The HMS Conquerer is the only nuclear-powered submarine to engage an enemy with torpedoes. In a sea engagement during the Falklands War in the 1980s, two of the three shots fired at an Argentine cruiser hit home. Her hull pierces, the General Belgrano began listing and her captain called for the crew to abandon ship within 20 minutes.
In line with Royal Navy tradition, the Conquerer flew a Jolly Roger – a pirate flag – to note her victory at sea.
Submarines were considered “underhand, unfair and damned un-English,” by Sir Arthur Wilson, who was First Sea Lord when subs were introduced to the Royal Navy. Hs even threatened to hang all sub crews as pirates during wartime.
The insult stuck. When the HMS E9 sunk a German cruiser during WWI — the Royal Navy’s first submarine victory — its commander had a Jolly Roger made and it flew from the periscope as the sub sailed back to port.
The pirate flag soon became the official emblem of Britain’s silent service.
The British submarine HMS Utmost showing off their Jolly Roger in February 1942. The markings on the flag indicate the boat’s achievements: nine ships torpedoed (including one warship), eight ‘cloak and dagger’ operations, one target destroyed by gunfire, and one at-sea rescue. (Imperial War Museum)
The 1982 sinking of the Argentine General Belgrano was only the second instance of a submarine sinking a surface ship since the end of World War II.
Argentinian sailors reported a “fireball” shooting up through the ship, which means it was not cleared for action. If the crew was ready for a fight, ideally, the ship’s doors and hatches would have been sealed to keep out fire and water, author Larry Bond wrote in his book “Crash Dive,” which covers the incident.
The Royal Navy’s Cmdr. Chris Wreford-Brown, the captain of the Conqueror, later said of the sinking:
“The Royal Navy spent 13 years preparing me for such an occasion. It would have been regarded as extremely dreary if I had fouled it up.”
Ships from Argentina and neighboring Chile rescued 772 men over the next two days. The attack killed 321 sailors and two civilians.
The Argentine Navy returned to port and was largely out of the rest of the war.
In World War II, the battleship Yamato dwarfed nearly all others, and many Japanese ships were larger than their American counterparts. But how was Japan, a relatively small country with limited natural resources, able to construct larger ships than America?
First, Japan started early with the knowledge that it wanted a naval force capable of widespread offensive warfare. But it also benefitted from specializing. Since the Imperial Navy wanted to dominate the Pacific, they didn’t need to make their ships capable of transiting the Panama Canal like America did.
Of course, making the world’s greatest battleships came with plenty of engineering challenges.
The designers of the Yamato had to figure out how to keep a floating platform steady when it fired 18-inch guns, each of which fired a shell roughly the same weight as a car. How can such a large ship be made to sail smoothly through the water quickly?
In this video from PBS, interviewers speak with historians and experts, including a Japanese engineer who served during World War II. Watch it below to see how Japanese designers ensured the ship would be battle ready:
In the end, the Yamato was never able to live up to its glorious design. It took some small part in battles in the Pacific but frequently found itself in the wrong spot on the battlefield to bring its weapons to bear.
One of its few claims to fame was inflicting damage on a small number of U.S. ships in the Battle off Samar.
In April 1945, the Japanese Navy decided to beach the Yamato on Okinawa and use it as a fortress and gun platform for as long as possible before U.S. ships and planes destroyed it.
The Navy’s Director of Undersea Warfare told Congress that a new nuclear-armed, submarine-launched cruise missile would be fired from Virginia-class attack submarines, marking a shift for the historically conventionally-armed attack submarines into a nuclear deterrence role.
“While Virginia-class submarines can use conventional deterrence to keep adversaries in check, a sub-launched cruise missile with a nuclear warhead would be incorporated into Virginias and give national command authority additional escalation control,” Rear Adm. John Tammen, Director, Undersea Warfare Division, told lawmakers.
The emerging weapon, called for in the current administration’s recent Nuclear Posture Review, is intended to bring new elements to the Pentagon’s current nuclear weapons deterrence posture. With the current status quo, only larger ballistic missile submarines, such as the Ohio class and emerging Columbia-class, are equipped to fire nuclear weapons, such as the Trident II D5.
Virginia-class attack submarines are currently armed with Tomahawk missiles and torpedoes; adding a nuclear weapons capability would expand its mission set and give combatant commanders new options, Tammen added.
“Because of its stealth, the submarine provides unique intelligence and warning as well as ISR type data. Without this, the crew is less informed moving forward which provides additional strategic risk,” he said.
Small, agile high-tech attack submarines are able to approach high threat areas due to onboard sonar and other quieting technologies. These undersea platforms are, in many cases, able to access high-risk areas and coastal regions not typically reachable by surface ships. This enables Navy forces to assess enemy defenses, conduct reconnaissance, and even launch attacks while less detectable to enemy forces.
