The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope - We Are The Mighty
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The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope

The poet Dylan Thomas once wrote “Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight…” To many, that means people who have faced death have seen what’s most important in life, but for myriad reasons too many veteran experiences are left out of the history books, lost in the annals of time.


Also Read: Phil Klay Is The First Ever Iraq War Veteran To Win The National Book Award For Fiction 

The Reddit AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) is an amazing medium for the men and women of days gone by to share what those days were like. Those who survived the world wars have mostly gone on to live long, full lives. Given the proper forum, they enjoy looking back and from their recollections important lessons emerge.

Here are some of the best recollections and advice from the AMA forum.  While they share their stories, they also share their advice for not going gentle into that good night.

1. Tom, an 88-year-old World War II veteran who received a Purple Heart and helped liberate Rome:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

“War is hell. Bring our boys back from the Middle East.”

“The younger generation [who aren’t veterans] has a hard time appreciating the rigors of war because we have an all-volunteer military.”

“The German soldier was a brilliant soldier.”

 2. A 91-year-old pilot and former POW:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

“We were a generation strained in a very specific way. The depression had a huge influence on my life and still plays a role in who I am. I think people were more prepared for hardship back then than they are today. That being said, some of the service members today have been at war for over ten years. And they are volunteers. We were not tested like that.”

3. A 94-year-old Bataan Death March Survivor:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

“Just be a simple soldier. Don’t lazy, sleepy or aggressive. Follow the orders of the day.”

“I never met the guards or saw them again, but I forgive them.”

“The worst thing was the death march itself and then the food in the camp. Just rice and salt. We used to try and get the leaves of edible plants and cook it. Some people were so hungry they would sweep up grasshoppers and eat it.”

“I only know that what I fought for was justified.”

“Have plenty of rest, sleep well, and eat everything that is given to you.”

4. Don McQuinn, an 84-year-old Korea and Vietnam Veteran:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

“Somebody asked earlier about what did you take away from the Marine Corps. What I learned is that you can stop me, but you can’t beat me. I’ll be back. And when somebody bets on you like that, all the cards on the table are face up. And I had to succeed. There wasn’t any option. Pretty simple.”

“I appreciate the thanks, it was my privilege to serve.”

“The toughest were the Chinese. The nastiest were the North Koreans. The most dogged were the Vietnamese.”

” Vietnam was the hardest. Going away. No definition of ‘the enemy.’ Incredible misunderstanding by the American public and press.”

5. Michael Mirson, 94-year old Soviet soldier, captured by the Nazis, Escaped to the United States:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

“I believe in working hard and honesty.”

 “In the Soviet army, they were very poor. Very little food, the boots were poor, and the discipline was not good. We walked in the Caucasus Mountains with blisters on your feet. You could barely walk, and had to go so slow. Officers on horseback would come by with a whip and say “comrade, you’re walking too slow, you must walk fast. You must walk fast for this country and for Stalin.” Once someone fought back against an officer, and was shot. This scared us into keep walking, no matter what.”

“I really learned how to survive. I truly learned how to take care of myself and others. I always tried to help my friends. I learned how to come together to help people, and how other people can help you.”

“It just always seems to be the same story, the fighting story. When people lived in caves, they fought with stones. Now they fight with planes and drones.”

6. Hubert Buchanan, Vietnam POW in Hanoi Hilton who returned to Vietnam meet his captor years later:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

“In hindsight it was unwise to get involved in Vietnam, but given that time and history it was understandable that the U.S. got involved. As for Afghanistan and Iraq, I think it was a bad idea to get involved at all.”

“He was just a villager who got the credit for capturing me. It’s illogical to go from the particular to the general. For example, I don’t blame the Vietnamese people. If people were bombing my country I might try to capture the bombers.”

“He was very excited to see me, and it turns out he received a certificate from the government that said something like “village hero” … all in all, it was a “war is war” type of encounter.”

When asked if the Vietnamese were skilled fighter pilots: “I was shot down by a Vietnamese fighter pilot. What does that tell you?”

7. Norm, a 97-year-old ANZAC WWII Veteran, Fought at Papua New Guinea:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

“I just want to be able to help people and see the smiles on their faces when the job is finished. Having something to do each day keeps me going.”

“Have respect for your elders, be honest, talk to people who have good manners and treat everyone as you would like to be treated yourself.”

“I couldn’t understand the Japanese at the time. I was offered to go to Japan after the war but I said no. I couldn’t understand the things that the Japanese had done in the war.”

“It was a matter of “if you didn’t get them, they’d get you”. So I didn’t really sympathize with them.”

“It’s been hard to let go.”

“I hope that all wars are finished. I hope they realize that no one gains from war.”

8. Dick Cole, 98-year-old WWII Air Corps Vet and James Doolittle’s Co-Pilot during the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

When asked what he wants for his birthday: “More Time.”

“[Jimmy] Doolittle was a great, great man and I am honored that I was able to serve under him.”

“One quick story most people don’t know is that he has a hunting cabin we would all go meet at. He always insisted on doing the dishes.”

