These were the WWI 'Harlem Hell Fighters' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

It’s African-American History Month and a fitting time to recall the black soldiers of the New York National Guard’s 15th Infantry Regiment, who never got a parade when they left for World War I in 1917.

There were New York City parades for the Guardsmen of the 27th Division and the 42nd Division and the draftee soldiers of the 77th Division.


But when the commander of the 15th Infantry asked to march with the 42nd — nicknamed the Rainbow Division — he was reportedly told that “black is not a color of the rainbow” as part of the no.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

Children wait to cheer the Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment as they parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home. More than 2,000 Soldiers took part in the parade up Fifth Avenue. The Soldiers marched seven miles from downtown Manhattan to Harlem.

(National Archives)

But on Feb. 17, 1919, when those 2,900 soldiers came home as the “Harlem Hell Fighters” of the 369th Infantry Regiment, New York City residents, both white and black, packed the streets as they paraded up Fifth Avenue.

“Fifth Avenue Cheers Negro Veterans,” said the headline in the New York Times.

“Men of 369th back from fields of valor acclaimed by thousands. Fine show of discipline. Harlem mad with joy over the return of its own. ‘Black Death hailed as conquering hero'” headlines announced, descending the newspaper column, in the style of the day.

“Hayward leads heroic 369th in triumphal march,” the New York Sun wrote.

“Throngs pay tribute to the Heroic 15th,” proclaimed the New York Tribune.

“Theirs is the finest of records,” the New York Tribune wrote in its coverage of the parade. “The entire regiment was awarded the Croix de Guerre. Under fire for 191 days they never lost a prisoner or a foot of ground.”

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

For that day, the soldiers the French had nicknamed “Men of Bronze” were finally heroes in their hometown.

In the early 20th Century, black Americans could not join the New York National Guard. While there were African-American regiments in the Army there were none in the New York National Guard.

In 1916, New York Gov. Charles S. Whitman authorized the creation of the 15th New York Infantry to be manned by African-Americans — with white officers — and headquartered in Harlem where 50,000 of the 60,000 black residents of Manhattan lived in 1910.

When the New York National Guard went to war in 1917, so did the 15th New York. But when the unit showed up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to train, the soldiers met discrimination at every turn.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

New York City residents cram the sidewalks, roofs, and fire escape to see the Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment march up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

To get his men out of South Carolina, Col. William Hayward, the commander, pushed for his unit to go to France as soon as possible. So in December 1917, well before most American soldiers, the men from Harlem arrived in France.

At first they served unloading supply ships.

But the French Army needed soldiers and the U.S. Army was ambivalent about black troops. So the 15th New York, now renamed the 369th Infantry, was sent to fight under French command, solving a problem for both armies.

In March 1918, the 369th was in combat. And while the American commander, Gen. John J. Pershing, restricted press reports on soldiers and units under his command, the French Army did not.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

When Pvt. Henry Johnson and Pvt. Needham Roberts won the French Croix de Guerre for fighting off a German patrol it was big news in the United States. A country hungry for war news and American heroes discovered the 369th.

The 369th was in combat for 191 days; never losing a position, never losing a man as a prisoner, and only failing once to gain an objective. Their unit band, led by famed bandleader James Europe, became famous across France for playing jazz music.

When the 369th arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey, on Feb. 10, 1919, the New York City Mayor’s Committee of Welcome to the Homecoming Troops began planning the party.

On Monday, Feb. 17, the soldiers traveled by ferry from Long Island and landed at East 34th Street.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

Sgt. Henry Johnson waves to well-wishers during the 369th Infantry Regiment march up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

They marched up Fifth Avenue and passed a reviewing stand that included Gov. Al Smith and Mayor John Hylan at Sixtieth Street. The official parade route would cover more than seven miles from 23rd Street to 145th Street and Lennox Avenue in Harlem.

“The negro soldiers were astonished at the hundreds of thousands who turned out to see them and New Yorkers, in their turn, were mightily impressed by the magnificent appearance of these fighting men,” the New York times reported.

“Swinging up the avenue, keeping a step spring with the swagger of men proud of themselves and their organization, their rows of bayonets glancing in the sun, dull-painted steel basins on their heads, they made a spectacle that might justify pity for the Germans and explain why the boches gave them the title of the “Blutdurstig schwartze manner” or “Bloodthirsty Black men,” the Times reporter wrote.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

Wounded Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment are driven up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

Lt. James Reese Europe marched with his band, the New York Tribune noted, while Sgt. Henry Johnson, who had killed four Germans and chased away 24 others, rode in a car because he had a “silver plate in his foot as a relic of that memorable occasion.”

“He stood up in the car and clutched a great bouquet of lilies an admirer had handed him,” the Tribune wrote about Johnson. “Waving this offering in one hand and his overseas hat in the other, the ebony hero’s way up Fifth Avenue was a veritable triumph.”

“Shouts of ‘Oh you Henry Johnson’ and ‘Oh you Black Death,’ resounded every few feet for seven long miles followed by condolences for the Kaiser’s men,” the New York Times reported.

Along the route of the march soldiers were tossed candy and cigarettes and flowers, the newspapers noted. Millionaire Henry Frick stood on the steps of his Fifth Avenue mansion and waved an American flag and cheered as the men marched past.

When the 369th turned off Fifth Avenue onto Lennox Avenue for the march into Harlem the welcome grew even louder, the New York Sun reported.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

Soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment parade up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

“There were roars of welcome that made all the music of the day shrink into itself,” the Sun reporter wrote. And although the 369th Band had 100 musicians nobody could hear the music above the crowd noise, the reporter added.