Given this scenario, bringing a nuclear deterrence option to these submarines could enable commanders to hold more areas at risk of nuclear strike from closer-in proximity, thereby strengthening the threat posture.
These advantages are enhanced by recent undersea technical innovations, which have been underway and tested as prototypes for many years. Some of them are now operational on the USS South Dakota, a new fast-attack submarine which entered service last year. Senior Navy technology developers have, in a general way, told Warrior Maven that the advances in undersea technologies built, integrated, tested, and now operational on the South Dakota include quieting technologies for the engine room, a new large vertical array, and additional “quieting” coating materials for the hull.
The USS South Dakota was christened by the Navy Fall 2017 at a General Dynamics Electric Boat facility in Groton, Ct.
In recent years, the Navy has been making progress developing new acoustics, sensors, and quieting technologies to ensure the U.S. retains its technological edge in the undersea domain – as countries like China and Russia continue rapid military modernization and construction of new submarines.
The impetus for the Navy’s “acoustic superiority,” is specifically grounded in the emerging reality that the U.S. undersea margin of technological superiority is rapidly diminishing in light of Russian and Chinse advances.
Described as a technology insertion, the improvements on the USS South Dakota will eventually be integrated on board both Virginia-Class submarines and the now-in-development next-generation nuclear-armed boats called the Columbia-class.
Tammen also addressed the Nuclear Posture Reviews call for a low-yield, nuclear-armed, submarine-launched ballistic missile, which he said would integrate into larger Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.
Citing concerns related to the current fast-changing global threat environment, Pentagon leaders and many lawmakers see a need for these additions to the US nuclear arsenal.
A nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile and the modification of a small number of existing submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads to provide a low-yield option – will enhance deterrence by ensuring no adversary under any circumstances can perceive an advantage through limited nuclear escalation or other strategic attack,” Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters during a recent Pentagon briefing.
“The use of WMD is, unfortunately, becoming more and more common-place. Low barriers, and in some cases, no barriers to entry, should force us to continually review and evaluate our programs, policies, and activities designed to counter and mitigate these threats across the WMD spectrum,” Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Chairwoman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, said in her opening statement at a recent hearing.
Undersea strategic deterrence: new nuclear weapons to keep the peace
Defense Secretary James Mattis and other senior leaders seem aware that elements of the NPRs strategic approach may reflect a particular irony or paradox; in response to questions from lawmakers about whether adding new low-yield nuclear weapons could “lower the threshold” to nuclear war and therefore introduce new elements of danger, Mattis told Congress that increasing offensive nuclear-weapons attack capability will have the opposite effect, meaning the added weapons would improve deterrence and therefore enhance prospects for peace.
Specifically, Mattis explained that a new, low-yield Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile could likely provide pressure on Russia to a point where they might be more inclined to negotiate about adhering to the INF treaty they have violated.
“We have an ongoing Russian violation of the INF. We want our negotiators to have something to negotiate with because we want Russia back in compliance,” Mattis told lawmakers.
Citing the rapid technological progress of adversary air-defense systems, Mattis further elaborated that a sea-launched cruise missile option might be necessary to hold potential enemies at risk in the event that air-dropped low-yield weapons were challenged to operate above necessary targets.
“To drop a gravity bomb that is low-yield means a bomber would have to penetrate air defenses. Air defenses are very different than they were 20 years ago,” Mattis told Congress.
Senior Pentagon leaders stress that neither of these new nuclear weapons recommendations in the NPR require developing new nuclear warheads or will result in increasing the size of the nuclear stockpile. NPR DoD advocates further stress that the addition of these weapons does align with US non-proliferation commitments.
A Navy chaplain who comforted sailors whose ship was torpedoed in 1945, leaving them stranded in shark-infested waters, has been posthumously awarded his service’s second-highest award for heroism.
Lt. Thomas M. Conway, a Catholic priest who died on Aug. 2, 1945, three days after a Japanese sub took out the heavy-cruiser Indianapolis, was recognized for his bravery during a Navy Cross ceremony Jan. 8 in his Connecticut hometown. Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite apologized that it took more than 75 years since World War II ended to honor the fallen chaplain.
“My mother taught me that it’s never too late to say you’re sorry,” Braithwaite said. “Today, the Navy is sorry for not recognizing Chaplain Conway’s heroism, dedication and courage sooner.”
The Indianapolis was heading to the Philippine island of Leyte from Guam when it sank in the early hours of July 30, 1945. More than 800 crew members were forced into the ocean, some of whom were badly injured.Advertisement
They were left in the water for three days, where they faced dehydration and shark attacks. They were spotted by a Navy aircraft on Aug. 2. Only 316 survived.
