The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time - We Are The Mighty
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The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

The US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria launched its third strike in as many weeks on pro-regime forces inside a deconfliction zone around al Tanf, near a border crossing in Syria’s southeast desert.


Two US officials told CNN that the June 8 strike came after three vehicles were seen entering the deconfliction zone, and two of the vehicles were hit when they were 24 miles from the base at al Tanf.

Following that engagement, a US aircraft downed a pro-regime drone that was dropping bombs near coalition troops.

“The pro-regime UAV, similar in size to a US MQ-1 Predator, was shot down by a US aircraft after it dropped one of several weapons it was carrying near a position occupied by Coalition personnel who are training and advising partner ground forces in the fight against ISIS,” US Central Command said in a statement.

The “munition did not have an effect on coalition forces,” according to coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon.

US and other coalition personnel are at the al Tanf garrison, near the border crossing, to train local partner forces, who captured the area earlier this year. (US personnel and local partners repulsed an intense attack by ISIS soon after.)

The first such strike in the al Tanf area came on May 18, when coalition forces targeted pro-Assad forces “that were advancing well inside an established deconfliction zone” spreading 34 miles around al Tanf, US Central Command said in a release at the time.

The strike came after unsuccessful Russian efforts to stop the movements, a show of force by coalition aircraft, and warning shots.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
Christopher Woody/Google Maps

Earlier this week, pro-regime and coalition aircraft both conducted strikes against opposition forces in the vicinity of al Tanf.

On Tuesday, Iranian-backed Shia militia fighters came under attack on the ground just inside the deconfliction zone boundary, according to CNN. In response to that attack, Washington and Moscow communicated on a deconfliction line set up previously. Russia shared a request from the Syrian government to launch a strike in support of the militia, to which the US agreed.

Hours later, pro-Assad forces were observed entering the deconfliction zone with vehicles and weaponry, including a tank and artillery, as well as over 60 fighters. The US then launched its own airstrike on those forces after they refused to withdraw from the area.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
An F/A-18F Super Hornet takes off from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) for an aerial change of command ceremony. Photo courtesy of US Navy

The coalition said it issued several warnings before “destroying two artillery pieces, an anti-aircraft weapon, and damaging a tank.”

The US-led strike, carried out by a F/A-18 fighter, dropped four bombs and “killed an estimated 10 fighters,” according to CNN.

June 8th’s engagements add to a string of encounters that could lead to greater conflict in Syria between the US-led coalition and its local partners and pro-regime forces and their backers, Iran and Russia.

“The Coalition does not seek to fight Syrian regime, Russian, or pro-regime forces partnered with them,” CentCom said in its statement.

“The demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces near Coalition and partner forces in southern Syria, however, continue to concern us and the Coalition will take appropriate measures to protect our forces,” the statement said.

The strategic value of the al Tanf area — through which a highway connecting Damascus to Baghdad runs — as well as the direction of events elsewhere in Syria makes clashes between coalition forces and pro-regime forces a continuing possibility.

ISIS’ eroding control of territory in Syria, and the likelihood that Kurdish forces — who’ve signaled a willingness to negotiate with Assad for autonomy — will soon take control of the area around Raqqa in northeast Syria make territory in the southeast of the country increasingly valuable.

Recent events in Syria indicate that “the United States [is] seemingly looking to cement a north-south ‘Sunni axis’ from the Gulf states and Jordan to Turkey,” Fabrice Balanche, a French expert on Syria and a visiting fellow at The Washington institute for Near East Policy, wrote recently.

“The challenge is that Iran and its proxies would very much like to establish some sort of land bridge from Iraq into Syria and they have had designs on this for quite some time,” a former Pentagon official told The Christian Science Monitor.

Capturing al Tanf and the nearby border crossing would allow Tehran to link Iraq to the Mediterranean coast through Syria, facilitating the movement of men and material.

But doing so would also isolate coalition-backed forces fighting ISIS and their special-forces advisers.

Intelligence sources have told Reuters that the coalition’s presence near al Tanf is meant to prevent such a route from opening.

“Initially, the United States and the coalition had planned this unconventional warfare campaign to pressure the middle Euphrates River valley and cut off [ISIS communications lines],” the former Pentagon official said. “Now, ironically, it’s not just threatening [ISIS], it’s also threatening Iran’s designs for the area.”

Russia has also become involved in the confrontations around al Tanf.

Earlier this month, coalition-backed Syrian forces attacked Shia militias that had moved down the highway toward the Iraqi border. They forced the militias, which are backed by Iran, to retreat, but Russian jets soon launched strikes against the coalition-backed fighters, forcing them back as well.

Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based Shia militant group backed by Iran and heavily involved in the pro-regime fight in Syria, has entered the fray as well. The group’s military-news unit issued a statement this week warning that the “self-restraint” it had about US-led airstrikes would end if the US crossed “red lines.”

“America knows well that the blood of the sons of Syria, the Syrian Arab Army, and its allies is not cheap, and the capacity to strike their positions in Syria, and their surroundings, is available when circumstances will it,” the statement said.

Observers have noted that the Trump administration would likely be much less hesitant about attacking Hezbollah in Syria. Given the web of alliances that now ensnare forces in Syria, such attacks would likely have broader repercussions.

“American unwillingness to confront Iran and its proxies in Syria, if obliged by circumstances, is a thing of the past,” Frederic Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and a former State Department liaison to Syrian opposition forces, told The Christian Science Monitor.

“And Moscow would now have to anticipate with high likelihood aerial combat with US forces should it elect to provide tactical air support to Iran and its proxies on the ground,” Hof added.