“The hardest part of the Doolittle Raid was Looking at that black hole when we had to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.”

“Most memorable part was when my parachute opened.”

“Just to live your life to the fullest. Enjoy it!”

9. A 92-year-old WWII Veteran From New Zealand:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

“Do what you want, eat what you want, drink what you want (he says on his 3rd Whiskey)…pauses…that and 5-7 vegetables every night.”

“The Japanese were doing the job they were told to do. But I didn’t like their cruelty. I felt sorry for the Japanese POWS in a way. They just sat cross-legged in the cages.”

“Easier today…’course they do, they don’t have to sleep on straw sacks!”

10. George, a 98-year-old Navy Chaplain:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

“You get so much advice when you have lived as long as I have.”

“I sometimes think that we are the biggest threat to ourselves because of the foolish things we do. There is no ruler anywhere that has any control over good or evil. They all do what they think is best for them in the long run.”

“Always help people, however you can.”

11. Harry Snyder, a WWII Normandy and Battle of the Bulge Veteran:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

“The average German soldier was like the average person. If he was captured, I could talk to him. They seemed like ordinary people you could find anywhere. The SS were the bad guys, the real killers. They were responsible for the death camps and the killing of innocent people. You couldn’t interact with them… you treated them like dirt.”

“She’s a great cook. You can’t go wrong for that, marry a great cook.”

“When we are attacked without provocation, either militarily or by terrorists. Then I think then we are justified to go to war.”

“When the war in Europe ended, we were going to be sent to Japan. Not to occupy, but to invade. Then, President Harry S. Truman dropped the bomb. Thank God for the other Harry. He saved a lot of us from going over there. I didn’t feel bad for the Japanese; I feel they got what they deserved. The President saved a lot of us from getting killed.”

12.  Vic, a 93-year-old WWII Marine Corps Pilot:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

“Peanut butter. Just keep eating peanut butter. There’s good health in eating peanut butter.”

“Time spent eating doesn’t count against time spent living, so the slower you eat the longer you live.”

“They shoot at us, and we gotta shoot at you.”

“Whatever you’re gonna do, be prepared to do it. Learn your lessons and what they teach you, whether flying or economics. Just pay attention and be prepared.”

13. Gerald Booken, a 102-year-old WWII veteran:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

“At the time we felt that [the atomic bomb] was the thing we had to do to end the war, but afterward it was a dreadful thing because it did so much damage to the Japanese people.”

“Listen. Getting old is not the greatest thing in the world. There is nothing to look forward to. It is not a happy situation. That’s what I miss… the good old days.”

14. A WWII Veteran who helped liberate the Dachau Concentration Camp:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

“One of the men in my 6-man squad was named Giudice, and he was Jewish. He didn’t say a lot, but you could tell what he was thinking.”

“We have no business being in many of the wars we’re in. We’re not going to change anything.”

“I don’t like the quacks who say it never happened.”

15. An 88-year-old WWII Combat Photographer:

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(via Reddit)

“I hold no ill will toward Germans or Japanese. They’re great people.”

“Any war that followed after WWII I don’t agree with.”

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This legendary pilot fought to his last bullet after being shot down

Army 2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr., arguably America’s greatest fighter pilot of World War I, was finally downed after taking out 14 German observation balloons and four combat planes. But he took as many Germans with him as he could, strafing ground troops as he crashed and unloading his pistol into the infantry trying to capture him.


Luke enlisted in the Army on Sept. 25, 1917, for service in the aviation field. He took his first solo flight that December, received his commission the following January, and was in France by March.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
Army 2nd Lt. Frank Luke Jr. with his biplane in the fields near Rattentout Farm, France, on Sept. 19, 1918. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

After additional instruction there, Luke was ready to go on combat patrols. In an April 20, 1918, letter home, Luke described a severely injured pilot who later died and the constantly growing rows of graves for pilots. In between those two observations, he talked about what fun it is to fly.

Luke claimed his first kill in August, but the reported action took place after Luke became separated from the rest of the flight and few believed that the mouthy rookie had actually bagged a German.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
Army 2nd Lt. Frank Luke had a short career on the front lines of World War I, but was America’s greatest fighter pilot for a short period. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

But the intrepid pilot would get his first confirmed victory less than a month later. He had heard other pilots talking about how challenging it was to bring down the enemy observation balloons that allowed for better artillery targeting and intelligence collection.

Flying on Sept. 12, 1918, Luke found one of the heavily defended balloons while chasing three German aircraft. He conducted attack passes on the balloon and it exploded into flames on Luke’s third pass, just as the balloon was about to reach the ground.

The flaming gas and bladder fell upon the ground crew and the winch mechanism that held the balloons, killing the men and destroying the site. Two more American officers at a nearby airfield confirmed Luke’s balloon bust.

Two days later, the Arizona native brought down a second balloon in a morning patrol, but he still wasn’t liked by other members of his unit. The same afternoon, he was designated to take the risky run against another balloon as the rest of the formation fought enemy fighters. One, a friend of Luke’s named 1st Lt. Joseph Wehner, would cover Luke on his run.