Conway is credited with repeatedly swimming through the shark-infested waters to console clusters of sailors, according to the Navy. He encouraged them, prayed for them, and administered sacraments.
“After three days of tireless exertion to aid his shipmates, Conway finally succumbed to exhaustion and died,” a Navy news release about his posthumous award states. “His efforts were credited as a major reason 67 of his shipmates in his group were ultimately rescued.”
The chaplain stood by his men when they needed spiritual guidance most, Braithwaite said, as he presented the award to retired Navy Capt. John Bevins, a former pastor, during the private ceremony.
Conway, who grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut, before attending Niagara University in New York, joined the Navy in September 1942. He served at several East Coast naval stations before transferring to the Pacific Fleet, where he was assigned to the repair ship Medusa before joining the Indianapolis in 1944.
Braithwaite called Conway a beacon of putting service above self for all serving in the Navy and Marine Corps.
“His actions will inspire others who at dark and challenging moments in their lives must follow their heart to do their duty. For me personally, this has never been more relevant than during the very events of this week,” Braithwaite said last week, referencing the violent Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol.
“When you are entrusted to serve the men and women of the Navy and Marine Corps, you must always choose as Father Conway did, to do what you must do — your duty — rather than what you could do for yourself.”
He’s a war strategist and a business owner, a bestselling author and an expert on mercenaries and robots. And for much of the past week, he was a major defense-conference headliner invited to share ideas with the region’s top brass as well as grunts on the ground.
New America Foundation senior fellow Peter “PW” Singer is probably best known as the co-author of “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War,” a 2015 thriller that mixes fact and future to describe how the United States, Russia, and China might battle on the ground, at sea, in the air, and throughout cyberspace.
But he’s also an international thought leader sought out for his views on espionage, technology, and politics.
In his keynote speech at the AFCEA C4ISR Symposium in San Diego, Singer shared his thoughts on “Visualizing the Future of War Through Fiction.”
But it was his time away from the conference that telegraphed his importance to the military — five briefings at local Marine and Navy facilities, including a pow wow with Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and hours observing war games off of Camp Pendleton’s Red Beach.
Based in Washington, D.C., Singer, 42, was hosted throughout the week by consulting giant Deloitte.
“It’s been exciting to see the impact the book has had,” Singer said during an interview. “It’s doubly amazing to me because I’ve written nonfiction books that have had a pretty good range of readership in the military, but nothing that compares to this. And I think it shows the evidence of what storytelling can do by dropping people into a world, into future scenarios, where they see themselves.”
It’s not the first piece of fiction to find relevance in the military.
The Martians in H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” unleashed the Heat-Ray on humanity, what today would resemble the lasers or directed energy weapons joining America’s military tool kit. Wells also predicted atom bombs and nuclear proliferation, the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, and a form of communication akin to email.
In 1992, Air Force officer Charles Dunlap Jr.’s provocative essay “The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012,” told in the form of a letter from Prisoner 222305759, triggered debate throughout the services about the importance of preserving traditional military-civilian relations and protecting the Constitution.
The commandant’s reading list for enlisted and officer Marines includes a dozen works of fiction, including Jim Webb’s Vietnam War classic “Fields of Fire” and Phil Klay’s”Redeployment,” poignant writing about Iraq. A pair of Singer’s books share space on the commandant’s shelf: “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution” and “Ghost Fleet,” which was co-authored by August Cole.
“Ghost Fleet” doesn’t mirror other novels on the list.
Its mix of cutting-edge technology and fast-paced plot was inspired by Tom Clancy’s “Red Storm Rising.” Clancy’s novel so excited strategists and policymakers in 1986 that many feared he had divulged too many secrets about America’s revolutionary weapon systems and how they might be employed in battle.
Clancy’s fiction franchise inspired video games. Singer also has worked as a consultant on the popular “Call of Duty” series.
“Tom Clancy was a big influence on us, but the obvious difference is that in the Clancy books the technology always works perfectly,” Singer said.
“In the real world, it doesn’t. And in a lot of the science fiction I love as well, like (William) Gibson’s ‘Blade Runner,’ it doesn’t either. And that’s both because technology never works perfectly in the real world and also because there’s this thing called ‘people.’ People are working against the technology.”
“I think what we’ve done in large part expresses what people in the Navy are actually saying. And that comes from the fact that the interviews for the book were with Navy ship captains, you know? Enlisted sailors. A Marine fighter pilot. Special operations. Whatever. So when someone in the book says, ‘The Littoral Combat Ship? More like ‘Little Crappy Ship,’ that’s not us making it up. That’s someone in the Navy, in the real world, who said that.”