“Our people are gathering in the Tanf area right now, so a clash is definitely coming,” a Hezbollah unit commander in Beirut, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Monitor.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Army is revolutionizing night time target identification

Innovation isn’t just a matter of creating something new. Rather, it’s the process of translating an idea into goods or services that will create value for an end user. As such, innovation requires three key ingredients: the need (or, in defense acquisition terms, the requirement of the customer); people competent in the required technology; and supporting resources. The Catch-22 is that all three of these ingredients need to be present for innovation success, but each one often depends on the existence of the others.


Also read: The Army is really amping up its laser weapon technology

This can be challenging for the government, where it tends to be difficult to find funding for innovative ideas when there are no perceived requirements to be fulfilled. With transformational ideas, the need is often not fully realized until after the innovation; people did not realize they “needed” a smartphone until after the iPhone was produced. For this reason, revolutionary innovations within the DoD struggle to fully mature without concerted and focused efforts from all of the defense communities: research, requirements, transition, and acquisition.

Despite these challenges, the Army has demonstrated its ability to generate successful innovative programs throughout the years. A prime example is the recently-completed Third Generation Forward Looking Infrared (3rd Gen FLIR) program.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
The 3rd Gen FLIR products seen here are examples of a new and innovative program from the research community making the sometimes treacherous transition into field use.

The first implementation of FLIR gave the Army a limited ability to detect objects on the battlefield at night. Users were able to see “glowing, moving blobs” that stood out in contrast to the background. Although detectable, these blobs were often challenging to identify. In cluttered, complex environments, distinguishing non-moving objects from the background could be difficult.

These first-generation systems were large and slow and provided low-resolution images not suitable for long-range target identification. In many ways, they were like the boom box music players that existed before the iPhone: They played music, but they could support only one function, had a limited capacity, took up a lot of space, required significant power and were not very portable. Third Gen FLIR was developed based on the idea that greater speed, precision, and range in the targeting process could unlock the full potential of infrared imaging and would provide a transformative capability, like the iPhone, that would have cascading positive effects across the entire military well into the future.

Related: The Army has new drones that can strike deep behind enemy lines

Because speed, precision, and accuracy are critical components for platform lethality, 3rd Gen FLIR provides a significant operational performance advantage over the previous FLIR sensor systems. With 3rd Gen FLIR, the Army moved away from a single band (which uses only a portion of the light spectrum) to a multiband infrared imaging system, which is able to select the optimal portion of the light spectrum for identifying a variety of different targets.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
U.S. Soldiers as seen through night vision.

The Army integrated this new sensor with computer software (signal processing) to automatically enhance these FLIR images and video in real time with no complicated setup or training required (similar to how the iPhone automatically adjusts for various lighting conditions to create the best image possible). 3rd Gen FLIR combines all of these features along with multiple fields of view (similar to having multiple camera lenses that change on demand) to provide significantly improved detection ranges and a reduction in false alarms when compared with previous FLIR sensor systems.

Read more: Why the Army needs to speed up its future weapons programs

Using its wider fields of view and increased resolution, 3rd Gen FLIR allows the military to conduct rapid area search. This capability has proven to be invaluable in distinguishing combatants from noncombatants and reducing collateral damage. Having all of these elements within a single sensor allows warfighters to optimize their equipment for the prevailing battlefield conditions, greatly enhancing mission effectiveness and survivability. Current and future air and ground-based systems alike benefit from the new FLIR sensors, by enabling the military to purchase a single sensor that can be used across multiple platforms and for a variety of missions. This provides significant cost savings for the military by reducing the number of different systems it has to buy, maintain and sustain.

Articles

The reason the British military formed the Special Air Service

In World War II, the British needed a special group of men to tip the scales in North Africa and they came up with the Special Air Service.


The SAS, originally put together as L Detachment of the Special Air Services Brigade in an effort to mislead the Germans and Italians as to the size of the unit, was tasked with conducting desert raids behind enemy lines.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
An SAS jeep manned by Sgt. Schofield and Trooper Jeavons of 1st SAS near Geilenkirchen, Germany, on November 18, 1944. (Photo: British Army Sgt. Hewitt)

The paratroopers of the SAS failed in their first mission but were stunningly successful in their second when they destroyed 60 enemy aircraft on the ground with no casualties.

As the unit continued to rack up victories, they were given more daring missions and better equipment. One team was even tasked with assassinating German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel in France but was unable to reach him before he was injured and evacuated in an unrelated incident.

The SAS history is clearly and quickly laid out in this video from Simple History. Check it out below:

MIGHTY CULTURE

WWII ‘Hero of Cologne’ receives medal during surprise ceremony

One of the most celebrated World War II tank gunners received the bronze star during a surprise award ceremony 74-years in the making.

Clarence Smoyer, 96-year-old former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, never bragged about the five tanks he destroyed in the war, including an infamous Nazi tank he leveled during a dramatic duel in war-torn Cologne, Germany.

He didn’t ask for anything, either. To Smoyer, he was just doing his job to protect the men he considers family.


The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, former 3rd Armored Division tank gunner, and Joe Caserta, World War II veteran of Omaha Beach, Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge, attend a Bronze Star award ceremony, with Smoyer as the guest of honor, Sept. 18, 2019, at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was nicknamed the “Hero of Cologne” for his efforts destroying a German tank during the battle.

(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)

Duel at the cathedral

It was March 6, 1945, and WWII was winding down, much of Germany was left in ruins.

Cologne, one of the country’s largest cities, was no exception. Once a bustling metropolis, Cologne had been reduced to rubble, with only a few identifiable buildings remaining — including its cathedral.

As the Americans entered Cologne, Smoyer recalls the now-infamous words of his lieutenant, Bill Stillman, who said, “Gentlemen, I give you Cologne, let’s knock the hell out of it.”

