The Marine Rapper will make you shake your Citizen Rump - We Are The Mighty
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The Marine Rapper will make you shake your Citizen Rump

Look, it is easy, and deeply enjoyable, to give Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis boatloads of crap for the shenanigans and mannerisms (shenannerisms?) he regularly deploys in the line of duty. It’s easy because he’s a good sport. It’s enjoyable because, well:


But credit where credit is due, it is no easy thing to drop in on a recording studio unprepared, be played a brand new beat, compose a non-wack verse and then get into the booth and spit your best whiteboy flow in front of a hot producer and a rapper at the top of his game.

And that’s exactly what Curtis had to do when he paid a visit to Louden Beats recording studio to catch up with Raymond Lotts aka TMR aka The Marine Rapper.

Need more TMR? That time Linda Hamilton asked a Marine to the ball

TMR served 10 years in the Middle East as a Marine Corps combat correspondent, ala Joker from Full Metal Jacket. Though he started rapping young, he found he had to put his passion on ice during active duty — no time to think, let alone rhyme.

When he finally left the service, the transition was rough.

“It was a reality shock. I didn’t know where to go. You’re like, ‘I have all this time on my hands,’ and you get to thinking… ‘I was such a super hero in the military, but now I’m just a regular civilian. Nobody cares about me. I’m nothing now. Why should I even live?'”

Finding himself in a dark headspace familiar to many vets exiting the military, TMR did a hard thing: he asked for help.

With the assistance of the VA, he was able to reorient, finding an outlet in his long-dormant passion for rap. He now lives in Hollywood, CA, cutting tracks and shooting music videos to support his budding career as a musician.

And, no joke, in a single day of working together, TMR, producer Louden and the Artist Formerly Known as Ryan Curtis may just have succeeded in dropping the U.S. military’s first ever chart-topping hip hop track:

Mic drop. (Go90 Oscar Mike screenshot)

It’s a lock for New Oscar Mike Theme Song at the very least.

Watch as Curtis looks for lyrics in a Magic 8 Ball and TMR proves there’s no room in his game for shame, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Oscar Mike:

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America’s first ‘top secret’ Medal of Honor went to a Nisei fighting in Korea

Hiroshi Miyamura was born to Japanese immigrants in Gallup, New Mexico, in 1925. This made him Nisei — Japanese for “second-generation.”


At the outbreak of World War II, Miyamura witnessed many of his fellow Nisei being shipped off to internment camps. Gallup, however, was not located within the relocation zone, and even if it was, the townspeople were ready to stand up for their Japanese neighbors.

Safe from the internment camps, Miyamura enlisted in the US Army volunteering to serve with the famed Nisei 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Unfortunately for Miyamura, by the time he reached Europe to join the unit, Germany had surrendered.

He returned home, stayed in the Army Reserve, and married a fellow Nisei woman who had been interned in Arizona.

Hiroshi Miyamura. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Miyamura looked like he might pass his time in obscurity until North Korea charged across the 38th Parallel on June 25, 1950.

Recalled to active service, Miyamura joined the 3rd Infantry Division’s 7th Infantry Regiment in Japan as it prepared to join the combat on the Korean peninsula.

Landing on Korea’s east coast, Miyamura and the rest of the 3rd Infantry Division stormed into North Korea before being driven back by the Chinese intervention.

The 7th Infantry Regiment helped cover the retreat from the Chosin Reservoir and was the last unit to leave Hungnam on December 24, 1950.

A map of China’s offensives in the Korean Peninsula. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Miyamura and his comrades were then placed on the defensive line around the 38th Parallel where they actively repelled numerous Chinese Offensives.

The war then became a bloody stalemate with each side battling across hilltops trying to gain an advantage.

One such hilltop, located at Taejon-ni along a defensive position known as the Kansas Line, was occupied by Miyamura and the rest of Company H, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment.

After dark on April 24, 1951, Miyamura quietly awakened his men – a trip flare had gone off in the valley below their position. In the faint light of the flare, the Americans could make out large masses of Communist troops advancing on their position.

The Chinese 29th Division smashed into the entire 7th Infantry Regiment. The hardest hit was the 2nd Battalion holding the right flank. By 2:30 the next morning, they were surrounded by the Chinese.

Machine-gunners. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Miyamura, leading a machine-gun squad, ordered his men to open fire. As the American guns roared to life, the Chinese fell in droves. But still they kept coming.

After two hours of relentless fighting, Miyamura’s machine-guns were down to less than 200 rounds of ammunition. He gave the order to fix bayonets and prepared to repulse the next wave of Chinese attackers.

When that attack came, Miyamura jumped from his position and savagely attacked the enemy. He blasted off eight rounds from his M-1 Garand before dispatching more Chinese with his bayonet.

He then returned to his position to give first aid to the wounded. When he realized they could no longer hold, he ordered his squad to retreat while he gave covering fire.

US Army troops fighting in the streets of Seoul, Korea. September 20, 1950. The M1 in the foreground has the bayonet mounted. Photo under Public Domain.

He shot off the last of the machine-gun ammunition and rendered the gun inoperable before pouring another eight rounds into the advancing Communist.

According to Miyamura’s Medal of Honor citation, he then “bayoneted his way through infiltrated enemy soldiers” until he reached a second position and once again took up the defense. During his withdrawal, Miyamura was wounded by a grenade thrown by a dying Chinese soldier.