Phil Carter, an Army combat veteran of Iraq who now directs the Military, Veterans, and Society Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C., said Singer is an essential thinker because of his unique ability to comprehend the spirit of a new age of war, where battles take place on the Internet and in dusty villages. He described the novel as catnip to commanders.
“Science fiction really has a hold on military officers in particular,” Carter said. “And Peter Singer taps into that. His nonfiction and his fiction are like a smarter, hipper version of Tom Clancy, and that really appeals to guys like me who grew up reading Tom Clancy and are now in the military living it.”
Critics grouse that “Ghost Fleet” suffers from some of the same literary problems that plagued Clancy — thin characters, wooden dialogue, and a story that turns on an unlikely event, with the authors too often sacrificing cogent analysis for a quick turn of the page.
“Peter does a great job bringing attention to very complicated issues such as the future of war, but ‘Ghost Fleet’ should be used as a point of departure on the subjects and not the last word. It helps to stimulate a more robust debate inside the services and among policymakers,” said Erin Simpson, a top national security consultant who co-hosts “Bombshell,” a hit podcast that also has excited the Beltway’s defense community.
And then there’s China. A recent review in the People’s Liberation Army’s Daily newspaper complained that Singer and Cole were trying to paint Beijing as an enemy.
“But our agenda isn’t to say that there will be such a war,” Singer said. “If there’s a political lesson from it, for geopolitics, it’s the idea that the kind of conflict (of) states fighting states was thinkable for much of the 20th century. The two world wars that happened versus the third World War, the fear of it throughout the Cold War.
“But then for the last generation, it’s been unthinkable. And now it’s thinkable once more.”
Lebanon’s US-backed military is gearing up for a long-awaited assault to dislodge hundreds of Islamic State militants from a remote corner near Syrian border, seeking to end a years-long threat posed to neighboring towns and villages by the extremists.
The campaign will involve cooperation with the militant group Hezbollah and the Syrian army on the other side of the border — although Lebanese authorities insist they are not coordinating with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
But the assault could prove costly for the under-equipped military and risk activating IS sleeper cells in the country.
The tiny Mediterranean nation has been spared the wars and chaos that engulfed several countries in the region since the so-called Arab Spring uprisings erupted in 2011. But it has not been able to evade threats to its security, including sectarian infighting and random car bombings, particularly in 2014, when militants linked to al-Qaeda and IS overran the border region, kidnapping Lebanese soldiers.
The years-long presence of extremists in the border area has brought suffering to neighboring towns and villages, from shelling, to kidnappings of villagers for ransom. Car bombs made in the area and sent to other parts of the country, including the Lebanese capital, Beirut, have killed scores of citizens.
Aided directly by the United States and Britain, the army has accumulated steady successes against the militants in the past year, slowly clawing back territory, including strategic hills retaken in the past week. Authorities say it’s time for an all-out assault.
The planned operation follows a six-day military offensive by the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah that forced al-Qaeda-linked fighters to flee the area on the outskirts of the town of Arsal, along with thousands of civilians.
In a clear distribution of roles, the army is now expected to launch the attack on IS. In the past few days, the army’s artillery shells and multiple rocket launchers have been pounding the mountainous areas on the Lebanon-Syria border where IS held positions, in preparation for the offensive. Drones could be heard around the clock and residents of the eastern Bekaa Valley reported seeing army reinforcements arriving daily in the northeastern district of Hermel to join the battle.
The offensive from the Lebanese side of the border will be carried out by the Lebanese army, while Syrian troops and Hezbollah fighters will be working to clear the Syrian side of IS militants. Hezbollah has been fighting alongside Assad’s forces since 2013.
On August 8, the army’s top brass conferred with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and interior and defense ministers at the Presidential Palace to plan operations in the eastern Bekaa Valley.
The committee took the “necessary counsel and decisions to succeed in the military operations to eliminate the terrorists,” Maj. Gen. Saadallah Hamad said after the meeting.
Experts say more than 3,000 troops, including elite special forces, are in the northeastern corner of Lebanon to take part in the offensive. The army will likely use weapons it received from the United States, including Cessna aircraft that discharge Hellfire missiles.
Two AGM-114 Hellfire Missiles. Photo by 玄史生 via Wikimedia Commons.
Keen to support the army rather than the better equipped Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the US and Britain have supplied the military with helicopters, anti-tank missiles, artillery, and radars, as well as training. The American Embassy says the US has provided Lebanon with over $1.4 billion in security assistance since 2005.
But the fight is not expected to be quick or easy.
According to Lebanon’s Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, there are about 400 IS fighters in the Lebanese area, and hundreds more on the Syrian side of the border.