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

Clarence Smoyer (top middle) was a 21-year-old Pennsylvania native when he, and his fellow tank crew members, were photographed in Cologne, Germany, in 1945. This photo, courtesy of the National Archives, was taken moments after the battle of Cologne, Germany, and Smoyer delivered the fatal shots that destroyed a German tank.

“So… we obliged,” Smoyer joked, thinking back to that day.

American forces, before making their way east toward Berlin, had to conquer Cologne first. Their goal was to secure a bridge over the Rhine River, but a nearby Nazi tank had other plans.

“Attacking such a large city gave the enemy plenty of places to hide,” Smoyer said. “Not just in the horizontal plane, but from the basements to the tops of five-story buildings — Cologne put us to the test.”

“We were chosen as the first tank(s) into the city,” he added. “Everyone else followed us in. So, for us, it was constant firing. You fired at anything that moved. That’s when a gunner’s instinct kicked in.”

One street over from Smoyer, the Panther tank, used by the Nazis, took out an American Sherman tank, killing three soldiers inside, including Karl Kellner. The Wisconsin native, and Silver Star recipient, had received a battlefield commission to lieutenant just two weeks prior.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

(Pictured left) Clarence Smoyer, receives his long-awaited Bronze Star Sept. 18, 2019, during a ceremony at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Smoyer was recognized for his heroic efforts during the battle of Cologne, Germany, where as a tank gunner, he delivered the fatal blows to a German Panther tank and was nicknamed “The Hero of Cologne.”

(Thomas Brading, Army News Service)

After being hit, Kellner’s leg was amputated at the knee. He jumped from the tank and landed on his remaining leg. Smoke lifted from his stump like a ghost fading into the air, witnessed remembered.

Nearby, Stars and Stripes reporter, Sgt. Andy Rooney — the future acclaimed television journalist — along with another man sprinted toward Kellner. He was lying near the destroyed American tank. They moved him to onto a jumble of debris, safely out of the way, and attempted to stop the blood as it flowed from Kellner’s severed limb.

Rooney, the future 60 Minutes newsman, held Kellner in his arms as he died. Later, Rooney would say it was the first time he witnessed death. The other two tankers, both killed by the Germans, never escaped the Sherman tank. Meanwhile, Smoyer and his crew were slowly approaching the battle.

The Panther tank idled quietly in the street, as the Americans approached.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

Veterans Clarence Smoyer and Joe Caserta stand near a Pershing tank, similar to the ones they were both crewmembers of during World War II, Sept. 18, 2019, near the National World War II Memorial in Washington. Both men were present in their respective tanks in Cologne, Germany, March 6, 1945, when Smoyer’s tank crew “Eagle 7,” took out a German tank.

(Photo by C. Todd Lopez, DOD)

“Experience taught me it’s impossible to knock out a German tank in one shot,” he said. “So, I worked a plan with our driver. He was to edge into the intersection, I’d shoot, and then he’d back up — fast! When we roared into the intersection to shoot, everything went out the window.”

Instead of “seeing the flank of the Panther in the periscope,” like he planned, Smoyer looked at the Panther’s super velocity muzzle pointed at street level, right at him, he said.

Smoyer added “his heart stopped.” The driver, also staring down the barrel of the German’s muzzle, panicked and “floored the gas.”

“We were totally vulnerable,” Smoyer said. “I snapped off a quick shot and hit him first. I kept yelling for (armor-piercing) rounds and kept hitting him until he caught fire. I could hardly breathe as we backed out of there.”

Smoyer’s finger squeezed the trigger of his tank, and he fired 90mm rounds into the side of the Panther tank, garnishing three direct hits.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

World War II veterans Clarence Smoyer, Joe Caserta and Buck Marsh stand for the chaplain’s invocation during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)

“People always ask why I fired three times,” Smoyer said. “Some say I was butchering that German crew by not giving them a chance to flee the tank. Any crewman still alive in that Panther could have pulled the trigger and with that powerful of a gun still pointing at us, we’d all be dead.”

But, that wasn’t the case. The Americans won, and Smoyer, the thin, 21-year-old curly blonde haired corporal, earned the nickname “the hero of Cologne.”

Footage of the battle, captured by Tech. Sgt. Jim Bates, a combat cameraman attached to the 165th Photo Signal Company, made its way into movie newsreels worldwide, including back home in Pennsylvania, where Smoyer called home.

“That’s Hon!” Smoyer’s sister-in-law yelled during an airing of the newsreel, Hon was Smoyer’s family nickname.

She later convinced the theater owners to replay the reel, so Smoyer’s parents, who had never been to a movie theater, could see their son was still alive.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

Author Adam Makos and World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer walk to a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee)

History in the making

For his actions that day, Smoyer was notified he earned the Bronze Star. However, this was short-lived after Smoyer talked to German children, who were begging the soldier for bubble gum. This small act of charity cost him the medal.

“They wanted bubble gum and I was still searching my pockets when a jeep full of (military police) turned the corner,” Smoyer said. “Fraternization was a no-no.”

Smoyer added, he felt bad for the kids, who had been on the frontlines of war longer than him. The MPs took his name, tank, serial number, and indirectly, his Bronze Star.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

Army Maj. Peter Semanoff salutes World War II veteran Clarence Smoyer after awarding him the Bronze Star during a ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)

“I could have avoided all that if I just had a stick of gum!” He joked.

But, it was never about the medals and glory. As decades passed, the war ended, and Smoyer returned to civilian life. His neighbors in Allentown, Pennsylvania, never knew they lived by a war hero.

That all changed after an author, Adam Makos, who wrote a book on Smoyer’s story, happened upon information that changed everything.

“Smoyer’s tank commander and an Army combat cameraman both received Bronze Stars for their actions that day — yet, Smoyer got nothing,” Makos said.