The attacks grew fiercer against the second position. Elsewhere along the line, the rest of the battalion had been ordered to begin a withdrawal south to a more tenable position. Miyamura, realizing their position was in danger of being overrun, ordered the remaining men to fall back as well while he covered their retreat.

Miyamura was last seen by friendly forces fighting ferociously against overwhelming odds. It is estimated he killed a further 50 Chinese before he ran out of ammunition and his position was overrun.

Exhausted and depleted from blood loss, Miyamura and numerous other men from the 7th Infantry Regiment were captured by the Communists.

Men of the 1st Marine Division capture Chinese Communists during fighting on the central Korean front, Hoengsong. Photo under Public Domain.

Despite his heroic efforts, Miyamura’s ordeal was far from over.

After being captured, the men were marched North for internment camps. Miyamura set out carrying his friend and fellow squad leader, Joe Annello, who had been more severely wounded. Others who fell out of the march were shot or bayoneted. At gun point, the Chinese forced Miyamura to drop his friend. Miyamura initially refused but Annello convinced him. They said goodbye and Miyamura marched on.

He would spend over two years as a prisoner of war at Camp 1 in Changson.

While he was there, the decision was made to award him the Medal of Honor for his actions on the night of April 24 and 25. However, due to his staunch defense and the large numbers of enemy he killed, it was decided to keep his award classified he could be repatriated for fear of retaliation by his captors.

Finally, on August 20, 1953 Miyamura was released from captivity as part of Operation Big Switch. When he arrived at Allied lines, he was taken aside and informed that he had been promoted to Sergeant and also that he had received the Medal of Honor.

United Nations’ prisoner-of-war camp at Pusan. Photo from Public Domain.

Miyamura returned to Gallup after the war and settled down.

Then, in 1954, over a year after the war ended, a man walked into Miyamura’s work – it was his old friend Joe Annello. Both had been sure that the other had died in captivity until Annello read Miyamura’s story and traveled all the way to New Mexico to see if it was true.

Miyamura is still in Gallup, in the same house he bought all the way back in 1954.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian icebreaker under construction burns for hours

A fire aboard the under-construction Russian icebreaker Viktor Chernomyrdin engulfed a significant portion of the ship and injured at least two people before it was extinguished on Tuesday, according to Russian media reports.

The fire-alarm call came in around 7 p.m. Moscow time, or around 11 a.m. EST. Within three hours, it had reportedly been put out.


“At [9:10 p.m.] Moscow time it was announced that the blaze was contained and all open fire sources were put out at an area of 300 square meters,” a spokesperson for the Russian emergencies ministry told state-media outlet Tass. “At [10:15 p.m.] Moscow time, the fire was completely extinguished.”

Construction on the Chernomyrdin began in December 2012. The diesel-electric-powered vessel was expected to be the most powerful nonnuclear icebreaker in the world, according to Tass, and was supposed to operate on the Northern Sea Route, which traverses the Arctic.

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The Chernomyrdin has five decks, and the fire consumed parts of the third and fourth. The blaze affected a 300-square-meter area of the ship, out of a total of 1,200 square meters. According to Tass, “electrical wiring, equipment, and wall panels in technical areas” were damaged by the fire.

One of the people injured was hospitalized. The other was treated by doctors on-site, Tass reported, adding that 110 people and 24 pieces of equipment were involved in fighting the fire.

As noted by The Drive, which first spotted reports of the fire, the Chernomyrdin has been waylaid by budget and schedule problems.

The ship was supposed to be delivered 2015. In April 2016, an official from Russia’s state-owned United Shipbuilding Corporation said it would be delivered that year. In 2017, the ship was moved to Admiralty Shipyard in St. Petersburg, which is known for building warships, with the goal of speeding up construction.

Reports in January said delivery was expected by autumn 2018 — a date likely to be pushed back. The extent and impact of the damage are not yet clear, but fires can cripple ships.

In 2013, the US Navy decided to scrap a nuclear-powered attack submarine that had been severely damaged in a fire set by an arsonist, rather than spend 0 million to repair it.

The Chernomyrdin fire is only Russia’s latest shipyard accident.

A power-supply disruption on the PD-50 dry dock caused the massive 80,000-ton structure to sink at the 82nd Repair Shipyard near Severodvinsk in northwest Russia.

The Admiral Kuznetsov, Russia’s only aircraft carrier, was aboard the dry dock at the time. The collapse of the dry dock brought down with it a crane, which tore a 200-square-foot hole in the side of the ship above the waterline.

The Kuznetsov was undergoing an overhaul expected to be completed in 2021, but Russian officials have admitted there is no viable replacement for the PD-50, which could take six months to a year to fix.

The absence of a suitable dry dock for the Kuznetsov leaves the Russian navy flagship’s future in doubt.

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The Chernomyrdin is also not the first fire-related accident at a Russian shipyard this year. In January, video emerged of thick, black smoke spewing from the water near several docked Kilo-class submarines at Vladivostok, home of Russia’s Pacific fleet.

Russian officials said at the time that the fire was part of “damage control exercises,” which many saw as a dubious explanation considering the intensity of the blaze.

A month later, a fire sent smoke gushing from the deck of the destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov while it was in port at Vladivostok. Despite a considerable amount of smoke, a shipyard representative said there was no significant damage.