People crammed themselves onto the sidewalk and into the windows of the buildings along the route to see their soldiers come home.

“Thousands and thousands of rattlesnakes, the emblem of the 369th, each snake coiled, ready to strike, appeared everywhere, in buttonholes, in shop windows and on banners carried by the crowd,” the New York Times reported.

“By the time the men reached 135th Street they were decorated with flowers like brides, husky black doughboys plunking along with bouquets under their arms and grins on their faces that one could see to read by,” the Sun reported.

At 145th Street the parade came to its end and families went looking for their soldiers.

“The fathers and mothers and wives and sweethearts of the men would no longer be denied and they swooped through police lines like water through a sieve,” the Sun wrote.

“The soldiers were too well trained to break ranks but when a mother spied her son and threw her arms around his neck with joy at getting him back again, he just hugged her off her feet,” the paper wrote.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

The color guard of the 369th Infantry Regiment parades up Fifth Avenue in New York City on Feb. 17, 1919, during a parade held to welcome the New York National Guard unit home.

(National Archives)

With the parade over, the men were guided into subway cars and headed to the Park Avenue Amory, home of the 71st Regiment, for a chicken dinner and more socializing. The regimental band, which had begun playing at 6 a.m. and performed all day, finally got a break during the dinner and the men lay down to rest.

The New York Times noted that the band boasted five kettle drums presented to the unit by the French Army “as a mark of esteem.” They also had a drum captured from a German unit that had been “driven back so rapidly that they lost interest in bulky impedimentia.”

The New York Times estimated that 10,000 people waited outside the armory and “all the spaces about the Armory were packed with negro women and girls.” The soldiers inside ate quickly and came back out to find their families.

“I saw the allied parade in Paris and thought that was about the biggest thing that had ever happened, but this had it stopped,” Lt. James Reese Europe, the band’s commander, told the New York Sun reporter as the party ran down.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Navy secretary bets his job that he can fix USS Ford

Like most first-in-class warships, the USS Gerald R. Ford has had problems during its construction and testing, especially because of the array of new technology it carries.

But the $13 billion aircraft carrier has attracted special attention, and now Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer is putting his job on the line to guarantee one big problem will be resolved.


The Ford’s new Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System has been a particular focus for President Donald Trump. He expressed dismay with the system in May 2017 and has mentioned it several times since, bringing it up at random on several occasions.

Other officials, including the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Sen. James Inhofe, have objected to protracted issues with the carrier’s Advanced Weapons Elevators, which use magnets rather than cables to lift munitions to the flight deck.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

President Donald Trump speaking with Navy and shipyard personnel aboard the Gerald R. Ford in Newport News, Virginia, in 2017.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Joshua Sheppard)

None of the carrier’s 11 elevators were installed when it was delivered in May 2017 — 32 months late. But the Navy accepted and commissioned the carrier, and after a year of testing at sea, in July 2018 it entered its post-shakedown period.

The start of the post-shakedown period was delayed by another defect, and it was extended from eight months to a year to take care of normal work and work that had been put off, like the installation of the elevators and upgrades to the Advanced Arresting Gear, which has also faced technical problems.

The Navy has said the elevators will be installed and tested by the end of the post-shakedown period in 2019. Six will be certified for use at that time, but five won’t be completed until after July 2019.

Spencer said Jan. 8, 2019, that during a discussion at the Army-Navy football game in December 2018 he gave Trump a high-stakes promise.

“I asked him to stick his hand out — he stuck his hand out. I said, ‘Let’s do this like corporate America.’ I shook his hand and said the elevators will be ready to go when she pulls out or you can fire me,” Spencer said at an event at the Center for a New American Security, according to USNI News.

“We’re going to get it done. I know I’m going to get it done,” he added. “I haven’t been fired yet by anyone — being fired by the president really isn’t on the top of my list.”

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

Tugboats maneuvering the Gerald R. Ford into the James River.

(US Navy photo)

Spencer also said Trump asked him about EMALS. He told the president that the Navy had “got the bugs out” and that the system and its capabilities were “all to our advantage.”

Inhofe is also raising the stakes.

“The fleet needed and expected this ship to be delivered in 2015,” he told Bloomberg on Jan. 7, 2019. “Until all of the advanced weapons elevators work, we only have 10 operational aircraft carriers, despite a requirement for 12.”

Inhofe has told the Navy he wants monthly status reports on the carrier until its elevators are working.

The Ford is the first of its class, and the next Ford-class carrier, the USS John F. Kennedy, is under construction by Huntington Ingalls at Newport News, Virginia, where it reached the halfway point in 2018.

The Navy told legislators early January 2019 that it would go ahead with a plan to buy the next Ford-class carriers, CVN 80 and CVN 81, on a single contract, known as a “block buy.”

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

A crane moving the lower stern into place on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy at Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding in Newport News, making the second Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier 50% structurally complete, on June 22, 2017.

(US Navy photo)

The Navy has said it will spend about billion on the first three Ford-class carriers, and it has touted the block buy as a way to save as much as billion over single contracts for the third and fourth ships. The program as a whole is expected to cost billion.

“This smart move will save taxpayer dollars and help ensure the shipyards can maintain a skilled workforce to get the job done,” Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said after the Navy informed lawmakers of the decision.

Inhofe, however, remains wary.

He told Bloomberg that he looked forward to “the greater predictability and stability” provided by the block buy but called the purchase “a significant commitment” requiring “sustained investments for more than a decade” to get the billion in savings estimated by the Navy.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Air Force will drop its high-energy laser weapons program

Imagine you’re in the Air Force, working the flightline during a war with China when, suddenly, a Chinese J-20 is seen nearby. It’s about to come rain death on your base and — most importantly — you. Luckily, the ground-based laser defenses zap it out of the sky before the dorm rats even get a chance to raid the Burger King.