This inspired the author to change that. He used witnesses to Smoyer’s actions, evidence he collected, including Bates combat camera footage, and contacted the Army.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time

World War II veterans Joe Caserta and Clarence Smoyer embrace during a Bronze Star award ceremony at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019.

(Photo by James K. Lee, DOD)

In the end, a military review board agreed with Makos, and Smoyer was awarded the Bronze Star. Three additional Bronze Stars were also awarded to the rest of the tank crew, making Smoyer’s tank crew “one of the most celebrated in Army history,” according to Makos.

To keep the surprise, Smoyer’s loved ones convinced him he was visiting the WWII Memorial as a tourist. The monument was filled with soldiers, fellow WWII veterans, news crews, and onlookers. Then, overwhelmed with emotion, he received the long overdue medal.

With the Bronze Star pinned to his chest, Smoyer promised to, “Wear the medal to remember the ones who lost their lives” that day, nearly 75 years ago.

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

Articles

This Delta Force rescue was the first attack of ‘Operation Just Cause’

As the United States was preparing to carry out the invasion of Panama, dubbed “Operation Just Cause,” there was a very real problem that had to be dealt with before any meaningful operation against Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega could take place.


The regime had an American hostage in its prison, and the guards where this hostage was being held had orders to kill him if America attacked.

According to an account posted on SpecialOperations.com, Kurt Muse had been making pirate radio broadcasts until he was arrested in early 1989. He’d received some technical assistance from the CIA to make those broadcasts, which had the goal of taking Noriega down a peg or two.

Muse would daily hear – or see – Noriega’s thugs torture inmates at the prison.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
A MH-6 Little Bird carrying troops on the outrigger, similar to the technique used during Operation Acid Gambit. (DOD photo)

As tensions increased, Muse was visited by a military officer, later identified as Air Force Col. James A. Ruffer, who would pass reports to Delta Force. The special operators constructed a full-scale mock-up of the prison where Muse was held captive, and the Delta commandos carried out numerous rehearsals.

On December 19, 1989, Muse would receive his last visit. In the presence of reporters, prison guards, and others, the colonel asked Muse if he was aware that orders had been issued by Noriega to kill him if the United States carried out any military action against Panama.

Muse said he understood.

The colonel then made a statement that if Muse were to be harmed, nobody in the prison would emerge alive.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
A US Army MH-6 Little Bird. (DOD photo)

Muse knew that something was up.

At 12:45 AM on the morning of Dec. 20, 15 minutes before the official H-Hour, two AH-6 Little Bird helicopters carried out an attack on a nearby military compound using M134 Miniguns and Hydra rockets. One of the helicopters would be damaged and forced to crash-land, with the crew making an escape.

Two AC-130H Spectres then carried out their own attack on that compound, using a tactic called “Top Hat.” The massive volume of fire from the gunships had the effect of drawing the attention of Noriega’s goons.

As that went on, MH-6 Little Birds landed on the roof of the prison and deposited Delta commandos. The operators went through the prison, killing anyone who resisted the rescue. They reached Muse’s cell, forced it open, bundled Muse into body armor and a helmet, then began their exfil.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
A M113 armored personnel carrier. (DOD photo)

The MH-6 Muse was loaded on took some hits. In a display of superb airmanship, the pilot would fly the helo down a side street until it was hit again and crashed. Ironically, Muse would help defend the perimeter until they were retrieved by U.S. Army armored personnel carriers.

Operation “Acid Gambit” ended with the mission accomplished.

Articles

This is how Marines carve pumpkins in one shot

The Marine Corps has just dropped the greatest pumpkin carving video of this year. Three Marines “carve” three pumpkins in the 20-second clip, and they do it from about 15 meters away.


Check out their explosive techniques in the video below:

(You’ll need to be logged in to Facebook to see the video.)


Articles

4 animal superpowers we want before our next deployment

So, the American warfighter is one of the most technologically advantaged warriors in history.


But we could still make it better, right? No one wants a fair fight in war, and nature is full of animal superpowers that would give the U.S. a greater advantage.

Here are four that might be on the way:

1. Snow fox rangefinder

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
(Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dave Smalls)

Snow foxes have achieved internet fame recently for their “built-in compass” that makes them more successful in hunting mice under the snow or dirt when they strike at a small range of compass directions to the northeast of their position.

But it’s not exactly a built-in compass, it’s more of a range finder. This Discovery Blog article does a good job of explaining it, but the snow fox can basically sense disturbances at a fixed distance from them along a fixed direction. This allows them to much more accurately sense the exact range of the mouse from their position and attack with precision.

Is it coming?

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
(Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Samuel Soza)

Troops currently can receive acoustic systems for identifying sniper locations and radar systems for artillery and mortar point of origins, both of which are always getting better.

As for targeting enemy forces that aren’t actively engaging them, soldiers still have to spot the enemy and either guess, hit them with a laser rangefinder, or compare the enemy positions to their position on a map and do the math. No magic hunting powers are on the table yet.

2. Grizzly bear time-defying nose

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
(Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Terry Tollefsbol)

Bloodhounds are famous for their sense of smell, and the reputation is well-earned. Their noses are so sensitive that they can detect minute differences in scent trails that are almost 13 days old.

Grizzly bears, meanwhile, are seven times as sensitive as bloodhounds. And yeah, they can do the time-traveling nose trick as well.

Is it coming?

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency has been backing mechanical smell breakthroughs for a while, and a major step forward came in 2013 when Honeywell created the miniature vacuum pumps necessary for mobile mass spectrometers. Basically, all the components are now there for mechanical sniffers that can detect any and all materials in the air near them, even pathogens.