Luke once again downed the enemy balloon and was headed for a second balloon when eight enemy planes chased him. His guns were malfunctioning so he ran back to friendly lines rather than risking further confrontation.

Wehner and Luke became a team and specialized in the dangerous mission of balloon busting. Over the following weeks, they pioneered techniques for bringing down the “sausages.” The pair grew so bold that they scheduled exhibitions for well-known pilots like then-Col. William Mitchell, inviting the VIPs to witness German balloons going down at exact times along the front.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
Army pilot 1st Lt. Jospeh Wehner was a balloon buster partnered with 2nd Lt. Frank Luke, Jr. (Photo: U.S. Army Air Services)

But the men’s partnership was short-lived. Wehner had first covered Luke on Sept. 14, and over the next few days they each achieved “Ace” status and Wehner took part in two actions for which he would later receive two Distinguished Service Crosses.

On Sept. 18, the two men scored one of their most productive days including the balloon downing that made Wehner an ace, but Wehner was shot down during the attack on the second balloon. Luke responded by charging into the enemy formation, killing two, and then heading for home and killing an observation plane en route.

Luke was distraught at the loss of his partner and took greater risks in the air. His superior officers attempted to ground him, but Luke stole a plane and went back up anyway.

At that point, he was America’s highest-scoring ace with 11 confirmed victories, ahead of even Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker’s record at the time.

On his final flight on Sept. 29, he dropped a note from his plane that told the reader to “Watch three Hun balloons on the Meuse. Luke.”

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
German observation balloons allowed for intelligence gathering and highly accurate artillery fire. (Photo: State Library of New South Wales)

The pilot flew across the battlefield, downing all three but attracting a patrol of eight German fighters. Sources differ on exactly what happened next, but the most important details are not in dispute.

Luke’s plane was damaged and he himself was hit, likely from machine gun fire from the ground. As he lost altitude, he conducted a strike against German troops, most likely with his machine guns, though locals who witnessed the fight reported that he may have used bombs dropped by hand.

After landing his plane in German-controlled territory, Luke made his way to a stream and was cornered by a German infantry patrol that demanded his surrender. Instead, Luke pulled a pistol and fired, killing an unknown number of Germans before he was shot in the chest and killed.

All of Luke’s confirmed victories had taken place in September 1918. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for Sept. 12-15, a second for his actions on Sept. 18, and the Medal of Honor for his final flight on Sept. 29.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China just launched a massive show of force in the South China Sea

Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over China’s largest-ever naval parade in the South China Sea on April 12, 2018, according to Reuters.

The parade involved more than 10,000 naval officers, and dozens of naval ships, and aircraft, according to CGTN.


Xi told his troops that it “has never been more pressing than today” for China to have a world-leading navy, Reuters reported, telling them to devote their undying loyalty to the party.

China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army, is the world’s largest armed forces. The PLA is currently trying to modernize its forces, investing heavily in new technology and equipment, and unnerving its neighbors, Reuters reported.

Here’s what the parade looked like:

48 naval vessels took part in China’s naval parade in the South China Sea on Thursday.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(CNR)

Including submarines.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(CCTV)

As well as China’s first and only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(CGTN)

76 aircraft also took part in the parade.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(CGTN)

Such as J-15s.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(CGTN)

And even helicopters.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(CGTN)

Xi himself was onboard a destroyer called the Changsha.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(CGTN)

Where he watched four J-15s take off from the Liaoning.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(CGTN)

While addressing his troops, Xi told them to devote their loyalty to the party.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
(CGTN)

You can watch the video from CGTN below:

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

This battle against ISIS could be seen from space

The oil refinery in Bayji, a city in Tikrit, Iraq, has been heavily contested since ISIS first assaulted it in Jun. 2014. It was during that initial battle for Bayji that ISIS, attempting to force out hundreds of Iraqi troops and oil workers, launched a series of attacks that set the refinery on fire.


The smoke from Iraq’s largest refinery was so thick and dark that it could be seen on NASA satellites.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
Photo: USGS/NASA

ISIS began the assault on Jun. 10 when a convoy of over 60 vehicles took the city of Bayji. They then turned to the refinery where 200 Iraqi troops held off 300-500 ISIS fighters for nearly a week.

On the morning of Jun. 18, a renewed ISIS assault broke through the Iraqi perimeter. Oil workers sheltered underground while the fighting ignited 17 gas tanks, creating the smoke that would be seen from space.

After hours of fighting in the clouds of oily smoke, the Iraqi survivors surrendered. ISIS took the facility and executed the 70 soldiers who had surrendered to them.

The Iraqi government launched an offensive and successfully captured the facility in Nov. 2014, but the back and forth ownership of the facility has continued ever since.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVD4n0NGleo

Currently, the facility is in the hands of the Iraqi government, taken by a combination of U.S. air support, Iranian-backed Shiite militias, and Iraqi government forces in Oct. 2015.

Articles

This is what a Mk 38 Bushmaster can do to an Iranian speedboat

You’ve probably followed the reports of how Iranian speedboats have harassed U.S. Navy vessels. Frustrating, aren’t they? Well, think about it this way… we’ve been “showing restraint.”