The Air Force probably never saw its High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype that way, but it’s definitely how it could have played out. But we’ll never know, because the lasers are gone for now.


These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

Artist rendering of the High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype in action.

The military isn’t giving up on lasers entirely, despite the recent cancellations of laser weapons systems by both the Air Force and Army. The Pentagon just isn’t sure where the focus of directed energy should be right now. The purpose of the original High-Energy Laser Flexible Prototype was to build a ground-based defense system, then scale it to individual aircraft defenses. The Air Force is no longer interested in that direction.

We’re trying to understand where we actually want to go,” Michael Jirjis, who oversees the Air Force strategic development, planning, and experimentation office’s directed-energy efforts, told Air Force magazine. “Internally to the Air Force, we’ll hold another DE summit sometime later in the spring to understand senior leader investment and where they want to go for the community at large.”
These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

Firms like Lockheed-Martin are still developing laser defenses for tactical aircraft.

(Lockheed)

But developing lasers and microwave systems will continue, just not with the HEL, which would have been operational around March 2020 if everything went as planned. The scrapping of the program took little more than a month after requests for proposals were sent out.

Lists

The best military photos for the week of April 13th

Across the military, great things happen every day. If you blink, you might miss something. Luckily for us, there are talented photographers in service who capture some of those amazing moments.

Here’s what happened this week:


These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Liliana Moreno)

Air Force:

Senior Airman Adan Solis, 921st Contingency Response Squadron aircraft maintainer, marshals a C-130 Hercules aircraft during the Joint Readiness Training Center exercise, April 9, 2018, at the Alexandria International Airport, La. Contingency Response Airmen conducted joint training with Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, providing direct air-land support for safe and efficient airfield operations.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ted Daigle)

Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Civil Engineer Squadron hone their skills on Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, April 11, 2018. The firefighters practice dousing a simulated aircraft fire in a realistic, but controlled environment.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

(U.S. Army photo by Staff. Sgt. David N. Beckstrom)

Army:

Soldiers from across 25th Infantry Division continued to strive for the title of Best Warrior by participating in an eight-mile ruck march, preparing a weapon for close combat, and draftingan essay about what it means to be a leader and how to prevent sexual harassment and assault with in the military. The Tropic Lightning Best Warrior Competition is a week-long event that will test Soldiers competing on the overall physical fitness, warrior tasks and battle drill, and professional knowledge.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

(U.S. Army Photo by Lt. Col. John Hall)

Bearing the weight of heavy combat loads, paratroopers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade move to the flight line to board US Air Force C130 Hercules turboprop aircraft for an joint forcible entry into northern Italy.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

(U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cory Asato)

Navy:

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Michael DeCesare, assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 4, Det. Guam, fires an M2 machine gun aboard a Mark VI patrol boat during a crew-served weapons qualification in the Philippine Sea, April 12, 2018. CRS-4, Det. Guam, assigned to Costal Riverine Group 1, Det. Guam, is capable of conducting maritime security operations across the full spectrum of naval, joint and combined operations. Further, it provides additional capabilities of port security, embarked security, and theater security cooperation around the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Granito)

Capt. Gregory Newkirk, deputy commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, prepares to take off in an F/A-18C Hornet assigned to the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34 aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Carl Vinson Strike Group is currently operating in the Pacific as part of a regularly scheduled deployment.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. David Bickel)

Marine Corps:

MV-22B Ospreys attached to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One conduct an aerial refuel during a Long Range Raid simulation in conjunction with Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-18 in Tuscon, Ariz., April 11. WTI is a seven-week training event hosted by MAWTS-1 cadre, which emphasizes operational integration of the six functions of Marine Corps aviation in support of a Marine Air Ground Task Force and provides standardized advanced tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine Aviation Training and Readiness and assists in developing and employing aviation weapons and tactics.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Zachary Orr)

U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Thomas Johnson, an assaultman with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, bear crawls on Fort Hase beach during a scout sniper indoctrination course, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 11, 2018. The overall goal of the course is to familiarize students with the main aspects of sniper skills so that when they go to the Scout Sniper Basic School, they will continue to improve and successfully complete it.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

(U.S. Coast Guard photograph by Petty Officer 2nd Class Christin Solomon)

Coast Guard:

Sunset falls on an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bear during a three-month deployment in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. The Bear is scheduled to return to homeport April 12, 2018, in Portsmouth, Virginia. During the patrol, the Bear’s crew performed counter-narcotic operations, search and rescue, and maritime law enforcement.

Articles

Mattis says US still debating ‘big ideas’ on Afghan plan

The Trump administration is still sorting out “the big ideas” for a new Afghanistan strategy, beyond troop levels and other military details, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said July 21.


“We’re close,” he said in an impromptu exchange with reporters at the Pentagon one day after President Donald Trump met with him and his military chiefs for a broad discussion that aides said touched on Afghanistan and other issues.

The US has been fighting in Afghanistan for nearly 16 years, and as recently as June, Mattis said, “we are not winning.”

Mattis told Sen. John McCain at a hearing last month that he would have the Afghanistan strategy ready by mid-July. On July 21 he was asked what is holding it up.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Photo courtesy of the DoD

“It just takes time,” he said. “It wasn’t that past presidents were dumb or anything else. This is hard work, so you’ve got to get it right. That’s all there is to it.”