There are still software limits, though. Someone will have to teach the mechanical noses what elements are present one, two, or eight days after an enemy infantry patrol passes a given point or a fuel point has been disbanded.

3. Snake thermal imaging

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
(Photo: Otavio Marques/Instituto Butantan)

Some snakes that hunt small animals can see in the dark through protein channels that pick up infrared energy that enters through the snake’s “pit organs,” those little opening near their eyes that look like nostrils.

Is it coming?

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
A former Navy SEAL fires an infrared round that is invisible to human sight. (YouTube: Discovery)

The short answer is maybe. Troops currently can see infrared energy through bulky optics, but there’s a possibility for contact lenses that sense infrared radiation. Because it’s tied to ultraviolet detection, it’s explained at the end of entry 4, below.

4. Jumping spider and bat eyes that see four primary colors

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
(Photo: Opoterser/CC BY 3.0)

Yes. Four of them. We are told that the three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. But that’s not exactly true. Red, yellow, and blue correspond with specific wavelengths of light that stimulate humans’ three kinds of color receptors. Human corneas filter out light in another, otherwise visible band, ultraviolet. Some bats and spiders can see this band.

Soldiers who can see UV light would have much better night vision with none of the “tunneling” of most NV goggles. They would also be able to see insects better, helping troops avoid them, and fingerprints, helping with site exploitation.

Is it coming?

Maybe. The major technology breakthroughs have already come thanks to graphene, which can be used to make “ultra-broadband” photoreceptors. Basically, sensors that can detect infrared energy, visible light, and UV rays and combine them into one final image.

Best of all, graphene is thin enough that the possibility exists to make these receptors into contact lenses. But no one has currently commissioned graphene contact lenses for the troops. Still, fingers crossed.

Articles

70-year-old man raising money for fellow veterans by running up the Empire State Building

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
(Photo: Big Mac via Wikipedia)


On February 3rd, a 70-year-old veteran will be taking the stairs — 1,576 of them.

Jerry Augustine of Middletown, Connecticut is set to participate in the Empire State Building Run-Up, the world’s oldest and most famous tower race. He will join an elite group of runners selected from thousands who vied for a spot in the event.

This will be the ninth time the Vietnam vet has run up the iconic New York City landmark’s 86 flights of stairs. He is running for Team Red White and Blue, a not-for-profit with the mission to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.

The former Army Spec. was tasked with search and destroy missions, recovering bodies, and ambush patrols during his 1966-1967 deployment to Vietnam. The Hartford Courant recently detailed one of his more harrowing missions:

One day, while performing this duty, Augustine fell into a human trap known as punji pit, a camouflaged hole with sharpened bamboo stakes at the bottom. The stakes might be tipped with excrement to cause infection. Augustine was lucky. He said the pit was old and the stakes had rotted and merely collapsed under his weight.

Augustine said another close call came when he was “point man” on ambush patrol. Approaching a clearing, he said, he was spotted by a guerrilla fighter who fired an RPG. The mortar round struck a tree a few feet away. “It bounced off and landed right next to my boot,” Augustine said. He dove for cover, but the round failed to detonate.

“I still think about how close I was to death,” he said. “When, you’re young you don’t think about, but it hits me now.”

He said one of the worst experiences was when his company was sent to recover the bodies of fallen comrades in the aftermath of a three-day battle in fall 1966. “My platoon had the duty of carrying 30 bodies to the choppers to be put into body bags and sent back to friendly lines,” Augustine said. “It was just horrible.”

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
Jerry Augustine (center) in Vietnam. (Photo: Augustine personal collection via The Hartford Courant)

After the war he struggled with what is now known as ‘post traumatic stress.’ In 1992, his doctor prescribed Prozac, but it made him lethargic. A friend suggested he drop the meds and hit the pavement.

“My son had a paper route on a bicycle at the time, so I started running along with him delivering papers, a couple of miles a day,” Augustine told The Hartford Courant. “Pretty soon I was entering races, and doing pretty well. I became one of the best in my age group. Running made me feel great.”

Augustine won the ESB Run-Up race in the 50s division in 2001. His last race was 2007.

“When I turned 70 this year, I wanted to see if I could still do it,” he told the Courant. “I’d be really happy to get a time of 20 minutes this time. Maybe even 25 minutes. It’s a lot harder now.”

If you would like to get into ‘run-up-the-stairs-of-a-102-floor-building-in-25-minutes-or-less’ shape, here is Jerry’s simple routine:

  • Sprint up the stairs of a 12 story building: 3 times in a row, 3 times a week.
  • 110 squats and 110 push ups: every night.

For more on Team RWB go here.

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600 Fort Bliss soldiers prepare to deploy to Afghanistan and Iraq

Fort Bliss soldiers will be going on two major missions in the Middle East later this year, the Army announced March 29.


About 400 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division headquarters, including the Fort Bliss commanding general, will deploy this summer to Iraq. Another 200 soldiers will go to Afghanistan this spring.

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A CH-47 aircrew from Fort Bliss drops off soldiers during an air assault training operation. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Aura E. Sklenicka)

“America’s tank division is highly trained and ready for this important mission,” said Maj. Gen. Robert “Pat” White, commanding general of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss. He will deploy on the Iraq mission along with division Command Sgt. Maj. Danny Day.

“We are proud to work alongside our Iraqi allies and coalition partners to continue the fight against ISIS,” White added. “I’m extremely impressed by the commitment and sacrifice of our military families. It is their stalwart support and resilience that gives us the strength to serve.”

Soldiers from the division headquarters, the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion and Division Artillery will take over the role as the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command in Iraq.

The 1st Armored Division will be responsible for mission command of coalition troops who are training, advising, and assisting Iraqi security forces in their efforts to fight the Islamic State and other threats in an ongoing operation known as Inherent Resolve.