“It is not going to be a picnic,” said Hisham Jaber, a retired army general who heads the Middle East Center for Studies and Political Research in Beirut. “The Lebanese army will try to carry out the mission with the least possible losses.”
Jaber said the battle may last several weeks. “It is a rugged area and the organization (IS) is well armed and experienced.”
There are also concerns the offensive may subject Lebanon to retaliatory attacks by militants, just as the country has started to enjoy a rebound in tourism.
A Lebanese security official said authorities are taking strict security measures to prevent any attack deep inside Lebanon by sleeper cells. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said authorities have detained several IS militants over the past weeks.
Lebanese politicians say IS controls an area of about 296 square kilometers (114 square miles) between the two countries, of which 141 square kilometers (54.5 square miles) are in Lebanon.
The area stretches from the badlands of the Lebanese town of Arsal and Christian villages of Ras Baalbek and Qaa, to the outskirts of Syria’s Qalamoun region and parts of the western Syrian town of Qusair that Hezbollah captured in 2013.
In a televised speech last August 4, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that once the Lebanese army launches its offensive from the Lebanese side, Hezbollah and the Syrian army will begin their attack from the Syrian side. He added that there has to be coordination between the Syrian and Lebanese armies in the battle.
“Opening two fronts at the same time will speed up victory and reduce losses,” Nasrallah said, adding that his fighters on the Lebanese side of the border are at the disposal of Lebanese troops if needed.
“I tell Daesh that the Lebanese and Syrians will attack you from all sides and you will not be able to resist and will be defeated,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the extremist group.
“If you decide to fight, you will end up either a prisoner or dead,” Nasrallah added.
Some Lebanese politicians have been opposed to security coordination with the Syrian army. The Lebanese are sharply divided over Syria’s civil war that has spilled to the tiny country of 4.5 million people. Lebanon is hosting some 1.2 million Syrian refugees.
Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, is opposed to Assad while his national unity Cabinet includes Hezbollah as well as other groups allied with the Syrian president.
Last week, Hariri told reporters that Lebanese authorities are ready to negotiate to discover the fate of nine Lebanese soldiers who were captured during the raid on Arsal by IS and al-Qaeda fighters in August 2014. Unlike their rivals in al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group is not known to negotiate prisoner exchanges.
“The presence of Daesh will end in Lebanon,” Hariri said, using the same Arabic acronym to refer to IS.
It’s one of the most cinematic forms of storytelling in war or action movies. Morale is down and all of the dejected troops look up to their great leader, the protagonist of the film, to deliver some sage words of wisdom and inspire them onto the pathway to glory.
We, the audience, know that the protagonist is more than likely going to win the battle and we can assume that, in real life, there’s no speech powerful enough to miraculously change troops’ minds about wanting to, you know, not die. That being said, whenever we see our sublime hero stand in front of their troops and deliver one hell of a speech, it gets our blood pumping.
And don’t just take our word for it — the films that feature the top four speeches on this list also swept the Oscars when they were released. Critics and moviegoers both love a powerful, pre-battle speech.
Ragnar Lothbrok — ‘Vikings’
There’s a disconnect between Hollywood and actual warfare. Normally, before a gigantic battle or fight, a leader won’t stand in front of their warfighters and give a rousing speech. The fight is just moments away — there’s no time to wax eloquent. In History’s Vikings, they get it right.
This is typically how pre-battle speeches typically go down in real life: “Don’t do anything stupid. Let’s kill the enemy. Here’s a a few tactics we should follow.”
In the brief speech below, delivered during the first episode of the series, we get a good look at how these speeches probably looked during the viking golden age.
Agent Maya — ‘Zero Dark Thirty’
This one also falls under the “how it actually happens” category. The fact is, the closest that pre-battle speeches usually get to the front lines is on base, miles away. The speech outlines mission objectives and is (typically) subject to questions/snarky comments from the people going into the fight.
There is honestly no better example in film history of this actually being done right than in Zero Dark Thirty, moments before SEAL Team Six flies out to finally get Osama Bin Laden. The speech is even complete with a “he’s there… and you’re going to kill him for me.”
President Whitmore — ‘Independence Day’
The world is under attack by hostile aliens and it’s up to the what remains of the military to stop them. Realistically, there’s no chance at survival, but just the right people are listening in to this speech, gaining the strength to fight on.
Not only does the speech unite everyone that’s about to go fight the aliens, but it also calls for human to unite and stand together. And you know, it also includes one of the best title drops in cinematic history.
General Maximus — ‘Gladiator’
Character introductions are one of the hardest parts of a script to write. The audience needs to know, in an instant, who a character was before the movie started, what we need to know about them now, and why they deserve to be the main character. There is perhaps no greater introduction than the one for Roman General Maximus, shown at the height of his power
After making sure that everything is going according to plan, Maximus has a little time to joke with his troops and tells them that he will be going back to his farm. It takes Maximus all of twenty seconds to put instill his men with pride and confidence as the enemy rides ever nearer.