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

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94-year-old reveals the most terrifying thing he saw while fighting behind Nazi lines

Photo: i.imgur.com


A 94-year-old World War II veteran held a Reddit AMA, with the help of his grandson, in which he provides a startling look at his time serving behind Nazi lines as an intelligence staff sergeant.

John Cardinalli, who was sworn to secrecy for 65 years following the end of World War II, has taken to Reddit to explain his time with the US Office of Strategic Services. The OSS was the forerunner of the CIA, and it was dedicated to coordinating espionage and intelligence gathering behind enemy lines during WWII.

Cardinalli was unable to tell his story until the FBI and CIA declassified his mission in 2008. Now, realizing the historical importance of his role, Cardinalli has written the book “65 Years of Secrecy” about his roles during the war.

In the AMA, Cardinalli explains of how he joined the OSS in the first place:

I got into the OSS while in the infantry in North Carolina and I saw a sign that said “Men Wanted for Hazardous Duty, Need to know Morse Code, and must speak a Foreign Language, which I am fluent in Italian”. There is more to the story of how I actually was accepted, it is all in my book. I am not trying to push my book, but it has everything in there. It is available on Amazon “65 Years of Secrecy by John Cardinalli.”

Cardinalli described his exact role:

My role was an agent behind enemy lines collecting information and radio back to allied forces. I was a master at Morse Code, which is how most of our communication was done.

He also briefly explained how the OSS teams functioned behind enemy lines:

I worked with a small team that were grouped in twos. The code name who was in charge of all these teams was named “The Dutchman”. There is a lot to this, but basically, but the groups all had a task and a name. For example, we had a “married couple” named jack and jill. Yes, I was in Holland and spent a lot of time hiding in windmills which were strategically chosen along Rhine River.

Cardinalli also shared the scariest thing he ever experienced:

Battle of the Bulge. Our team completely split up, by ourselves, with just radios to communicate. Everyone was completely on their own for 2 days.

The Battle of the Bulge was one of the last German offensives in Western Europe against the Allies, during which US forces sustained the brunt of the assault. It was the largest and bloodiest battle that the US took part in during WWII.

Despite the amazing adversity that Cardinalli had to fight through during WWII, he also admits that he never missed a chance to lightheartedly poke fun at his fellow team members:

One of my team members needed a hair cut and I told him I was the best Italian Barber in the military. I never cut hair in my life. I cut his and he looked like a dog with mange. He literally almost shot me.

Cardinalli also shared his advice for those thinking of joining the military:

If one was going to join the military, go into intelligence.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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This is why we need to stop playing the 1812 Overture during fireworks shows

Every Fourth of July, I find myself at a fireworks show enjoying the pretty lights and the prettier colors only to be slapped in the face with a muscially-driven grand finale that should be an awe-inspiring feat of Amerigasmic glory.


Except that the music driving that finale often has nothing to do with America. At all.

I’m talking about the 1812 Overture. Here’s the part you definitely know:

I may be an overreacting history nerd. I accept that possibility. But also consider that I want us all to bask in the glory that is the history of the United States. We are f*cking amazing.

We’re back-to-back World War champs, we have the strongest military in the history of ever unless Star Wars turns out to be real, and we don’t need to take other countries’ history as our own.

My (correct) guess is that people think the 1812 Overture is so-named because of the War of 1812, fought between Britain and the United States, often called our second war for independence. That war was fought to a grinding draw.

A draw is not a loss. Just sayin’.

They burned Washington. We burned what would become Toronto (only because London was too far to swim, but dammit, we would have). We checked the vaunted Royal Navy in both oceans and the Great Lakes.

We even teamed up with pirates and beat the British at New Orleans. (Side note: we should bring back pirate alliances.)

My other (probably correct) guess is that if an American doesn’t live in New Orleans or upstate New York, the bulk of what they know about the War of 1812 is that it started in 1812. And because the sun obviously revolves around the Earth and the Earth obviously revolves around America, the 1812 Overture must be about our War of 1812.

What else did history have to pay attention to in 1812, other than America toppling the giant again, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2“-style?

Pictured: America. Obviously.

(Reminder: a draw is not a loss.)

It turns out, a whole hell of a lot was going on. Namely, 1812 is the year Napoleon’s Grande Armée (minus all the men he lost to disease and lice on the march) captured Moscow. But before they did, the Russians made sure to douse the city in vodka and burn it to the ground.

The French Army spent the winter in Moscow trying to find snails, or whatever it is they ate, in a burned-out city as babushkas laughed at them from the shells of former homes and distilleries.

This is how Tchaikovsky was inspired to write the 1812 Overture, an awesome piece, complete with church bells and cannons and lots of drums and what not.

Simpsons did it.

But Tchaikovsky didn’t like it. He called it, “very loud and noisy and completely without artistic merit, obviously written without warmth or love.”

There are a number of clues in the song that should have signaled to us that it — like many things — isn’t about us. For starters, it’s written by a Russian named Tchaikovsky. That should have been our first clue.

Secondly, the Marseillaise — the French National Anthem — is actually played in the 1812 Overture. More than once.

So when I’m watching the fireworks on July Fourth, I’m always quizzically raising an eyebrow as we celebrate our independence with the French National Anthem.

Unlike other Americana that borrows from other countries songs (The Star-Spangled Banner, for example, is the tune of a British drinking song set to Francis Scott Key’s poem about the bombing of Fort McHenry), the 1812 Overture is a piece we will never be able to fully co-opt as uniquely American.