These soldiers will replace the 1st Infantry Division headquarters from Fort Riley, Kan., which has been serving in this role.

The division headquarters recently went through the Warfighter command post exercise at Fort Bliss in preparation for this deployment. The deployment is expected to last about nine months.

Brigadier General Mark H. Landes, a deputy commanding general at Fort Bliss, will serve as the acting senior commander at Fort Bliss during the deployment.

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A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht)

Also, about 200 soldiers from the 1st Armored Division Sustainment Brigade and its Special Troops Battalion will go to Afghanistan this spring and serve as the logistical headquarters for the entire theater of operation.

The brigade did a similar mission from May 2015 to February 2016, with about the same number of troops.

Colonel Michael Lalor, the commander of the Sustainment Brigade, called it a demanding mission but said his troops have been training for it since last summer.

The Sustainment Brigade will oversee a task force of about 2,000 soldiers, civilians, and contractors who will provide important support for U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. The task force will provide water, food, ammunition, transportation services, and maintenance, Lalor said.

Command Sergeant Major Sean Howard, the brigade’s senior enlisted leader, said his soldiers have been training hard, including at the recent Warfighter exercise.

“We are ready to go; there is no doubt in my mind,” Howard said.

The Sustainment Brigade’s deployment is scheduled to last about six months.

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Catch these 6 eye-opening military documentaries for Veterans Day – for free

People who love military documentaries can never seem to get enough of them. But there are only so many good ones out there.


There’s a reason every new history or military channel on TV turns into “The World War II Channel” for the first two years of their existence. Military history documentaries are awesome. We found six cool docs for the motivated viewer to watch on Veterans Day when the History Channel repeats its programming every eight hours.

And the cool thing is, you don’t have to have that pricey cable subscription to watch them. All these can be found on Snagfilms.com, which presents them completely free of charge.

1. The Carrier

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The President and Magic Johnson celebrate 11/11/11 with world’s first NCAA game on an active aircraft carrier. Filmmaker Steven C. Barber and his entertainment company Vanilla Fire Productions were granted permission to shoot a documentary on the Veterans Day event The Carrier Classic held on 11/11/11 in San Diego, California. Barber funded this documentary and had full access to the Morale Foundation founders and participants in order to show this amazing event and the outstanding work and dedication the Morale Foundation has done with the U.S. military.

2. Until They Are Home

Kelsey Grammer narrates this amazing story of the young men and women of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (once known as JPAC) that embed themselves in beyond rugged and brutal conditions in order to bring our fallen service members home. The Battle of Tarawa finally has some closure after 69 years. US remains were flown back in a C-130 with a C-17 transfer back to Honolulu. DPMAA Team members are the unsung heroes that until now have been unrecognized and have worked in the shadows. That is about to change.

3. Return to Tarawa

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Narrated by four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris, “Return to Tarawa” follows the journey of World War II veteran Leon Cooper. Cooper — a U.S. Navy landing craft officer who in 1943 fought in the bloody battle — returns to the site in 2008 to investigate disturbing reports about the current state of the fabled “Red Beach.”

4. Arlington: Field of Honor

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National Geographic presents “Arlington: Field of Honor,”a portrait of one of America’s most sacred places. Once little more than a potter’s field, Arlington National Cemetery has become a national shrine and treasury of American history. Now, discover how this revered site came to be, and how it serves as the final resting place for both the famous and obscure, from John F. Kennedy to the Unknown Soldier.

5. Battle for Midway

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One thousand miles from anywhere lay a lonely outpost of coral and sea called Midway. It was here in 1942 where the U.S. and Japan fought one of the greatest naval battles of World War II and changed the course of history. And it is here again where Titanic discoverer Dr. Robert Ballard now leads a team of experts and four World War II veterans on the voyage of their lives. They’re on a race against time to do the impossible: find at least one of the five downed aircraft carriers. Join them as they pay their final respects to their fallen comrades.

6. Honor Flight

 

“Honor Flight” is a heartwarming documentary about four living World War II veterans and a Midwestern community coming together to give them the trip of a lifetime. Volunteers race against the clock to fly thousands of WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the memorial constructed for them in 2005, nearly 60 years after the war. The trips are called “Honor Flights” and for the veterans, who are in their late 80s and early 90s, it’s often the first time they’ve been thanked and the last trip of their lives. As the Honor Flight trip unfolds, Orville, Julian, Joe, Harvey and others share their stories and wisdom. While the program is meant to give something back to these humble heroes, the goodness they embody and their appreciation for life transforms everyone they meet.

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The F-22 production line debate continues

When the F-22 Raptor production line ceased in 2011, Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel thought the Pentagon had made a huge mistake.


He was driving in his car in 2009 when he found out “the Raptor fleet is done at 187, and I remember thinking, ‘This is not great.’ I thought it was an error.”

Because, “more is better than less, right?” said the F-22 pilot of the 95th Fighter Squadron. He spoke to Military.com on the condition that his last name not be used, due to safety concerns amid ongoing air operations against the Islamic State.

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A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor flying on January 27 (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

Military.com recently sat down with a few pilots and a maintainer at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, as part of a trip to observe fifth-generation F-22s flying with fourth-generation F/A-18 Hornets for training.

The Air Force originally wanted at least 381 Raptors. Had the service acquired that many of the stealthy twin-engine fighters from Lockheed Martin Corp., life nowadays might be somewhat less hectic for the service members who fly and maintain them.

More of the F-22 fleet could “mitigate [operations] tempo, and we’re always on the road so if we had more Raptors, there’d be more Raptor squadrons, more Raptor maintainers that would mitigate some training and operational demands,” Daniel said.

Lt. Col. Ben of the 325th Operations Group agreed.