The thing is, those speedboats are not really Iranian Navy. Instead, they belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. These speedboats, which are often equipped with heavy machine guns, rockets, and other weapons, got a reputation for attacking merchant traffic in the Iran-Iraq War. Back then, they were called “Boghammars” after the Swedish company that built the first boats used by the Iranians.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope

Today, their primary threat to an American warship could be as a suicide craft. That said, American ships have options to address these craft. Two of the most prominent are the Mk 38 Mod 2 Bushmaster and the M2 heavy machine gun. The M2 is a legend. It’s been used on everything from tanks to aircraft to ships, and against just about every target you can imagine.

Now, the Mk 38 Mod 2 Bushmaster is not as well-known. That said, it’s been in quite common use. It got its start on the M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, where the Army calls it the M242.

It needs a lot of luck to kill a tank, but it can bust up other infantry fighting vehicles, trucks, groups of infantry, even helicopters and aircraft. The Bushmaster made its way to the Marine Corps LAV-25.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
A Task Force Liberty Soldier from 3rd Infantry Division stands guard in an M3A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle near an Iraqi police checkpoint in Tikrit, Iraq. The Bradley main armament is the M242 25mm (Bushmaster) Chain Gun. The standard rate of fire is 200 rounds per minute, and has a range of 2,000 meters making it capable of defeating the majority of armored including some main battle tanks. (DOD photo)

The Navy put the Bushmaster on ships, and it comprises the main armament of the Cyclone-class patrol craft. Each Cyclone has two of these guns, one of which is paired with a Mk 19 automatic grenade launcher. The guns are also used on other surface combatants as well. The guns can do a lot of damage.

You can see the Mk 38 and the M2 go to work on a speedboat in the video below. One almost an imagine that the Iranian speedboat crews may be asking themselves the question that Harry Callahan told a bank robber to ask himself: “Do I feel lucky?”

Well, do they?

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine congressman and 2020 candidate reveals plan to decrease veteran suicide

Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a Democratic candidate in the 2020 US presidential election, unveiled a plan to combat post-traumatic stress in the military and revealed he sought mental health services following his deployments to Iraq.

Moulton, a retired US Marine Corps infantry officer, deployed four times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He fought in two major battles in the Iraq War and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal with accompanying “V” devices for valor.

“When I came back from Iraq I sought help for managing post-traumatic stress. I’m glad I did,” Moulton said in a tweet on May 28, 2019. “Today, I’m sharing my experience because I want people to know they’re not alone and they should feel empowered to get the treatment they need.”


His experience overseas led him to seek counseling at least once a week, Moulton said to POLITICO.

“I had some particular experiences or regrets from the war that I just thought about every day, and occasionally I’d have bad dreams or wake up in a cold sweat,” Moulton told the publication. “But because these experiences weren’t debilitating — I didn’t feel suicidal or completely withdrawn — it took me a while to appreciate that I was dealing with post-traumatic stress, and I was dealing with an experience that a lot of other veterans have.”

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope

Congressman Seth Moulton speaking with JROTC students.

(Flickr / Phil Roeder)

He continues to sees a counselor once a month for a routine check-up, and he said “there will always be regrets that I have.”

“But I got to a point where I could deal with them and manage them,” he continued in his interview with POLITICO. “It’s been a few years now since I’ve woken up in a cold sweat in bed from a bad dream or felt so withdrawn from my friends or whatever that I would just go home and go to bed because I miss being overseas with the Marines.”

Moulton’s proposal calls for a wide range of changes to diagnosing and treating service members’ mental health — including annual mental health check-ups for service members and veterans, “mandatory counseling” within the first two weeks of service members returning from combat, a program for families of veterans to recognizes symptoms, an exploration of alternative medicines like marijuana at Veterans Affairs hospitals, and the creation of a National Mental Health Crisis Hotline.

Rep. Seth Moulton Makes His Case for the White House

www.youtube.com

The plan comes amid record-high suicide rates amongst active-duty service members — over 320 service members died by suicide in 2018, according to Military.com. On average, 20 veterans and service members kill themselves each day, according to the latest data from the VA.

His plan also tackles mental health awareness for the general population, and would institute health screenings for high schoolers and education on healthy mental health habits.

“We’re aiming this week to highlight the effects of PTS in the lives of many veterans, including in [Rep. Moulton’s] own experience, and rolling out a plan to address PTS both for veterans and non-veterans alike,” a campaign spokesperson told INSIDER.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army ditches search for 7.62 battle rifle — for now

Multiple sources are reporting that the Army has put on hold its search for a new battle rifle to field to troops in overseas operations that fires a heavier round than the service’s current weapon.


The Army has been facing pressure from Congress and some in the service to field a larger caliber rifle to troops fighting ISIS and other militants who use Russian-made weapons and body armor. Defense officials have said the American M4 carbine and its variants fire a 5.56mm round that cannot penetrate new Russian-designed armor and that the answer was to field an immediate supply of rifles chambered in 7.62mm.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
The M110 SASS is the Army’s current 7.62 compact sniper rifle. Some service leaders pushed a version of this rifle for more deployed troops to penetrate Russian-made body armor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)

“We recognize the 5.56mm round, there is a type of body armor it doesn’t penetrate. … Adversarial states are selling it for $250,” Army chief Gen. Mark Milley told lawmakers in May. “There’s a need, an operational need [for a 7.62 rifle]. We think we can do it relatively quickly.”