So play something else. I recommend “The Battle of the Kegs,” an American propaganda song about Patriots scaring the sh*t out of British sailors with a bunch of beer kegs during the Revolution.

Special Thanks to Logan Nye for contributing to this post.
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

American pirates? Us privateers could help win a war with China

After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.

During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.


Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)

The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.

Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)

The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.

The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking

American Privateers or Pirates?

The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.

Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.

While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.

The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)

Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.

Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.

“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.”
-Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered

In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.

In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.

As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”

(Italian Center for International Studies)

The role of American privateers at war

China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.

In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.

“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.

(DoD Photo)

American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.

American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.

“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.

This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?

Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)

Private infrastructure already exists

While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.

So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.

In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)

Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.

The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.

China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)

A complicated solution to a complex problem

Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.

America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.

China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)

Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.

In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.

And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

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That one time the Army drugged three soldiers and locked them in a room

In May 1962, four soldiers walked into a makeshift communications outpost outfitted with maps, food, medicine, and a chemical toilet. For the next 72 hours, the men would attempt to operate as a normal communications team while cameras rolled. Oh, and three of them were high on a powerful hallucinogenic drug.


Credit: US Army via The New Yorker

It reads like a reality TV show, but it was an actual experiment conducted by U.S. Army researcher John Ketchum. An Army colonel who retired in 1976, Ketchum spent most of his career researching potential chemical weapons, primarily weapons made from drugs like LSD and PCP.

Ketchum wanted to test the effects of another drug called 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, or BZ. BZ was originally developed as an ulcer drug but was scrapped when it started causing hallucinations and mental distress. Army tests indicated BZ would lower a soldier’s ability to perform simple tasks like an obstacle course. In 1962, the Army was ready to see how it would affect operations.

That May, they allowed Ketchum to create the fake outpost and drug the volunteers. The experiment began on a Friday morning and continued for 72 hours.

Credit: US Army via The New Yorker

During these 72 hours, the men responded according to the quantity of the drug they had received.

The leader of the group, identified only as L in Ketchum’s book, was given a placebo and spent most of his first 36 hours keeping the soldier who received the highest dose from hurting himself.

H and C, two soldiers who received low doses of the drug, spent the first day trying to get it out of their system with opposing methods. H began doing pushups repeatedly, while C went to sleep. Neither approach seemed to accelerate recovery and it took both men 24 hours to recover. Despite their recovery, neither H or C would help L much with their military tasks. But, they did help supervise Pfc. Ronald Zadrozny, an Army intelligence soldier who got the largest dose.

Zadrozny received a delirium-inducing dose of BZ. Within two hours of his arrival, he needed the assistance of L to stand up, and he would push people away who tried to help. He said he didn’t want to be treated like a little kid, according to Ketchum.

The Army wasn’t content just leaving the men in the room. The team had missions, primarily compiling information radioed and called into the outpost, before they needed to relay information to a fake rear headquarters. L would handle nearly all of these tasks while H and C read or slept. Zadrozny, once he could stand and walk around, spent most of his weekend staring into camera lenses whenever they were exposed or attempting to leave the locked area.

Credit: US Army via The New Yorker

He would pace the walls of the outpost, checking for exits. Then he would grab his hat and jacket, put them on, tell the rest of the men goodbye, and attempt to leave through the door. Every time he found it locked, he would get confused and try the handle for minutes. He attempted escape through the medicine cabinet until H pulled him away. Finally, he’d begin another repetition, starting by putting on his hat and jacket and saying goodbye to everyone.

In his book, Ketchum wrote that it was only after hours of this process that Zadrozny finally put it together. He tried the door a final time and turned to the room, telling the rest of the subjects, “We’re trapped!” H then looked up from a magazine and told the room, “He’s getting better.”

The whole time Zadrozny was trying to find a way out, the one sober member of the team was getting engrossed in a game against the research team. The researchers had scripted the radio calls the drugged soldiers would receive, but they ran out of script and had to start improvising. Signal soldiers assigned to the researchers came up with a plot involving a chemical train that was going to be ambushed and crafted a nonsense code for it using poker terms like “The Dealer.” L spent the latter half of the exercise trying to figure out what “Full House” meant and who “The Dealer” was as a fictional train came barreled towards its death.

Eventually, the drugs wore off and the 72-hour experiment ended. The team was released back to the barracks and left with some truly odd stories of the Cold War.

Ketchum would go on to test BZ in an open air environment, but the weapons were never deployed in combat. As further tests showed, maintaining effective concentrations of the gas in a real world scenario proved difficult and military opinion eventually swung away from the use of drugs as weapons.

(h/t to The New Yorker‘s , who discovered many of the archive documents from Edgewood and wrote stories about this and other experiments at the arsenal.)

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The 4 best surrender decisions in military history

There’s nothing great about having to surrender. At best, the loser gets to keep most of his men alive. At worst, well… he doesn’t and the outcome is a room full slaughtered defenders. Brave defenders, sure. But they’re still outnumbered and slaughtered.


So sometimes, surrender is the best option – but no one brags about it, and it sure as hell won’t win any drinks at the bar. But at least your unit will still be at the bar later. Here’s a few people who also chose wisely.