General George S. Patton — ‘Patton’
This speech is far deeper than most people realize today. Yeah, it’s technically being given to the Third Army right before battle, but the film, instead, depicts it as being delivered in a theater.
That’s because the speech isn’t being directed at the troops. It’s directed at the audience, 1970s movie-going America. It’s brilliantly re-purposed and given a new meaning by being presented in a way that highlighted much of the uncertainty and debate surrounding the then-ongoing Vietnam War.
Aragorn — ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’
Everything in the Lord of the Rings leads up to one moment. A gathering all of the living warriors across Middle-Earth is charged with taking down the unstoppable scourge of Sauron’s forces. While the audience knows that Frodo and Sam are alright, Aragorn and his men believe them to be dead. They believe that Frodo has been killed, the ring was not destroyed, and it is instead in the hands of the enemy.
In their eyes, there was no way to win. They were all gathered just to die in front of the Black Gates. But not this day. They may all die, but they’ll make a valorous attempt to survive, spurned on by Aragorn’s courage.
William Wallace — ‘Braveheart’
William Wallace had finally banded the clans of Scotland together to finally make their stand against the English, but when they see the massive army they’re going against, they lose the will to fight. They come to the sudden realization that this “mythical” William Wallace that was supposed to lead them in battle is a mere man and, just as quickly, everyone wants to go home.
This is the perfect example of how the pre-war speech is supposed to go down. It’s up to William Wallace to remind everyone that there is no going back. There is no alternative to fighting, even if it means many of them will die. But if they die, they’ll go knowing they were slain for freedom.
American troops were cleared of wrongdoing in the wake of 33 civilian deaths during a firefight in Kunduz, Afghanistan, which took place Nov. 2-3, 2016.
“The investigation concluded that U.S. forces acted in self-defense, in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict, and in accordance with all applicable regulations and policy,” a release from the headquarters of Operation Resolute Support said.
“The investigation concluded that U.S. air assets used the minimum amount of force required to neutralize the various threats from the civilian buildings and protect friendly forces. The investigation further concluded that no civilians were seen or identified in the course of the battle. The civilians who were wounded or killed were likely inside the buildings from which the Taliban were firing.”
The furious firefight, which, according to a report by Reuters, left five members of a joint U.S.-Afghan force dead and fifteen wounded, also included the destruction of a Taliban ammo cache, which destroyed buildings in the area. At least 26 Taliban, including three leaders of the terrorist group, were killed, with another 26 wounded.
“On this occasion the Taliban chose to hide amongst civilians and then attacked Afghan and U.S. forces. I wish to assure President Ghani and the people of Afghanistan that we will take all possible measures to protect Afghan civilians,” Army General John Nicholson, the commander of Operation Resolute Support, said in a statement.
Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower/Released)
A 2015 operation in Kunduz was marred when an Air Force AC-130 Spectre gunship attacked a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, killing 42 people. A report issued in the aftermath indicated that the unmarked facility had been hit unintentionally. Sixteen personnel, including a two-star general, were disciplined after the attack.
“It has been determined that no further action will be taken because U.S. forces acted in self defense and followed all applicable law and policy,” the statement from Operation Resolute Support said.
Every issued weapon in military history was inspired by asking the same question: “How can we make our boys kill better?” Around the turn of the 20th century, one engineer answered that question with, “hold my beer” before rolling up their sleeves going on to invent the Mark 1 trench knife.
Knives, in one form or another, have been used in combat for as long as people have been sharpening things and, pretty soon after that, people have put metal guards on their blades to prevent their hands from getting sliced up while stabbing.
But it was during World War I when the fine folks at Henry Disston & Sons took a pair of brass knuckles and added a knife and a spiked pommel to it because… f*ck it. Why not?
Raids, and knives, were only really employed during the night.
(Signal Corps Archives)
Fighting in the trenches of WWI was brutal. During the day, opposing fortifications hurled shots at one another and No Man’s Land, the space between opposing trenches, was a hellscape under constant barrage by artillery fire. So, any kind of advance was likely done under cover of night.
Once raiders made it into the enemy line, they would need to keep quiet for as long as possible as to not give away their position, alerting more than just an enemy sentry. They needed something both quiet and lethal to get the job done. Bayonets were plenty, but the trenches were way too narrow to properly utilize what is, essentially, a long spear. This is where detachable bayonet knives came into play.
Troops kept their knife (on the left) on them and used it for pretty much anything, like digging out mines, or cutting cheesecake, or stabbing people in the throat.