But less than two months after the Army issued a request from industry to provide up to 50,000 7.62 battle rifles, sources say the service has pulled the plug on the program, citing internal disagreements on the true need for the rifle and cost savings. The shelving comes as the Pentagon is finalizing a broad-based report on the military’s small arms ammunition and what the future needs of the services are given the existing threats.

Some insiders say the service is leaning toward a rifle chambered in an entirely new caliber that has better penetration and fires more accurately at longer distances, and that pursuing an “interim” solution is a waste of time and resources.

“There are systems out there today, on the shelf, that with some very minor modifications could be adapted to munitions that we’re developing at Fort Benning that could be used to penetrate these SAPI plates that our adversaries are developing,” Milley said in May. “It’s not necessarily an either or proposition on that one. I think there’s weapons out there that we can get, in the right caliber, that can enhance the capability of the infantry soldier.”

Other experts say most hard body armor can withstand multiple hits from both 5.56 rounds and 7.62 ones, so spending limited funds on a new rifle in a caliber that current body armor can already resist is simply spending good money after bad.

So for now, it looks like the Army is going to stick with its M4 for now. But with the service holding off on buying an interim 7.62 rifle, it could be that soldiers might be looking at a whole new rifle platform a lot sooner than they thought.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US soldiers are patrolling with these awesome pocket-sized spy drones

US soldiers are patrolling Afghanistan with a new tool that lets them see the battlefield like never before — personal, pocket-sized drones.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division has deployed to Afghanistan with Black Hornet personal reconnaissance drones — a small, lightweight unmanned aerial vehicle produced by FLIR Systems that can be quickly and easily deployed to provide improved situational awareness on the battlefield.


The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope

A 3rd BCT paratrooper prepares to launch a Black Hornet in Kandahar, Aug. 9, 2019.

(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)

Soldiers are taking these nano drones on patrol in combat zones.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Kandahar province in Afghanistan in July from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to replace the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Stars and Stripes reports.

Army paratroopers have been “routinely” using the Black Hornets, recon drones that look like tiny helicopters, for foot patrols, the Army said in a statement.

“The Black Hornet provided overhead surveillance for the patrol as it gauged security in the region and spoke to local Afghans about their concern,” a caption accompanying a handful of photos from a recent patrol in Kandahar explained.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope

A 3rd BCT paratrooper with a Black Hornet drone.

(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)

These UAVs offer “immediate situational awareness of the battlefield,” the Army said previously.

The Army awarded FLIR a multimillion-dollar contract earlier this year to provide Black Hornet drones to US troops.

A little over 6 inches in length and weighing only 1.16 ounces, these drones are “small enough for a dismounted soldier to carry on a utility belt,” according to FLIR Systems.

These UAVs offer beyond-visual-line-of-sight capability during day or night out to distances of up to 1.24 miles and have a maximum speed of about 20 feet a second.

These drones, which are able to transmit high-quality images and video, can also be launched in a matter of seconds and can quietly provide covert coverage of the battlefield for around half an hour, Business Insider saw firsthand at an exclusive FLIR technology demonstration.

The Black Hornets “will give our soldiers operating at the squad level immediate situational awareness of the battlefield through its ability to gather intelligence, provide surveillance, and conduct reconnaissance,” Lt. Col. Isaac Taylor, an Army public affairs officer, previously told Business Insider.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope

Paratroopers on patrol in Kandahar province in Afghanistan.

(US Army photo by Maj. Thomas Cieslak)

These drones have the potential to be a real “life-saver” for US troops.

Soldiers in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division were the first troops to get their hands on the new Black Hornet drones, part of the Soldier Borne Sensor (SBS) program.

Back in the spring, soldiers trained for a week at Fort Bragg with the new drones, getting a feel for the possibilities provided by this technology.

“This kind of technology will be a life-saver for us because it takes us out of harm’s way while enhancing our ability to execute whatever combat mission we’re on,” Sgt. Ryan Subers, one of the operators, said in a statement.

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

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6 military video games used to train troops on the battlefield

Usually, any mention of “computer-based training” leads to more groans from troops than any GI Party ever could. Not so for these military video games. These games are more like those marathon weekends playing “GoldenEye 64” during the junior high years. Bring out the military equivalent of Funyuns and Mountain Dew (Sunflower seeds and Rip-Its?) and settle in to become the best U.S. troop that ever roamed virtual Earth.

Multi-purpose Arcade Combat Simulator (Super Nintendo)

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
Bring it on, Duck Hunt.


Developed by the U.S. Army and one of the most prolific developers of Super Nintendo (SNES) games, the Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator (MACS) used a light gun to rate how well a soldier shoots. MACS also aided in learning to zero a rifle and other basic aspects of marksmanship. The light gun isn’t the standard issue SNES weapon, it’s a replica of Jäger AP-74, which is itself styled after the M-16 rifle used by the U.S. military.