1. The French Foreign Legion in Mexico.

In the 1860s, the United States was too busy beating the hell out of the Confederacy to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, which basically was meant to keep European powers from messing around with the Americas. Naturally, as soon as the U.S. turned its sights on the Civil War, France invaded Mexico.

During the fighting, the Foreign Legion was tasked with resupplying the French at the Battle of Puebla. Since only 65 of them weren’t struggling with dysentery and the Foreign Legion isn’t exactly known for not getting the job done, that’s the number of troops who rolled out to Puebla with the supplies. Along the way, they stopped at a place called Palo Verde – where they were immediately met by Mexican cavalry.

The Legion fought their way back to an inn in the city of Camarón, where they decided to make a stand. They didn’t know that the cavalry was just the beginning – the Mexicans had three battalions of infantry too, totaling 1,200 men and 800 cavalry. Even when the Mexican commander informed the French about how they were outnumbered 33-to-1, the French accepted the challenge.

Over the next 11 hours, the legion killed or wounded 600 of the Mexican attackers. The Mexican commander returned under a flag of truce to find only two Legionnaires remaining. After the Mexican demanded their surrender, the half-dead Frenchmen still demanded terms: immediate safe passage home, their wounded, their fallen captain, their weapons and their regimental flag.

The Mexican accepted.

2. Hezbollah gives in to the KGB.

In 1985, four Soviet diplomats were kidnapped in West Beirut – right in front of the Soviet embassy. They were held by one of the many extremist organizations in the decade-long Lebanese Civil War. The abductors called themselves “The Khaled Al-Walid Force” and were demanding the Soviet Union pressure its Syrian client to squeeze its factions to stop attacking Muslim-held positions in Tripoli. And they wanted the Soviets to evacuate their embassy in the city.

That was the plan, anyway.

(Laughs in Communist)

When one of the abducted men was found dead in a field in Beirut, riddled with bullets, the KGB we have all come to know through ’80s movies and real goddamn life showed up. KGB station chief Col. Yuri Perfilev met with the Grand Ayatollah of Lebanon’s Shia muslims Muhammad Fadlallah and told him that “A great power cannot wait forever” and that waiting could lead to “serious action” and “unpredictable consequences.” The Russian then told him:

I’m talking about Tehran and Qom [Shiite holy city and the residence of Ayatollah Khomeini], which is not that far from Russia’s borders. Yes, Qom is very close to us and a mistake in the launch of a missile could always happen. A technical error, some kind of breakdown. They write about it all the time. And God or Allah forbid if this happens with a live, armed missile.

If that wasn’t enough, the KGB kidnapped a relative of a top Hezbollah leader, castrated the relative and sent his organs to Hezbollah – along with photos of his other relatives – and demanded the release of Soviet prisoners. The three hostages were released back at the embassy and no Soviet citizen was ever kidnapped in Lebanon again.

Good call.

3. Japan surrenders to the Atomic Bomb.

The end of WWII was pretty harsh to Japan. Its surrender to the Allies had to be unconditional, which must have been a huge bitter pill to swallow for a warrior culture like Japan’s.

Still, after the Yalta Conference, the Soviet Union was forced to declare war on Imperial Japan in the weeks following the fall of the Third Reich. The Russians quickly moved into Manchuria as the Americans warned of “prompt and utter destruction” if they didn’t give up soon.

After mistranslating the Japanese for “no comment,” the Americans infamously rained nuclear death on Japan, first at Hiroshima and then at Nagasaki. The destruction itself wasn’t the biggest aspect of the choice to surrender – U.S. Army Air Forces General Curtis LeMay had been firebombing Japanese cities for much 0f 1945.

And firebombed fitness regs for the rest of time.

Still, wonton destruction isn’t a good look for any culture and the horrifying reports and photos – not to mention radiation and fallout – in the days that followed sealed the deal. the Emperor took to the radio (through a recording) and announced Japan would submit to the Allied demands.

4. Anyone surrendering to the Mongols.

The great Khans had one rule: give in and be spared. Cause a Mongol casualty and your city will be laid to waste and everyone inside will be killed or worse.

We’ll let you imagine all the things that could mean.

Even after many, many examples of the Mongols winning against great odds and destroying cities much greater than anything they’d build on their own, people still refused to submit to the Mongols. At Nishapur, an arrow killed Genghis Khan’s favorite son-in-law. In response, Khan killed every living thing in the city as he sacked it – an estimated 1.7 million people.

The fun didn’t stop there. Legendary cities like Kiev, Samarkand, and Herat were all put to the Mongol sword. Whereas those who surrendered were let off comparatively easy – the Mongols may kill off the royal family and do some light looting, raping, and pillaging for a few days. A light sentence compared to the mass murder and destruction of Baghdad, where the center of learning was destroyed, its contents thrown into the Euphrates.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Top Marines explain why recruit training must go on despite coronavirus concerns

As the entire Defense Department continues to make changes in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19, Gen. David H. Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, and Sergeant Major Troy E. Black, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, delivered a video message to the entire Corps on Monday, thanking Marines and families for their continued effort in this difficult time. The top Marines also explained why training must continue at Recruit Training, and Marine Corps-wide, despite ongoing concerns about the coronavirus.

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The message was first shared via the Marine Corps’ Facebook Page, and has since been disseminated on a number of other outlets.