“That’s exactly right,” he said. “But these decisions are above my pay grade.”

Daniel added, “Of course, there’s a huge cost with that.”

He’s right. Indeed, cost was the driving factor behind then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates’ decision to push for the Pentagon to prematurely stop buying the aircraft.

$20 Billion Restart

According to a 2010 RAND study, to restart the F-22 production line to build 75 more of the jets would cost about $20 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.

To build a new Raptor — not a 1990s version — “you’re not building the same airplane you were building before, and it becomes a much more expensive proposition,” a defense analyst in Washington, D.C. told Military.com on background on Thursday.

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F-22 image via John Dibbs of Lockheed Martin.

“So do you build a new ‘old’ F-22, or do you build an improved one?” the analyst said.

And that figure is a rough estimate to restart a marginal lot of planes. It doesn’t take into account the cost of hiring workers, integrating newer stealth technologies, or training and equipping additional pilots.

Preparing Raptor pilots to fly from the nest takes time, too.

“To make a really good F-22 pilot, I need about seven to eight years to get him to where he is fully employing a jet and can actually quarterback the whole fight,” Daniel said.

But as the Air Force weighs retiring its F-15C/D fleet sometime in the mid-2020s (though lawmakers in Congress will have a say in the matter), many defense experts question how the service plans to maintain its air superiority. For example, will the F-22 eventually take over the role of the F-15 Eagle? If so, will Raptor pilots be more in demand than ever?

F-16s Instead of F-22s?

The questions aren’t abstract. Both the active-duty component and Air National Guard are considering retiring the Boeing-made Eagle, service officials told the House Armed Services Subcommittee during a hearing on Wednesday. The F-16 Fighting Falcon could take over missions from the F-15, they said.

Rep. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican and former Air Force officer who flew the A-10 Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft, said “prior to the F-22, [the F-15] was the best at air-to-air.” The F-16, a fixed-wing, single-engine, fourth-generation platform, “doesn’t bring the same capability,” she said.

The US is edging ever closer to fighting ISIS, Assad, and his backers — all at the same time
An F-16 Fighting Falcon releases a flare. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian J. Valencia)

The reference by Air Force officials to F-16 rather than F-22 during the hearing also caught the analyst by surprise.

“Why didn’t the Air Force say F-22 restart?” he said during a telephone interview. “Why did they leak that they’re looking to replace it with F-16s instead of using it as a case to examine F-22 restart?”

One reason might be because the Senate hasn’t yet confirmed Heather Wilson, a former Congresswoman nominated by President Donald Trump, to become the next Air Force Secretary, the analyst said. Until she’s confirmed, “the Air Force is worried about making any major decisions,” he said.

Another reason might be because Air Force leaders have zero interest in restarting the F-22 production line. The reference to F-16 may suggest “this is the end for F-22 restart story — not the beginning of it,” he said.

Upgrades Coming

Earlier this week, officials at Lockheed — which produces the F-16 and F-22 — told DefenseOne it plans to move the F-16 production line to South Carolina from Fort Worth, Texas, where it built the single-engine fighters for more than 40 years.

As of Sept. 30, the Air Force had 949 Fighting Falcons, according to Air Force inventory figures obtained by Military.com.

By comparison, the service has less than half as many Eagles and F-15E Strike Eagles. The F-15 inventory totals 456 aircraft and is split almost evenly between the two variants, with 236 of the older Eagles, including 212 one-seat F-15C models and 24 two-seat F-16D models, according to the service data.

“F-15C/D is just one job,” the analyst said of the all-weather, tactical fighter. “The Air Force is going to make the same argument it made on the A-10, which is, ‘As we look around the Air Force to save money, we’re going to retire things that have one job.’

“The F-16 is multi-role … and the F-16 has grown significantly since it was just a little squirt under the F-15’s wing,” he said.

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A formation of U.S. Air Force aircraft (F-16, F-15C and F-15E) fly over Kuwaiti oil fires, set by the retreating Iraqi army during Operation Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo)

For example, in December, Raytheon Co. was awarded a contract to upgrade the F-16 computer system as part of the Modular Mission Computer Upgrade, which features “more than two times the current processing power and 40 times the current memory, equipping USAF pilots with near-fifth-generation aircraft computing power,” the company said in a release at the time.

Just this past week, the Air Force announced the 416th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base in California has begun testing F-16s equipped with Northrop Grumman’s APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar, a fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array fire-control radar.

“It is intended to replace currently used APG-66 and APG-68 radars and provide the F-16 with advanced capabilities similar to fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II,” the service said in a release.

The Air Force claims it has the capacity in the F-16C community “to recapitalize … radar to serve the same function as the F-15 has done and thereby reduce the different systems that we have to sustain and operate, so that makes it more efficient,” said Maj. Gen. Scott D. West, director of current operations and the service’s deputy chief of staff for operations at the Pentagon.

The effort will help minimize the number of systems pilots operate, West said during the hearing on Capitol Hill.

As for the Eagle, Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Scott Rice told Military.com that any planned upgrades will be fulfilled. However, the Air Force may want to look at the next block of upgrades to save on future sustainment and operational costs, he said.

Rice said he believes the Air Force is getting beyond comparing aircraft platforms, “especially in the digital age” when looking at the platforms as systems and “how they integrate is as important and, in the future, will be even more important than the platform itself,” he said.

The F-16 is a “less capable dogfighter than the F-15,” the analyst added, “but at the same time the question is, ‘How realistic is it that you’re going to have a single F-16 without any help'” from other fighter jets? “That’s not how we plan to fly,” he said.

A Magical Airframe?

Last year, the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces subcommittee tasked the Air Force to issue a study of what it would take to get the F-22 line up and running again.