Virtual Reality Combat Training

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope

The VIRTSIM System, created by Raytheon, is an immersive, open space, VR training ground. The basketball court-sized game pad keeps track of a soldier’s movements through the use of a rubber pad and a weapon-mounted controller. The limitations of the game and the environment allow for the troops to train on responses to incoming fire of different kinds, but they can’t jump for cover and they will never be as tired in the training simulator as they might be after days of dismounted patrols in the real world. The system’s benefit is that it is a way to train for scenarios that the Army cannot recreate and allows for troops to familiarize themselves with the weapons and equipment they’ll carry in a real-world situation.

Full Spectrum Warrior (Xbox)

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
Even video games couldn’t get desert flak vests.

In 2004, game producer THQ and The U.S. Army-funded Institute for Creative Technologies dropped “Full Spectrum Warrior.” Recognizing that millennials coming into the military since 2000 grew up playing video games, the Army’s Science and Tech community created this first attempt at leveraging video games for training purposes. There were two versions of “Full Spectrum Warrior,” the one released to the public, and the one used as a training tool. The Army’s version is unlocked via a static code (HA2P1PY9TUR5TLE) on the code input screen. The player issues orders and directions to virtual fire teams and squad members, over whom he does not directly control. Another version of the game, called “Full Spectrum Command,” would be introduced later for company-level commanders.

Tactical Iraqi (PC)

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope

The “Tactical Iraqi Language and Culture Training System” brought scenario-based PC gameplay to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines before their Surge deployment to Iraq in 2007. The game was developed to teach Iraqi situational language and gestures as well as cultural nuances in a virtual world that could be applied to real-world deployments. It brought Marines face-to-face with Iraqis during simulated missions. The game reduced several months of cultural training to 80 hours of computer-based training.

America’s Army (PC, Xbox)

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
The 55th Signal Co. is there, just not in the frame.

“America’s Army” is not just a game, it’s a series of games. The U.S. Army developed and published this first-person shooter to provide a virtual soldier experience that was “engaging, informative, and entertaining.” Since its initial inception on PC in 2002, it has grown to include iterations on Xbox, Xbox 360, arcade, and mobile apps. The platform has also extended to other government training platforms to further train troops. The latest iteration, “America’s Army: Real Heroes” featured specific, real-world soldiers who have distinguished themselves in combat. The series has won dozens of awards, including Best Action Game of E3 by GameSpy and Best First Person Shooter from Wargamer.

Virtual Battlespace 2

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope

“Virtual Battlespace 2” (or VBS2) gives instructors the ability to create custom battlefield simulations that engage the players (read: soldiers) from multiple viewpoints. Like “Full Spectrum Warrior,” it also gives soldiers the ability to issue orders to squad members. As of 2012, the game was still being used for Basic Combat Training scenarios. It teaches land nav, combat scenarios, and platoon-level group strategies. The biggest advantage of using VBS2 is that new soldiers learn from their mistakes more easily and faster, with fewer consequences than say, getting lost in the woods in a land nav exercise.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy is still fully invested in its railgun tech

Following a flurry of reports in December 2017 predicting the Navy’s $500 million electromagnetic railgun experiment was dead on arrival, the chief of Naval Operations told lawmakers in March 2018 that the death of the program was greatly exaggerated.


“[We are] fully invested in railgun; we continue to test it,” Adm. John Richardson told the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense during a hearing on Navy and Marine Corps budget issues. “We’ve demonstrated it at lower firing rates and … shorter ranges. Now we have to do the engineering to, sort of, crank it up and get it at the designated firing rates, at the 80- to 100-mile range.”

Also read: The Navy’s deck guns are getting a hypervelocity upgrade

Richardson was responding to a question from Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who expressed concern about the proven capability of the Navy’s railgun weapon, which has yet to leave its test site at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Virginia.

“My understanding is these weapons can fire projectiles at extremely high speeds with a range exceeding a hundred miles once fully operational,” Ryan said. “I know China has demonstrated a capability for shipboard railguns, and I’m just concerned, again, that maybe we’re falling short here.”

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
Particle debris ignites as a test slug exits the Office of Naval Research 32 MJ Electromagnetic Railgun laboratory launcher located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division. (Photo by US Navy)

Photos showing what appears to be a railgun mounted on the Chinese landing ship tank Haiyang Shan emerged in February 2018. The evidence of what appears to be deployable Chinese railgun technology came to light following a handful of reports indicating the Navy’s own gun development program was losing steam.

Related: Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun

Business Insider reported in December 2017 that the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities office was shifting research efforts from the railgun, which uses electromagnetic energy to shoot large projectiles at speeds of up to 4,500 miles per hour, to broader high-velocity projectile study.

The Navy has never acknowledged a loss of interest in railgun technology, however. July 2017, officials with the Office of Naval Research told reporters that the power behind the gun would be increased to 32 megajoules over the summer, giving the weapon a range of 110 miles.