He also said it is vitally important to “get the big ideas right,” meaning to establish a consensus within the government on what problem Afghanistan poses and what policy goal is being pursued by committing US troops there. He called this “orders of magnitude” more difficult than deciding military tactics.

“It’s easy only for the people who criticize it from the outside and who don’t carry the responsibility for integrating it altogether,” he said, referring to making diplomatic and economic elements a part of the overall strategy.

Although Mattis did not mention him July 21, McCain is among the more vocal critics of the administration’s lack of an Afghan strategy.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’
DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

On July 20, McCain mentioned his frustration on Afghanistan in a statement on the separate matter of the administration reportedly deciding to end a program to assist the Syrian opposition to President Bashar Assad.

“Six months into this administration, there is still no new strategy for victory in Afghanistan, either,” McCain said. “It is now mid-July, when the administration promised to deliver that strategy to Congress, and we are still waiting.”

In his remarks at the Pentagon, Mattis revealed no details of the ongoing administration debate.

He cast the Afghanistan problem in the context of past American wars, including those that did not end well — such as Vietnam — and those that still have not ended, such as Iraq. He said he wants to be sure there is administration agreement on the political goals as well as the military means.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’
Secretary of Defense James Mattis greets U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after arriving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

“I realize this probably looks easy, but it is not easy,” he said.

Mattis said a decision disclosed by the Pentagon on July 21 to withhold $50 million in “coalition support funds” for Pakistan — money it receives each year as reimbursement for logistical support for US combat operations — was separate from deliberations over a new Afghanistan strategy. Officials have said the US approach to Pakistan is an important part of the Afghan strategy debate, in part because a Taliban faction known as the Haqqani network enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan. US officials called the Haqqani network the most lethal element of the Taliban opposition in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon said in a statement July 21 that Mattis has informed congressional committees that he could not certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network to deserve full reimbursement this year. Of $900 million in proposed reimbursement, Pakistan earlier received $550 million and Congress a few months ago withheld $300 million.

Mattis’ certification decision means the remaining $50 million also will be withheld.

The Pentagon chief said this was not a reflection of a new, tougher US policy toward Pakistan.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’
A U.S. Army adviser from Task Force Forge conducts a room clearing drill with an Afghan trainee. (NATO photo by Kay M. Nissen)

“This is simply an assessment of the current state of play” with regard to suppressing the Haqqani threat. “It’s not a policy. It is the reality.”

Pakistan is authorized to receive up to another $900 million in support funds this coming year, of which $400 million is subject to Pentagon certification of sufficient Pakistani effort against the Haqqani network.

“In our discussions with Pakistani officials, we continue to stress that it is in the interest of Pakistan to eliminate all safe havens and reduce the operational capacity of all militant organizations that pose a threat to US and Pakistani interests as well as regional stability,” a Pentagon spokesman, Adam Stump, said.

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter determined the Pakistani effort against the Haqqani network was insufficient, and as a result, $300 million in support funds was withheld.

MIGHTY HISTORY

World War II secret code breaker finds life’s purpose in a drawer

It was 1945, and the world was at war. Charles Hessemer was just 17 years old when he took a drive to Detroit, Michigan with a friend to enlist in the United States Navy. Hessemer’s older brother had already joined and was in Europe fighting. Hessemer gave a wry grin when he admitted that there may have been some fibbing in regard to his age. But he felt called to go. Hessemer had watched so many men that he knew die during that war. He wanted his chance to fight for his country — and those who lost their lives.


Hessemer could never have imagined that joining the Navy would change the course of his entire life. “You are born to do a particular thing and you will do it whether you want to, I firmly believe this. We are guided in what we do,” he shared.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

Hessemer dreamed of getting stationed on an aircraft carrier. Everyone he went to boot camp with was being sent to San Diego, which meant action. He had visions of being on a dive bomber and sailing the high seas. As he watched his friends leaving, he was told to go down to the personnel office. Upon arrival, he was told that he had passed a second, more abstract test that all recruits were given. The test didn’t have any wrong answers, but his responses were deeply creative due to his way of thinking. It was those answers that would earmark him for “special” duty, something only five other graduating recruits were chosen for.

But the officer couldn’t tell him what it would be.

Hessemer decided to take it, feeling the pull towards something unique. Although he thought he would ship out soon after accepting the special assignment, he would end up waiting another five weeks. He found out later it was due to his last name – of German descent – which caused in-depth investigations.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

For many years, Adolf Hitler’s number two man was Rudolf Hess. Hess would go on to edit Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, and become deputy leader of the Nazi party. Due to the closeness of Hessemer’s last name, the Navy wasn’t taking any chances.

The investigations would span all the way back to his time in grade school, but would finally come back with an approval. The six men selected for the special assignment were then put on a train and took a three day trip to Washington, D.C., still unaware of what they would be doing.

Hessemer and the others arrived in D.C. and reported to the temporary building the Navy was using as the brand-new Navy Department was being built. He shared the story of continually running into a heavily braided admiral in the hallways of that building. The second time Hessemer almost knocked him over, he remembers the admiral saying: “Young man, you and I seem to be having a problem.”

That man was Fleet Admiral Charles W. Nimitz, the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. From the moment he assumed command after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he brought the fight to the enemy and would eventually sign the Instrument of Surrender from Japan. As Hessemer walked away from him, his head was spinning.