General Berger opened the video by acknowledging the difficult times Marines and their families have been facing and will continue to in the weeks to come. The Commandant made a point, early in the video, to tell families that they should be proud of the hard work their loved ones in uniform are doing throughout this difficult time. He also assured families that every measure is being taken to help ensure Marines remain safe and healthy as they continue to work and train amid the pandemic. The two went on to thank unit commanders for exercising good judgement despite the uncertainty that has come along with some elements of the spread of COVID-19.

“As leaders, we know what right looks like. It may look different tomorrow, but today right looks like this, and you make that call,” Sgt. Major Black says during the video.
“And you have the Sergeant Major’s and my full support, we back you all the way,” General Berger added.

Near the end of the video, General Berger explained in clear language why the Marine Corps can’t simply stop training, and why recruit training facilities like MCRDs San Diego and Parris Island are so essential to the Marine Corps’ readiness and the nation’s defense as a whole even amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, climb various obstacles in the obstacle course for recruits on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. The obstacle course is composed of different obstacles that are designed to physically and mentally challenge recruits. USMC photo/Dylan Walters

“Why do we continue to do recruit training in the middle of this terrible virus?” General Berger asked himself aloud rhetorically.
“We never get the chance to pick the next crises, where it happens, or when it happens. When the president calls, Marines and the Navy team, we respond immediately. So we must continue to train. We have to continue recruit training, because this nation relies on its Marine Corps, especially in tough times.”

For more information about how the coronavirus is affecting basic training graduations, click here.

If you want to learn more about how the coronavirus has affected PCS and TDY orders, click here.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Does the United States need more troops in Europe?

America’s top military commander in Europe wants more forces to deter Russia, but how much is enough?

The head of the United States European Command and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, General Curtis Scaparrotti, suggested additional resources might be needed to protect allies from Russia. Since the Cold War, America’s nuclear capabilities have been enough to deter Russia, so what has changed?

Deterrence maintains peace because our nuclear weapons make an escalating war suicidal. As Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara laid out in his 1967 speech, deterrence is the “highly reliable ability to inflict unacceptable damage upon any single aggressor… even after absorbing a surprise first strike.”


The assertion that more military units are needed in Europe implies that America’s nuclear deterrence is insufficient to do the job on its own. There are only two reasons why this might be the case. The first is that America has incorrectly signaled to Russia that nuclear weapons will not defend the Baltics. The second, is that President Trump’s transactional mindset and past musings on not upholding mutual defense obligations are serious and have signaled to Russia Trump’s ambivalence towards NATO.

President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Russia is modernizing its military and is capable of overrunning the Baltics in 24 to 60 hours. One of the reasons for the Scaparrotti’s concern is the geographical fact that the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are on Russia’s border. Yet America’s nuclear umbrella over Europe has held for almost 70 years. In fact, when asked whether Russia could overwhelm NATO, Scaparrotti said, “I don’t agree with that.” He worries about Russia’s advantage in regional forces, but he also thinks that NATO is stronger.

Indeed, NATO already committed more troops to defend the Baltics and Poland in 2016. Their press release stated there would be “four multinational battalion-size battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, on a rotational basis.” Those battalions are led by America, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany with contributions from other European allies.

However, if American and European defenses ever did uncouple, Europe would be in danger because they still possess no real collective defense and no combined nuclear deterrence. Their militaries are atrophied with France quickly running out of ammunition against Muammar Gaddafi’s third-rate Libyan forces in 2011. Moreover, Germany, once the home of Prussian martial prowess, now has no functioning submarines, few working aircraft or tanks, and guns that don’t shoot straight. If Europeans expect to be able to have a greater say and to avoid Trump questioning the alliance, Europe needs to at least meet their NATO spending obligations.

Eight European allies plan to meet their NATO defense spending guidelines by the end of 2018, up from three who currently meet it. Given the upcoming NATO summit in July 2018, more European allies may yet meet that threshold. While there is a growing divide between Europe and America, Washington has still maintained its signal of deterrence (Trump committed to NATO in mid-2017). As long as Russia believes American nuclear weapons will defend NATO territory, Moscow will not touch an inch of it.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and President Donald Trump at the White House, Thursday, May 17, 2018.

Finally, recent studies carried out by RAND Corporation’s Andrew Radin have found that attacking the Baltics not only falls outside of Moscow’s core interests but that such an attack would likely be out of defense. Radin wrote in The National Interest, “[T]he main way that Russia would develop an interest in attacking the Baltics is if it perceives NATO building up sufficient forces to pose a threat.” Given America’s history with the Monroe Doctrine, the Zimmermann Telegram, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, it should come as no surprise that countries react forcefully to other’s forces on their doorsteps.

Therefore, America should focus on signaling deterrence without putting Russia in a corner. The idea that more boots are somehow necessary on top of 1,350 deployed nuclear warheads aimed at Russia’s cities is absurd. If over a thousand nuclear missiles cannot signal to Russia that an incursion into NATO territory is a bad idea, then any additional soldiers never will.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia and China panic as US enters great-power arms race

The US’s first test of a missile since withdrawing from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty has Russia and China rattled, with each nuclear-armed rival warning that the US is igniting a great-power arms race.

As Russia said the US had “set the course for fomenting military tensions,” China expressed concerns that American actions would “trigger a new round of arms race,” making conflict more likely.

Arms-control experts have said that a “new missile race” is underway, arguing that strategic rivals are likely to match US weapons developments “missile for missile.”