In testimony released March 7, 2018, Richardson indicated the weapon had yet to reach that range in spite of predictions.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
An electromagnetic railgun prototype on display aboard the joint high-speed vessel USS Millinocket. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Kirsop)

“That involves a number of technologies,” he said. “The barrel itself is probably the limiting case, the engineering on that, the materials required to sustain that power pulse, and the heat and pressure that’s involved in launching those projectiles. And we’re doubling down on that.”

Engineers have found the gun’s barrel wears out rapidly when metal projectiles are fired at the blistering rates the railgun’s technology delivers. Another unresolved issue is the power source for the gun; currently, only the new three-ship Zumwalt class of class of mega-destroyers is reportedly capable of supplying the electromagnetic charge needed to operate the gun. The Navy wants to deploy a version of the railgun aboard smaller-sized destroyers.

More: This stunning video shows how fast a railgun can shoot

While Richardson acknowledged the challenges and said Navy brass were “very conscious” of reported Chinese achievements in railgun technology, he maintained the service was still invested in the program.

“As a benefit, too, of the program — the railgun program, we have developed a projectile — high-velocity projectile, which is actually usable across the fleet in a number of different applications, not only in the railgun,” Richardson said. “And so, it’s a very fruitful program that we continue to invest in.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The soldiers identifying the Korean War remains

When her duty day is over, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Owen often wonders if she did enough to help identify fallen service members.

As the noncommissioned officer in charge of the morgue at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which is tasked to account for more than 82,000 Americans missing from past conflicts, she analyzes human remains and personal effects in hopes to close a cold case.


“At the end of the day, I have to be able to look in the mirror and say I’ve done my best,” she said. “And when I get up in the morning, I say I’m going to do better, because these families have been waiting years and years.”

Owens is one of about 100 service members and civilians who work at the agency’s laboratories here and at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Each year, the labs identify the remains of around 200 Americans that are then reunited with families.

On Aug. 1, more than 50 cases containing remains believed to be those of American service members were provided to DPAA by North Korea.

The remains are now undergoing further analysis and identification at the labs.

The painstaking work, which can take months to years to complete, is Owen’s passion. Whenever a positive identification comes in, she said, it is as if the service member’s name is given back.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope

An honor guard provided by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command conducts an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 1, 2018. Carry teams will move 55 flag-draped transfer cases, containing what are believed to be the remains of American service members lost in the Korean War, to the DPAA laboratory at JBPH-H for identification.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)

‘These Are All Heroes’

“What drives me the most is that these are heroes,” she said, looking across a lab holding hundreds of unknown remains. “These are all heroes [who] have a name and a family.”

Each year, DPAA conducts up to 80 investigation and recovery team missions throughout the world to pinpoint last known locations of missing Americans and to attempt to excavate their remains.

“The work is complex, the work is difficult, and it takes that dedication, that passion … to be able to perform this solemn obligation that we make to the nation and to the families,” said Kelly McKeague, the agency’s director.

The joint agency, which employs many service members and veterans, has agreements with nearly 50 nations that assist in its missions, he added.

Most of the missing fell at World War II battle sites in the Pacific region. There are also almost 7,700 service members unaccounted for from the Korean War, with the majority believed to be in North Korea.

DPAA teams were allowed to conduct missions in North Korea from 1996 to 2005, but operations were halted as diplomatic relations deteriorated in the region. Agency officials hope these missions could soon start up again.

Before he became the agency’s lab director, John Byrd had the opportunity to help recover Americans who fought in North Korea at the Battle of Unsan. The 1950 battle pitted Chinese forces against American and South Korean troops.

When remains are identified by his staff it is always a testament to good field and lab work that solved the decades-old case, Byrd said.

“It’s extremely gratifying,” he said, “and it kind of keeps you grounded where you know why you’re here and why you’re doing this work.”

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope

Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Owen, a morgue noncommissioned officer for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, examines a personal effect that may have belonged to a fallen service member in a laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, March 12, 2018.

(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

DNA Testing

A majority of DPAA cases involve some type of DNA testing. Samples are taken from the remains and sent to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab in Delaware.

To help this process, family members who have a missing loved one are encouraged to provide a DNA sample that will serve as a comparison.

If no reference samples are on file, a battalion of professional genealogists working for service casualty offices will try to locate family members.

Many times their starting point is the service member’s home address from the 1940s, if they served in World War II. This makes it extremely difficult to track down a living family member as the years pass on.

“It’s one of the greatest challenges of all. How do you find close family members of a missing serviceman from 1944?” Byrd asked. “It’s not easy. Some [cases] we run into dead-ends and we can’t find anybody.”

The Defense Department has kept dental records of troops dating back to World War I that can be used to help in the identification process.

In 2005, the agency also discovered another method that has proved successful. Many troops who served in early conflicts had to get chest X-rays as part of a tuberculosis screening when they first signed up.

Like the dental records, these radiographs were stored in a warehouse by the DoD. DPAA later obtained thousands of copies of them. Lab personnel use them as a comparison tool, since the shape of each person’s chest is different.