Eventually the new building was ready. Hessemer remembers how heavily secured it was, as he had to show his identification three times before he made it into the office where he was assigned to work. The six men were brought to a room and told to pick a desk. He remembers looking around and seeing one by the window, so he chose that one. As he searched the drawers, he found the book that would change his life, “How to Draw the Figure.” Hessemer finally found out what his special assignment was at that desk. He was a secret code breaker.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

Hessemer spent three years as a part of the communications annex, breaking codes, and he was sworn to secrecy for life. During this time, he read that book he found front to back and enrolled in art night classes. “That book was just waiting for me. I know it,” said Hessemer.

He began to win awards for his paintings. Hessemer eventually left D.C. after two years to work onboard the famous aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Randolph, anchored in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

He left the Navy in 1948 with an honorable discharge and was accepted into the American Academy of Art in Chicago in 1950. Although passionate about painting, he felt like something was missing. By accident, he tried painting figures with a palette knife – something no one at the time was doing. From the moment he began, he knew he found what he was meant to do for the rest of his life. His favorite thing to say is that, “An artist’s life is a climb up an endless stairway which he must never stop climbing.”

Hessemer would go on to work as an art director for several successful art ad agencies while painting at night and on the weekends. He spent 10 years truly perfecting his palette knife work before he knew in his heart it was beyond good. It was breathtaking.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

“Everything has its reason, it just comes to you and you say that’s it – and you do it,” he said. He believes every mistake you make is only a serious mistake if it makes you quit. When Hessemer was asked what he would tell today’s veterans as they leave the service, he implored them to find their passionate purpose and give it everything they have.

These days, Hessemer is retired from ad agency work and spends his days and nights painting alongside his furry rescue dog, Charlie. Hessemer is 92 years old and still living his purpose, every day.

Visit his website to see his incredible palette knife paintings.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’
MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army creating shape-shifting robots out of smaller robots

A U.S. Army project took a new approach to developing robots — researchers built robots entirely from smaller robots known as “smarticles,” unlocking the principles of a potentially new locomotion technique.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and Northwestern University published their findings in the journal Science Robotics.

The research could lead to robotic systems capable of changing their shapes, modalities and functions, said Sam Stanton, program manager, complex dynamics and systems at the Army Research Office, an element of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory.


“For example, as envisioned by the Army Functional Concept for Maneuver, a robotic swarm may someday be capable of moving to a river and then autonomously forming a structure to span the gap,” he said.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

Five identical “smarticles” — smart active particles — interact with one another in an enclosure. By nudging each other, the group — dubbed a “supersmarticle” — can move in random ways. The research could lead to robotic systems capable of changing their shapes, modalities and functions.

The 3D-printed smarticles — short for smart active particles — can do just one thing: flap their two arms. But when five of these smarticles are confined in a circle, they begin to nudge one another, forming a robophysical system known as a “supersmarticle” that can move by itself. Adding a light or sound sensor allows the supersmarticle to move in response to the stimulus — and even be controlled well enough to navigate a maze.

The notion of making robots from smaller robots — and taking advantage of the group capabilities that arise by combining individuals — could provide mechanically based control over very small robots. Ultimately, the emergent behavior of the group could provide a new locomotion and control approach for small robots that could potentially change shapes.

“These are very rudimentary robots whose behavior is dominated by mechanics and the laws of physics,” said Dan Goldman, a Dunn Family Professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the project’s principal investigator. “We are not looking to put sophisticated control, sensing and computation on them all. As robots become smaller and smaller, we’ll have to use mechanics and physics principles to control them because they won’t have the level of computation and sensing we would need for conventional control.”

The foundation for the research came from an unlikely source: a study of construction staples. By pouring these heavy-duty staples into a container with removable sides, former doctoral student Nick Gravish — now a faculty member at the University of California San Diego — created structures that would stand by themselves after the container’s walls were removed.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

Light hits a smarticle (smart active particle) causing it to stop moving, while the other smarticles continue to flap their arms. The resulting interactions produce movement toward the stopped smarticle, providing control that doesn’t depend on computer algorithms.

Shaking the staple towers eventually caused them to collapse, but the observations led to a realization that simple entangling of mechanical objects could create structures with capabilities well beyond those of the individual components.

“Dan Goldman’s research is identifying physical principles that may prove essential for engineering emergent behavior in future robot collectives as well as new understanding of fundamental tradeoffs in system performance, responsiveness, uncertainty, resiliency and adaptivity,” Stanton said.

The researchers used a 3D printer to create battery-powered smarticles, which have motors, simple sensors and limited computing power. The devices can change their location only when they interact with other devices while enclosed by a ring.

“Even though no individual robot could move on its own, the cloud composed of multiple robots could move as it pushed itself apart and shrink as it pulled itself together,” Goldman said. “If you put a ring around the cloud of little robots, they start kicking each other around and the larger ring — what we call a supersmarticle — moves around randomly.”

The researchers noticed that if one small robot stopped moving, perhaps because its battery died, the group of smarticles would begin moving in the direction of that stalled robot. The researchers learned to control the movement by adding photo sensors to the robots that halt the arm flapping when a strong beam of light hits one of them.

Smarticles: Robots built from smaller robots work together

www.youtube.com

“If you angle the flashlight just right, you can highlight the robot you want to be inactive, and that causes the ring to lurch toward or away from it, even though no robots are programmed to move toward the light,” Goldman said. “That allowed steering of the ensemble in a very rudimentary, stochastic way.”

In future work, Goldman envisions more complex interactions that use the simple sensing and movement capabilities of the smarticles. “People have been interested in making a certain kind of swarm robots that are composed of other robots,” he said. “These structures could be reconfigured on demand to meet specific needs by tweaking their geometry.”

Swarming formations of robotic systems could be used to enhance situational awareness and mission-command capabilities for small Army units in difficult-to-maneuver environments like cities, forests, caves or other rugged terrain.