The US military on Aug. 18, 2019, conducted its first flight test of a conventional ground-launched cruise missile that would have been banned under the INF Treaty a little over two weeks ago.

The 1987 treaty was a Cold War-era agreement between Washington and Moscow that put restrictions on missile development, prohibiting either side from developing or fielding intermediate-range ground-launched missiles, systems with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers. China — never a party to this pact — has been developing missiles in this range for decades.

Accusing Russia of violating the agreement through its work on the Novator 9M729, a missile that NATO refers to as SSC-8, the US said earlier this year that it would “move forward with developing our own military response,” a position supported by NATO.

When the US formally withdrew from the treaty at the start of August 2019, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper explained that the Department of Defense would “fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles.”

Sixteen days later, the US tested its first post-INF missile — alarming not only Moscow but Beijing.

“We will not allow ourselves to get drawn into a costly arms race,” Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, told Russian state media, according to The Guardian.

Urging the US to let go of a Cold War mentality, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Geng Shuang, said that the US test and future tests would ultimately “lead to escalated military confrontation” that would harm “international and regional security.”

Russia, which insists it did not violate the INF Treaty, has repeatedly warned the US against deploying intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

The weapon tested Aug. 18, 2019, as The War Zone explains, was a ground-launched BGM-109 Tomahawk, a variant of the BGM-109G Gryphon, a US missile system that together with the Pershing II mid-range ballistic missile comprised the forward-deployed tactical nuclear forces in Europe before the INF Treaty was signed and all relevant weapon systems were destroyed.

On Aug. 18, 2019, at 2:30 p.m. PT, the Defense Department conducted a flight test of a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile at San Nicolas Island, California.

(DoD photo by Scott Howe)

In an apparent response to Moscow, the US said it had no plans to put post-INF Treaty missiles in Europe. Beijing may actually have more reason to worry.

The Pentagon — and specifically the new secretary of defense — has expressed an interest in positioning new intermediate-range missiles in the Pacific to counter regional threats like China.

Esper told reporters recently that at least 80% of China’s inventory “is intermediate-range systems,” adding that it shouldn’t surprise China “that we would want to have a like capability.”

China did not respond positively to the news, saying it wouldn’t let the US put missiles on its “doorstep.”

The US has not announced where any of these missiles would be deployed.

While some observers see the US wading into a major arms race as it focuses more on great-power competition, others see this as a reasonable strategic evolution in US military capabilities.

“We want China’s leadership to wake up every morning and think ‘This is not a good day to pick a fight with the United States or its allies,'” Tom Karako, a missile-defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider.

Over the years, China has developed increasingly capable missiles designed to target US bases across the Pacific and sink US carriers at sea, while the US has expressed an interest in deploying new capabilities to tilt the scales back the other way.

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

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What is SGLI and do you actually need it?

The white gloved hands of a member of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard hold a folded United States flag. The triangular shaped folded flag and accompanying ceremony is an inspiring way to honor the flag and what it represents during solemn ceremonies. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot 185th ARW Wing PA


In the military’s acronym-packed lingo, SGLI stands for “Service Members Group Life Insurance,” and according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it is a “program that provides low-cost term life insurance coverage to eligible service members.”

Troops that are eligible for SGLI are active duty in any of the service branches; commissioned members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the U.S. Public Health Service; cadets, or midshipmen of a U.S. military academy; members, cadets, or midshipmen of an ROTC unit and engaged in authorized training or practice cruises; a member of the reserve or National Guard and are scheduled to attend a minimum of 12 periods of inactive training per year; or a service member who volunteers for mobilization in the Individual Ready Reserve.

Service members who are eligible for SGLI are automatically enrolled at the maximum rate of $400,000, though they may choose to decline or lower their coverage and make changes to it.

Service members retain their SGLI coverage for 120 days after separation from the service, though completely disabled veterans may extend that coverage for a maximum of two years after separation.

Reserve members who do not qualify for coverage are allotted “part-time” coverage.

So why do you need SGLI anyway?

Being a service member is obviously a high risk job. High risk jobs, according to CheatSheet, can cost as much as $2000 extra annually for life insurance companies, which is roughly 500 percent more than you’ll pay through your SGLI.

The bottom line is that SGLI is incredibly inexpensive, at just $29 a month, and it’s worth it for your family to have some peace of mind should something happen to you in the line of duty.

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Meet Russia’s all-women battalion of death

While much of this is well-known to the typical First World War buff, what many do not know is that Russia—and Russia alone—created all-female combat units to actively fight alongside men on the front. According to Melissa Stockdale’s article “‘My Death for the Motherland Is Happiness’: Women, Patriotism, and Soldiering in Russia’s Great War,” the most famous of these units was known as The First Women’s Battalion of Death, and it’s estimated that approximately 6,000 Russian women served in such battalions throughout the war.

To understand how these battalions came about, one must first understand some basics of the Russian domestic situation at this time.

In March of 1917, Tsar Nicholas, submitting to the fact that he could no longer fight the tides of revolution, abdicated the throne to an incredibly precarious—albeit democratic—new government. The following months saw a flood of liberal and egalitarian policies instituted throughout Russia, with women getting the vote, as well as legal entitlement to equal pay.