Whether the official study has been completed, “preliminary assessment showed it was cost prohibitive to reopen the F-22 line,” an Air Force spokeswoman told Military.com on Thursday, in line with RAND’s study.

Even so, Lockheed is offering advice on what it would take to do so, said John Cottam, F-22 program deputy for the company in Fort Worth.

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An F-22 deploys flares. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“They have come to us and have asked us for inputs into that study, so we have been working very hard with them, in concert with them to provide that data,” he said last month. “With this new administration, they have priorities that are putting Americans back to work and making America strong, so we believe that what the Air Force provides could very easily resonate with the administration’s policies.”

Cottam added, “As time goes on, if the report isn’t delivered [to Congress], we can then keep delivering our responses and making it more and more refined.”

Meanwhile, Raptor pilots can’t help but wonder if newly minted aircraft will again come off the production line.

In any exercise, pilots show up the first couple of days, “integrate with other platforms — everyone’s trying to learn,” Daniel said. “By the end of the first week, everybody realized we need about 30 more F-22s in the lane because as soon as the F-22s leave, people start to die in the air-to-air fight.”

Daniel said, “It’s always disappointing that we don’t have more, or don’t have more missiles, more gas — it’s always frustrating as an F-22 pilot when you hear, ‘Bingo, bingo,’ and you’re out of missiles and you go home and you start hearing other planes getting shot down.”

The stealth, the speed, the “unfair amount of information the jet provides to us … .it’s magic,” he said.

Even with oncoming upgrades to the F-16, many fighter pilots and others question whether a fourth-generation fighter will — or could — ever step up to such a role.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA adds 3D printing and virtual reality as treatment options

Senior Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees recently demonstrated to the public how innovations are advancing clinical care and outcomes for veterans. Innovations included a virtual reality application used as a revolutionary PTSD treatment and 3D printing used for everything from orthotics to pre-surgery procedures.

The innovations were presented at the 2nd Annual Tech Day on May 16, 2019, in Washington, DC, by Dr. Beth Ripley, Senior Innovator Fellow, and Joshua Patterson, Acting Director of Strategic Initiatives with VHA Innovation Ecosystem (IE). Tech Day is a way for federal agencies to share their cutting-edge, mission-enabling technologies with leaders, fellow federal workers, and the public.


VHA IE made a big impression with its virtual reality and 3D printing demonstrations as attendees experienced how these ever-expanding technologies are helping veterans every day.

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Beth Ripley demonstrates 3D printing.

Patterson demonstrated StrongMind, VHA’s innovative PTSD treatment that offers patients therapeutic experiences that wouldn’t be possible without the use of virtual reality. By donning a virtual reality headset, attendees experienced how StrongMind works and why it’s appealing to a younger generation of veterans. They also experienced the personalized, forward-thinking care VA is delivering to veterans using innovative technology.

Ripley described how VHA’s 3D Printing Network is an integrated national effort that allows VA health care staff to share ideas and best practices, solve problems, and pool resources to improve veteran care.

These programs aren’t just on the showroom floor, however.

Veterans in the Puget Sound area have been the beneficiaries of 3D printing as VHA medical staff make model kidneys for veteran patients with renal cancer to aid in pre-surgical planning. At many other VHA facilities, veterans suffering from diabetes who lose feeling in their feet now have access to custom orthotics at the time of their visit, instead of waiting weeks to have them manufactured.

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

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These five countries fought a war that was literally over bird sh-t

In the early 1860s, Spain was dealing with the loss of many of its overseas colonies. Spain also suffered a series of minor insults to their prestige at the hands of Peru, a former Spanish colony. In an effort to save face and collect on debts left over the Peruvian War of Independence, Spanish forces launched a fleet of ships in April 1864 to seize the valuable Chincha Islands off the coast of Peru.


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Photo: Wikipedia/Federico Castellón Martínez

The Chincha Islands supplied over half of Peru’s annual budget at the time as laborers collected bird guano from 150-foot-high deposits. Yes, sh-t stacks that high. In the late 1800s, bird guano was known as both a great fertilizer and a great source of saltpeter. Saltpeter mixed in the proper ratio with sulfur and charcoal forms gunpowder.

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The guano mines in the Central Chincha Islands in the 1860s. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

So when the Spanish landed 400 marines on the islands and formed a blockade of Peruvian ports, the Peruvian government was understandably angry. A political crisis followed as negotiations repeatedly failed to end the standoff. This stalemate drug on from April 1864 to September 1865.

That was when a Spanish ship went to a Chilean port to refuel with coal and the Chileans refused it on the basis that they couldn’t support Spain’s occupation of the islands and blockade of Peru. The Spanish commander, Vice Adm. Juan Manuel Pareja, sailed his flagship into the Chilean harbor and demanded a military salute from the town. When it was refused, Spain demanded reparations payments. The Chileans declared war in September 1865 instead. The Chincha Islands war was on.

Chile won an early victory at the Battle of Papudo when it captured a Spanish ship, the Covadongo. Peru then entered open hostilities with Spain and signed a treaty with Chile. Spain, Peru, and Chile fought for a year before Ecuador and Bolivia joined the fight against Spain in late-1866.

In early 1867 Spain crippled Chile’s merchant marine and shelled a Chilean city. While the attacks were militarily successful, the rest of the world was quick to condemn Spanish actions. Spain found itself with even fewer friends as Britain and America condemned the attacks.

Spain eventually gave up on the war without having captured any ground beyond the original guano-soaked gains in the Chincha Islands. As the Spanish withdrew, Peru took the islands again and have continued to collect the guano since.

The Chincha Islands War wasn’t the only conflict the nations fought for guano. The War of the Pacific from 1879-1884 was partially over guano deposits in the Atacama Desert.

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