The research project also received funding from National Science Foundation.

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

MIGHTY FIT

This is the difference between running on a treadmill versus outside

Running is, hands down, one of the best aerobic exercises you can perform to burn fat, get in shape, and maintain an overall healthier lifestyle. So it makes sense that, on any given day, countless Americans either walk into the gym and jump on a treadmill or take to the great outdoors and break a sweat on the street — but what difference does it make?

Is it just a matter of personal preference or are those running on treadmills getting a different workout from those getting some fresh air? For all those who’ve wondered what scientists have to say on the matter, we’ve got you covered.


Also Read: This is the 7-minute exercise routine you should do every day

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If Homer can find time to run, so can you.

According to a study performed by Exeter University, running outdoors exerts more energy than doing the same indoors. However, putting a treadmill at just one percent incline makes it is nearly equal to running on uneven city streets.

In terms of speed, researchers have concluded that treadmills actually slow down gym-goers on average. While on the machine, your pace is set to a constant. As it turns out, most runner actually underestimate their speed and set their treadmill to a more relaxed pace. This results in individuals not challenging themselves enough — which makes for fewer calories burned.

By contrast, those who ran outside ran faster and went on for longer. Some theorize that people go further and faster when outdoors because of the relative difficultly in measuring time, speed, and distance. Sure, you can track your progress while on the street, but watching the seconds tick upward allows you to accurately track (and stop at) the half-hour mark.

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Remember, there is no fatigue.

When outdoors, instead of constantly watching the clock, we let our minds wander. Instead, we spend our attention on examining the sidewalk for cracks, people watching, and admiring the outdoors. This outside focus puts fatigue to the wayside, allowing us to push ourselves further.

Mind over matter.

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Based on these studies, it seems pretty obvious that running outside provides the most benefit, health-wise — but it doesn’t come without some minor risks. On a scenic jog, you’re more likely to encounter uneven or unstable surfaces, which means you’re more likely to fall and, potentially, injure yourself. Additionally, you’re exposed to the elements when you run outside — which could contribute to overheating on a sunny day.

Wherever you decide to get your aerobic exercise, just remember it’s important to change up how long, how far, and how hard you run throughout the week — keep your body guessing.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The unique way the Navy performs burials on submarines

The Navy is a tradition-bound military service, and few traditions are as important as burials at sea.


Perhaps the most unique services in the fleet occur on board submarines that spend the majority of their time under water. Submarine Force Atlantic says it is preparing for burials at sea on several Norfolk-based subs in the next few months.

One of those burials will be for World War II submarine veteran Marcus White, who served on seven war patrols in the Pacific theater during World War II and the Korean War, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with the “V” device for valor, signifying it was earned in combat.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane/USN

White died in June at age 95. The USS Newport News, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, will commit him and his wife Mary Miles White, who died seven years earlier, to the sea sometime next year. White’s son, Marcus White Jr., lives in Chesapeake and said his father loved being a submariner, and that he’s fulfilling his father’s wishes. The Navy allows active-duty sailors, veterans and their family members to be buried at sea.

The chaplain for the Navy’s Norfolk-based submarine squadron, Lt. Cmdr. Richard Smothers, spoke with The Virginian-Pilot about what makes burial ceremonies on board subs unique and special for those who choose them.

Releasing of cremains

Unlike larger ships such as aircraft carriers that can accommodate caskets, all submarine burials at sea involve cremains. They also must occur at least 3 miles from shore.

Smothers said burials at sea aboard a sub primarily occur in two ways. If the weather is fair, a sub will surface, stop moving and conduct a ceremony topside that involves raising a flag the family can keep, reading any scriptures the family requests and firing a 21-gun salute with seven rifles. A member of the crew will then pour the ashes overboard. Chaplains don’t serve on board subs, and the service is usually led by a lay leader on the boat.

Smothers said the sub’s commanding officer will usually address the crew from an onboard communications system so everyone can learn about the person who was committed to the deep. If the weather isn’t good enough to allow for a full topside ceremony, the cremains can be poured overboard in a smaller ceremony from a ship’s sail, the tall structure found on the topside of the sub.

The other option involves releasing ashes underwater through a torpedo tube while the sub is still moving. Smothers said this is a popular option among those who served as torpedomen.

“I know it sounds amazing or strange, but it does happen, and it can be done very honorably, very respectfully,” he said.

Smothers said the crew will clean the torpedo tube’s surface and place the cremains inside. After the burial, the family will usually receive a letter of condolence and appreciation from the sub’s commanding officer and a chart showing the GPS coordinates where the cremains were released.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’
A Virginia-class attack submarine launches a torpedo. Graphic: Department of Defense Ron Stern

Custody of the fallen

The Navy accommodates requests for burials at sea when it can, but it’s not always a speedy process. A ship’s operational schedule takes priority, and it can be months between the time a request is made and the time the burial occurs. In White’s case, that also allowed for a traditional memorial service long before his cremains were set to sail from Norfolk.

For a burial at sea on board a Norfolk-based sub, Smothers said a family will first provide their loved one’s cremains to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. A religious program specialist in the submarine force will then take custody of the cremains and examine sub schedules to find the best fit.

If former submariners spent most of their time in a certain home port such as Groton, Conn., or Kings Bay, Ga., they’ll try to find a sub based there. Otherwise, they’ll find the best available schedule. Sometimes family members will be allowed onto Naval Station Norfolk or another base to watch the sub carrying their loved one’s remains depart, which is a rare occurrence for an outsider to know when a sub is departing.