By the time the Americans arrived in WWI, the American Expeditionary Forces decided to adapt the M1917 trench knife. It wouldn’t have the signature knuckleduster just yet, but it did sport spikes where they’d eventually go. The knife also had the infamous triangular tip that was hell for a medic to suture (and would probably be illegal today under the Geneva Convention’s rule against “unnecessary suffering”).
The blade was extremely flimsy and it was meant exclusively for stabbing. This was (mostly) improved with the introduction of the M1918 trench knife that everyone knows and loves today. This new version sported proper brass knuckles and a dual-sided blade. Unlike the earlier knife, the M1918 could be used for both slashing and thrusting. This knife was upgraded once again, using a more durable steel that was less likely to snap the first time it struck a German, and it was dubbed the the Mark I Trench Knife.
A man can dream…
(United States Army)
The spikes weren’t just for punching people, despite what you’ve seen in movies. They were designed more to prevent anyone from simply taking the knife out of your hand.
Finally, there’s the never-manufactured, but still-patented trench knife called the Hughes Trench Knife. Take all of the lethal features of previous designs and then turn it into a spring-loaded switchblade. You can see why it never made it past the design phase.
Trench knives lived on through WWII, were issued sparingly in the Korean War, and again in the tunnels of Vietnam — today, they’re are only sought after by collectors.
Florida Congresswoman Rep. Frederica Wilson claimed she was with the wife of a fallen Special Forces soldier when the woman received a phone call from President Donald Trump. Wilson claims the president had some insensitive words for the grieving young woman.
“He said to the wife, ‘Well, I guess he knew what he was getting into,’ ” said Wilson. “How insensitive can you be?”
The call was to Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow Myeshia after her husband was killed in an ambush in Niger with three other soldiers on Oct. 4. The couple had two children and were expecting a third.
President Trump denied the accusation via Twitter, while the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders described the call as “respectful” and “sympathetic” but asserted that no recordings of the calls exist.
Johnson’s mother, who was also listening to the call, then stepped into the media spotlight by affirming Wilson’s story.
The White House has since criticized the Florida Congresswoman for politicizing the practice of calling Gold Star Families on the event that their loved one was killed in action. But President Trump opened himself to criticism on this issue as well, by falsely claiming that his predecessors never did anything like it
Enter former Marine Gen. John Kelly, now the White House Chief of Staff.
On Oct. 19, Kelly himself took the podium during the White House Press Briefing to explain to reporters what happens when American troop are killed in action, how the remains are transported, how the family is notified, and who sends their condolences.
Kelly set the record straight with how Presidents send their condolences and how it should be done. He confirmed that President Obama did not call his family – not as a criticism, just a fact. And Kelly advised Trump against calling too.
“I recommended that he not do it,” Kelly said. “It is just not the phone call they’re looking forward to. … It’s not a negative thing.”
When Trump decided to call he asked Kelly how to make the call and what to say. He told the president there’s no way he would ever understand how to make that call.
“If you’re not in the family, if you’ve never worn the uniform, if you’ve never been in combat, you can’t even imagine how to make that call,” Kelly said.
As he continued, Kelly emotionally recalled what Gen. Joseph Dunford, the casualty officer assigned to the Kelly family, told him when Kelly’s son was killed in action.
“He [Kelly’s son] knew what he was getting into… he knew what the possibilities were, because we’re at war,” Kelly recalled. “When he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That’s what the president tried to say to four families the other day.”
Kelly then lashed out at Rep. Wilson for tarnishing what he believed was one more formerly sacred institution in America. He said he had to go walk among “the finest men and women on this earth. … You can always find them because they’re in Arlington National Cemetery.”
A former Army officer has been running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain since 2007 — all while filming a documentary on the event which was released last month.
Each year in July, Pamplona hosts a fiesta that brings together approximately one million people for a massive party, but most people know the city for just one reason: the crazy event that sees people running as bulls chase them from behind.
Dennis Clancey, a West Point-educated Army officer who served in the Iraq War, wanted to document the run, while trying to understand why some people risk their lives in this way each year.
“This is beyond me just asking them what it is like to run,” Clancey told The Chicago Sun-Times. “The film is an accurate stamp of what it means to be a runner. The experienced runners are running out of a sense of obligation. They run in part to protect other runners. If someone falls, you do what you can to distract the bulls and protect your fellow runners.”
Clancey self-funded his documentary — called “Chasing Red” — from 2007 to 2011, until he met a fellow filmmaker who helped him put together a trailer for the project. The trailer helped generate interest in the project, and led to a successful backing on Kickstarter that helped raise nearly $23,000.
“It’s a character-driven documentary following eight runners,” Clancey told Outside Magazine. “They each have their own goals and aspirations and we follow them in their pursuits of those dreams.”
