in struck an IED. As I approached the mangled truck, the first thing I saw in the dirt was Jerry’s burned ball cap.
I turned to go call in a Medevac. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jerry struggling to stand against a mud wall. In spite of the fact that he had been blown nearly 30 feet in to the air, he was holding his broken weapon and pulling security.
His scrawny legs wobbled in misery. He was bloody and covered in dirt. He lived up to his promise to die with us. I made the commitment then and there that I would not leave him, nor the others interpreters like him behind.
Since I left Afghanistan in 2012, Jerry has been attacked in his mosque, moved his family nearly a dozen times and survived being shot three times. His last email to me was a desperate plea.
“I’m 24-hour in house not coming out like jailer, bro,” he wrote. “Thanks again for keeping asking me, brother. I wish I didn’t have my two daughters suffer if I die. I would be (in) paradise if I see you in the State with my Family. Please help us.”
I’ve written letters, emails, and made hundreds of phone calls trying to pry loose a half dozen applications of interpreters I worked with in Afghanistan. I feel betrayed by the American immigration policy and the deadly double standard it represents. We will accept immigrants who snuck across our borders illegally but not heroes who have served our nation and its cause.
Afghan Interpreters are throwing themselves at the altar of freedom only to be left to die. To State Department bureaucrats, these men are pieces of paper, but to thousands of American soldiers, they are brothers in arms.
They should be allowed to live in peace and freedom. They’ve earned it.