Also Read: The fascinating story behind the military’s use of the 21-gun salute

Smothers said a religious program specialist will go aboard the sub with the cremains and transfer it to either the executive officer or chief of the boat, where they will be safely locked away in a state room until the burial. Smothers said the Norfolk squadron typically performs about a dozen burials at sea a year.

Crew connection

The submarine force is a small, tight-knit, all-volunteer community that places a premium on valuing tradition and respecting their forerunners. In some cases, subs will perform a burial at sea where a sub sank so a former submariner can be committed to the deep with some of his former crew members or the sub where he served.

Smothers also said it’s not uncommon for family members to request that someone who holds the same job their loved one did participate in the ceremony.

“I think burials at sea, that’s one of the ways we not only just honor those families and their service, but we reactivate our commitment and our appreciation for serving,” Smothers said. “It’s a real privilege to be a part of. … Every sub that’s ever been part of a burial at sea has thanked us and said, ‘Hey, we appreciate being able to do this.’ It’s an honor.”

Articles

Watch what happens when an anti-tank rifle destroys armor plates

The anti-tank rifle is largely absent from modern combat because today’s tanks have advanced armor that can shrug off many tank rounds, let alone rifle rounds. But that wasn’t always the case.


Anti-tank rifles wreaked havoc on World War I tanks, and most World War II tanks had at least a few weak spots where a good anti-tank rifle could end the fight.

YouTube channel FullMag decided to see what one of these awesome weapons would do to a series of 1/4-inch thick steel plates — and the result is pretty great.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’
GIF: YouTube/FullMag

The shooter was using a 20mm anti-tank rifle with its original tungsten ammo. One of the best things about the video is that you can see what made an anti-tank rifle so dangerous for the crew.

When the 20mm round punches past the first few plates, it doesn’t just pass harmlessly through. Instead, shards of metal split off and turn white-hot thanks to the kinetic energy in the round changing to heat.

For the crew inside the tank, the white-hot slivers of metal and larger chunks of steel would be lethal, potentially getting rid of the crew even if none of them were hit by the round itself.

These awesome weapons saved the day for the Allies in a few battles, including Pavlov’s House in the Battle of Stalingrad, where a platoon of Soviet troops held off a Nazi siege for approximately two months thanks to their skillful use of an anti-tank rifle.

See FullMag’s entire video in the embed below. You can skip to 4:15 to just watch the shot and the effect on the steel plates:

MIGHTY CULTURE

Rudy Reyes’ new mission might be his coolest yet — which is saying something

If anyone can save the planet, it’s Rudy Reyes, a specops veteran who is changing the definition of what it means to be a warrior.

Reyes served with the Marine Corps 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in both Iraq and Afghanistan before engaging in a counter-terror contract for the Department of Defense, training African wildlife preserver rangers in anti-poaching missions, and writing the book Hero Living, which chronicles his warrior philosophy and teaches others how to follow it.

Now, as the co-founder of FORCE BLUE, Reyes and his team unite the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of marine conservation for the betterment of both.

And they’ve just completed a very critical mission: the study of juvenile green sea turtles in the Florida Keys.

It might not seem like a big deal — but it is.

According to the trailer for their new documentary Resilience, “The sea turtle tells us the health of the ocean and the ocean tells us the health of the planet.”

Check out the rest of the trailer right here:


[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B1JZ1jNgtPu/ expand=1]FORCE BLUE on Instagram: “PLEASE REMEMBER to join us tomorrow night (Thursday) at 8:00 p.m. EST on Facebook for the world premiere of our short film RESILIENCE. And…”

www.instagram.com

Watch the trailer:

On Aug. 15, at 8:00pm EDT, FORCE BLUE will premiere Resilience, the story of their recent mission. During the study period in June, FORCE BLUE veterans helped collect samples from 26 green turtles in the lower Florida Keys in order to improve green turtle conservation and recovery efforts.

“These sea turtles are the oldest living creatures on the planet, yet —through no fault of their own — they’re locked in a battle just to survive. We owe them our support. The same can be said, I think, for our FORCE BLUE veterans and the warrior community they represent,” said Jim Ritterhoff, Executive Director and Co-Founder of FORCE BLUE.

Also read: You don’t know the real Rudy Reyes

That’s the genius of FORCE BLUE, a non-profit that seeks to address two seemingly unrelated problems — the rapid declining health of our planet’s marine resources and the difficultly combat veterans have in adjusting to civilian life. Consisting of a community of veterans, volunteers, and marine scientists, the organization offers veterans the power to restore lives — and the planet.

“We were all in the hunter warrior mindset yet we were hunting to protect and to study and to treat,” said Reyes. It’s not exactly what one might expect from a community known for watering the grass with “blood blood blood.”

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

“It almost feels like the turtles know they are going through a crisis too, just like us. And now we have a chance to do something for them. That means everything,” shares Reyes.

Reyes is a man who has emerged from the battlefield with the desire to improve the world. The first time I met him, I said I’d heard a rumor that he could kill me with his little finger. He immediately and passionately corrected me: “I could SAVE you with my little finger!”

That told me everything I needed to know about him — because both statements are true, but what Reyes chooses to do with his power is what makes him a leader within the military community and a force for good in this world.

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’

Check out Resilience on Facebook, premiering Aug. 15 at 8:00pm EDT and be sure to follow FORCE BLUE’s efforts and deployments on social media.

Anyone who wants to get involved can spread the word, check out cool gear straight from the FORCE BLUE Special Operations dive locker, or sponsor veteran training recruitment.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Learn about the French Foreign Legion from an American enlistee

How many military branches make you surrender your passport, catalog everything you brought to the recruitment center and give you a new identity, all before you sign your enlistment contract?