Meanwhile, the new government also believed that victory in the World War was vital to the country’s self-interest. Laurie Stoff, author of They Fought for the Motherland: Russia’s Women Soldiers in WWI and the Revolution, writes that this meant newly appointed Minister of War Alexandra Kerensky was now faced with the mammoth task of breathing life into a war effort of which the majority of Russians—especially Russian soldiers—wanted no more part. Insubordination rates and violence against officers (especially officers with aristocratic backgrounds) were at an all-time high, and after three years at the front in often horrific day-to-day conditions, most of Russia’s soldiers simply wanted to go home.

Kerensky’s answer to low morale was the creation of what he called “shock battalions,” or “battalions of death,” which he envisioned as brigades of the most disciplined, exemplary Russian fighters. They would theoretically be deployed to various places along the front to awe and inspire war-weary soldiers.

Kerensky’s vision of these shock battalions coincided almost exactly with an idea brought forward by a peasant-woman-turned-soldier named Maria Bochkareva (while by no means common, there were a number of known incidents of individual women serving in otherwise all-male units throughout Europe during this time). Bochkareva asserted that a disciplined, exemplary battalion of Russian women could serve to “shame” the weary and unmotivated soldiers at the front.

Wikimedia

While Bochkareva earnestly believed in a woman’s ability to fight, The Ministry of War mostly saw her proposal as the perfect propaganda tool to compliment their shock battalions—if even women, they reasoned, were answering their country’s call to arms, then surely men would feel obliged to follow suit. Thus, Kerensky gave his permission for the First Women’s Battalion of Death to be formed, led under Bochkareva’s command.

According to historian Richard Abraham, The First Women’s Battalion of Death was made public in late May with a major publicity campaign throughout St. Petersburg, and within a matter of weeks the Battalion had over 2,000 female recruits from a diverse range of backgrounds and education levels.

Enlistment was open to women aged eighteen and older, with women under the age of twenty-one required to have permission from their parents to join. According to Stockdale, the recruits were also made to swear an oath in which they promised everything from “courage and valor” to “cheerfulness, happiness, kindness, hospitality, chastity, and fastidiousness.” After these initial requirements were met, as well as the passing of a health evaluation, the women were marched off to training grounds to begin the process that would turn them from “women to soldiers.”

Wikimedia

This process first entailed the shaving of their heads, ridding the women of one of their most “impractical” and outwardly feminine features. As no uniforms for women existed, the recruits were administered clothes designed for men that were often ill-fitting on the female frame; this proved especially problematic in regards to footwear, as their boots were often impossibly over-sized. To further enforce their new identities, Bochkareva discouraged and punished excessive smiling and giggling—behavior she considered overly-feminine—and instead encouraged spitting, smoking, and cursing among her recruits.

Along with these physical transformations, the women also began a grueling daily training process designed to prepare them for battle. The recruits rose at five o’ clock each morning and drilled until nine o’ clock at night, at which point they slept on bare boards covered by thin bed sheets. Their training consisted of strenuous exercises, marching drills, lessons in hand-to-hand combat, and rifle handling.

Any behavior deemed “flirtatious” or at all feminine was strictly prohibited, and Bochkareva was known to punish even minor transgressions with corporal punishment. She stomped out any signs of traditional femininity not only in an attempt to make “warriors of the weaker sex,” but also in order to curb government anxiety that female soldiers at the front would result in illicit sexual relations. As one official stated, “Who will guarantee that the presence of women soldiers at the front will not yield there little soldiers?” Bochkareva thus deemed the sexlessness of her soldiers as a mark of her own professional dedication and triumph.

Stockdale states that while on the home front these female soldiers were publicly celebrated, their reception in combat was decidedly less welcome. Upon arriving at the front, the Battalion was met with boos, jeers, and an overall sense of resentment by male soldiers. Not only did the deep-rooted misogyny of the military complex and culture at large shine through, but in general, the exhausted men were antagonistic to anything that they perceived as an attempt by their leaders to prolong the fighting.

Even when the Women’s Battalion proved itself both disciplined and courageous under fire, male soldiers remained angered and insulted by their presence. Within just a few months, Bochkareva was forced to disband the unit, allowing her women to join groups elsewhere wherever they saw fit. In her memoir, Yashka, My Life As A Peasant, Exile, and Soldier, Bochkareva, wrote:

“They could not stand it much longer where they were. They were prepared to fight the Germans, to be tortured by them, to die at their hands or in prison camps. But they were not prepared for the torments and humiliations that they were made to suffer by our own men. That had never entered into our calculations at the time that the Battalion was formed.”

Upon the ultimate Bolshevik takeover in the fall, Russia withdrew from the war altogether, and the ill-fated women’s battalions faded into practically less than a footnote in Russian history. Some scholars speculate that this is because the battalions were so closely associated with the military propaganda of the old regime, whereas others assert that it had more to do with the Russian people’s desperate desire to return to some sense of normalcy after years of international and internal warfare.

Stockdale writes that the women soldiers themselves had an extremely difficult time readjusting after their return home. Their close-shaven heads made them instantly recognizable as former members of female battalions, and they were easy targets in the mist of the Bolshevik fervor taking hold of the country; there are eye-witness accounts of former battalion members getting beaten, sexually assaulted, and even thrown off moving trains during this period.

Remarkably, many of the former battalion members continued in their desire to fight, with a large number joining both the revolutionary and anti-revolutionary armies on individual bases in the years to come.