“The process of comparing this induction chest x-ray to an x-ray we take from the remains is analogous to doing fingerprint comparison,” Byrd said. “It’s a very similar kind of mindset that you take when you look at the two side-by-side; you’re looking for commonalities and differences.”

When a service member is identified, family members often come to the lab so they can participate in escorting the remains back home, he said. For those who work at the lab, those family member visits make the months or years of work seem worthwhile.

“When you have a family member come in and the staff who actually worked on the case get to meet them, they get to see the tangible results of their hard work,” Byrd said. “It’s definitely a boost to their morale.”

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope

Members of the 647th Force Support Squadron search and recovery team tag and mark simulated remains during the search and recovery team’s training event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Oct. 27, 2017. The search and recovery team is tasked with recovering human remains from accident sites.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman)

In the Field

Before that sort of closure can start for families, recovery teams spend weeks at a time doing the grunt work of excavating sites.

Army Capt. Brandon Lucas, who serves as a team leader, recalled his team digging nearly 20 feet into the ground in Laos in search of an F-4 Phantom fighter pilot who vanished during the Vietnam War.

While no remains were found on that mission, they were still able to confidently close the site and shift efforts elsewhere.

Then there was another mission in Slovenia, where the tail gunner of a bomber aircraft from World War II went missing.

When his plane crashed, the gunner was the only one in his aircrew killed. Residents later buried him next to a church.

As Lucas’ team arrived at the site, the townspeople still knew about the crash and the gunner. Residents regularly visited his team, often bringing Lucas and the others food and drinks. An elderly woman even told him that for decades she would clean the grave site once a week.

When his team recovered the remains, a somber tone spread through the community.

“A lot of them actually shed tears when we found the remains,” Lucas said. “It was special to them and it was special to me.”

The poignant moment, along with others he has experienced during missions, galvanized the meaning of the mission for him.

“I’m potentially bringing back a fallen comrade,” Lucas said. “I would want to know that if it was me lost out there somebody is trying to recover me and give my family closure.”

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope

(US Army)

Maritime Recovery

Recovery missions also extend out into the sea, where many service members have disappeared as a result of aircraft crashes or ships sunk.

While she served as commander of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, Army Maj. Gen. Susan A. Davidson was an advocate for her unit to support the solemn mission.

The unit regularly supplies DPAA with highly-trained Army divers from the 7th Engineer Dive Detachment, who often work on the sea floor with no visibility and use a suction hose to remove loose sediment from recovery sites.

On a barge, team members then sift through the sediment for the remains or personal effects of those missing.

When divers returned to Hawaii, she encouraged them to share their experiences and what they got out of the mission with others in the unit.

“They come back a different person and they have a different respect for our Army and for what we do,” Davidson said.

Back at the lab, Owen and others strive to identity those heroes who have been found.

“I feel that I am part of something so much bigger that I can contribute to,” she said.

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The invasion of Iraq began 13 years ago

U.S. and coalition forces invaded Iraq 13 years ago today,  kicking off a war that would last until the end of 2011.


President George W. Bush had given Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein an ultimatum to cede power and leave the country by early-morning Mar. 20, 2003. American forces stepped off the line of departure 90 minutes after the clock ran out.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
An F-117A Nighthawk drops a laser-guided bomb during training. Photo: Air Force Master Sgt. Edward Snyder

Jets and Tomahawk missiles struck government and military targets deep within the country, including some within Baghdad. The first strike was conducted by F-117 stealth fighters against Dora Farms, a retreat near Baghdad where Saddam and two of his sons were believed to be that morning.

Most of Dora Farms was destroyed in the attack, but Saddam had left the area long before the bombs fell.

Saddam quickly went into hiding as CIA operatives and special operations troops called in airstrikes throughout Iraq. Fearful that the Iraqi military would destroy infrastructure and set traps for advancing troops like they did in the First Persian Gulf War, the coalition sent in ground forces just hours after the first airstrikes.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
British Royal Marines prepare for the invasion of Iraq. Photo: Ministry of Defence Dave Coombs

U.S. soldiers under V Corps and Marines with the I Marine Expeditionary Force invaded from Kuwait into Iraq towards Baghdad.

At the same time, U.S. Marines, British forces, and Polish commandos began an assault over land and sea against Al Faw peninsula and the port city of Umm Qasr. The area is home to a large amount of oil infrastructure and it controls waterways that would be vital to moving ships loaded with supplies into the country.

Just behind the front lines, Spanish troops moved into Iraq to provide humanitarian assistance.

The wisdom of these 15 average joe WWII veterans will break your heart and give you hope
Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. John L. Houghton, Jr.

The initial invasion ran from Mar. 20 to May 1 and was an unqualified success. While Saddam Hussein managed to escape into hiding, his forces put up little resistance. U.S. and allied forces were able to capture the entire country with little damage to infrastructure. American troops were pushing into Baghdad and walking American flags through palaces owned by Saddam by early April, just weeks after the invasion began.

Of course, things got more complicated after that, to put it mildly. Sectarian violence and a brutal insurgency against the new government of Iraq and the coalition forces would drag out the war for another 8 years.

But that’s another story . . . .