That’s the French Foreign Legion and that’s exactly how it works… at least according to a Reddit user with the handle FFLGuy, who did an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit in 2011. On other responses on Reddit he mentions serving as “a former légionnaire in the Légion étrangère,” as the French saying goes.


For anyone unaware, the French Foreign Legion is a highly-trained, highly capable fighting force fighting for France – but is open to anyone from any nation. What makes serving in the unit unique is that after three years, members can apply for French citizenship. They are also immediately eligible for citizenship if wounded in combat, a provision known as “Français par le sang versé” – or “French by spilled blood.”

Also unique to the Legion is being able to serve under an assumed identity and then retain that identity after serving. While the Legion used to force everyone to use a pseudonym, these days, enlistees have a choice of identities, real or assumed.

For the first week of your enlistment, you sign contracts and wait to find out if Interpol has any outstanding warrants for you. Once selected, you go right to training in Aubagne, in the Cote-d’Azur region of Southern France. You are stripped of everything, as the Legion now provides you with everything you need.

You are now wearing a blue Legion track suit and are working all day long. Cleaning, painting and cooking are the primary preoccupations, but members are taken away for physical and psychological testing. Also, the hazing begins. While that may not fly in America, this is the Legion, and there’s a 80 percent attrition rate. When would-be Legionnaires give up, it’s called “going civil.”

After two weeks of this “rouge” (red) period, you’re whisked away by train to Castelnaudary, where trainees spend the bulk of their basic training time. In total, the training is four months. Three of it will be spent here. It is from here you transition from engagé volontaire (voluntary enlistee), to actual légionnaire. The groups are split up into four groups of 25-45 would-be légionnaires.

Castelnaudary is where the foreign légionnaires learn French, work out, train, ruck, learn to use weapons and basically all the rudimentary things infantrymen do while in the infantry.Once at Castelnaudary, getting out of the Legion is very difficult. They will find a way to make you stay, the author writes: “Trust me when I tell you that it isn’t a wise choice.”

“Hazing at this point is constant,” the author wrote. “There will be many nights without sleep, and many meals missed. You are never alone and are constantly watched for even the tiniest mistakes. The consequences for mistakes are severe and painful; physically, psychologically or both. The environment is initially set up to ensure failure. You are broken down individually – both mentally and physically – slowly being built back up with larger and larger successes as a group.”

Hazing includes food and sleep deprivation, physical abuse and the like. As the author writes, “If you made it through Castelnaudary without being hit at least once, you weren’t there. “

Ten percent of the group who make it to Castelnaudary will go civil before they earn the coveted Kepi Blanc. It’s when your ceremony for earning the Kepi Blanc is when you officially are a Légionnaire. But the training is not complete. For three more months, you go through basic infantry training.

Those that quit or are not chosen to continue their training are given back their possessions, passports, a small amount of money for every day spent working, and a train ticket to the city in which they entered the Legion. They also have to resume their old identity.

With their old identity in hand, they must return to their country of origin.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

10 weapons the Army may want for soldiers in the future

U.S. Army weapons officials plan to purchase subcompact weapons from 10 different gun makers for testing in an effort to better arm personal security detail units.

U.S. Army Contracting Command, on behalf of Project Manager Soldier Weapons, recently announced it will spend $428,480 to award sole-source contracts to Beretta USA, Colt Manufacturing Company, CMMG Inc., CZ-USA, Sig Sauer and five other small-arms makers for highly concealable subcompact weapon systems “capable of engaging threat personnel with a high volume of lethal and accurate fires at close range with minimal collateral damage,” according to a June 6, 2018 special award notice.


“Currently, Personal Security Detail (PSD) military personnel utilize pistols and rifles; however, there is an operational need for additional concealability and lethality,” the notice states. “Failure to provide the selected SCW for assessment and evaluation will leave PSD military personnel with a capability gap which can result in increased warfighter casualties and jeopardize the success of the U.S. mission.”

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’
Zenith Firearms’ Z-5K subcompact weapon

Companies selected have until June 16, 2018, to respond to the notice. The weapons will be used in an evaluation to “inform current capabilities for the Capability Production Document for the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence,” the notice states.

“The acquisition of the SCW is essential in meeting the agency’s requirement to support Product Manager, Individual Weapons mission to assess commercially available off-the-shelf (COTS) SCWs in order to fill a capability gap in lethality and concealability.”

These were the WWI ‘Harlem Hell Fighters’
Beretta USA Corporation’s PMX Subcompact weapon.

Here is a list of sole-source contracts for the subcompact weapons:

  • Beretta USA Corporation for PMX subcompact weapon. Amount: $16,000.
  • Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC for CM9MM-9H-M5A, Colt Modular 9mm subcompact weapon. Amount: $22,000.
  • CMMG Inc. for Ultra PDW subcompact weapon. Amount: $8,500.
  • CZ-USA for Scorpion EVO 3 A1 submachine gun. Amount: $14,490.
  • Lewis Machine & Tool Company for MARS-L9 compact suppressed weapon. Amount: $21,900.
  • PTR Industries Inc. for PTR 9CS subcompact weapon. Amount: $12,060.
  • Quarter Circle 10 LLC 5.5 CLT and 5.5 QV5 subcompact weapons. Amount: $24,070.
  • Sig Sauer Inc. for MPX subcompact weapon. Amount: $20,160.
  • Trident Rifles LLC for B&T MP9 machine gun. Amount: $36,000.
  • Zenith Firearms for Z-5RS, Z-5P and Z-5K subcompact weapons. Amount: $39,060.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

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