President Donald Trump has stated several times his desire to acquire Greenland, according to The Wall Street Journal. In addition to its beauty and natural resources, Greenland is located between the US and Russia, making it strategically important in a Cold War-like conflict between the two.
Greenland is an autonomous Danish territory, with its own government that handles domestic issues. On Aug. 16, 2019, Greenland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs tweeted, “We’re open for business, not for sale.”
The US has operated Thule Air Base in Greenland’s high Arctic since the 1950s. While the mission of the base has changed over time, the base is now charged with warning North America about incoming intercontinental ballistic missles (ICBMs).
Read on to learn more about Thule Air Base.
A sunny view of the ramp at Thule Air Base, Greenland, shortly after the NASA P-3B research aircraft arrived on Mar. 18, 2013.
(NASA photo by Jim Yungel)
Thule Air Base is 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle and midway between New York and Moscow. The base is home to the 12th Space Warning Squadron, which detects ICBMs headed toward North America with its Ballistic Missile Early Warning System.
1st Lt. Ariel Torgerson (left), 821st Support Squadron Communications Flight commander, issues the oath of enlistment to Staff Sgt. Eric Jennings, 821st SPTS.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Darrell Kinsey)
The orientation letter for new Thule Airmen welcomes them to “The Top of the World.” It also stresses just how remote the installation is: “There is no ‘local town.’ The closest Inuit (native Eskimo) village, Qaanaaq, is located 65 miles away. There is no ‘off-base’ except for the bay, the ice cap and what appears to be thousands of miles of rocks and/or ice.”
Thule is located on Greenland, the world’s largest island. Construction was completed in 1953. Thule’s population is about 600 military and civilian personnel — 400 Danes, 50 Greenlanders, 3 Canadians, and 140 Americans.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) visits units and tour facilities at Thule AB, Greenland, April 24, 2019.
(Preston Schlachter / North American Aerospace Defense Command)
Thule is locked in by ice nine months each year. A Canadian Icebreaker ship comes in during the summer to clear a path for cargo ships from the US, Canada, and Denmark to replenish the base’s supply of fuel, construction supplies, cargo, and food.
A seasoned Greenlandic hunter and his dog sled racing team speeds into the home stretch toward the finish line March 30. Thule Air Base celebrated Armed Forces Day March 30-31 by inviting native Greenlandic residents to the base, some of whom traveled up to three days across the extremely cold environment by dog sled to attend the celebration.
(U.S. photo by Master Sgt. Robert Brown)
In the summer months, Thule sees 24 hours of sunlight. Flowers like poppies bloom, and cotton and moss grow. Birds like peregrine falcons fly in, and mosquitos proliferate — to the extent that locals refer to them as the “Greenlandic Air Force.”
Storm conditions at Thule can be extreme, and are divided into five categories: Normal, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta, with Delta being the most threatening. Under Delta storm conditions, personnel are required to shelter in place, and no travel is allowed at all, with the exception of emergency vehicles.
The NASA P-3B research aircraft is being prepared outside the hangar at Thule Air Base for a science mission across the Arctic Ocean to Alaska.
(NASA photo by Michael Studinger)
While there is limited internet and opportunities for outdoor activity during the summer months, there’s a lot Thule doesn’t have: A bank or ATM, paved roads or sidewalks, or a clothing store. It also doesn’t have a view of the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights — it’s too far north.
Since its Cold War inception, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been keeping Russian aggression in check as an increasingly fragmented Europe has shifted and moved over 70 years. Founded in 1949, the alliance started off with 12 members but has grown over the years to 29 member states. Even as the Soviet Union gave way to the Russian Federation, the alliance has cemented its status as the bulwark that keeps Western Europe free.
A lot has happened over 70 years. Political shifts in member countries caused members to rethink their role in the alliance. Russian threats kept many members out for a long time – and still does. And the mutual defense clause, Article V, was invoked for the first time ever.
There were 12 founding members.
Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States founded NATO on April 4, 1949, as a hedge against growing Soviet power in the east. The centerpiece of the alliance is Article V, which obliges member states to consider an attack on a NATO ally as an attack on itself and respond with armed forces if necessary.
The alliance is more than a bunch of disparate parts, it has a unified military command that guides its strategy, tactics, and training on land, on the oceans, and in the air, complete with its own installations and command structure.
You might know of the first Supreme Allied Commander.
An American is always at the top.
The alliance is organized almost like the United States’ command structure. A Chairman of the NATO military committee advises the Secretary General on policy and strategy. The second highest position is the Supreme Allied Commander, always an American general, who heads the operations of the alliance in Europe.
The United States, Britain, and France are currently the most powerful members of NATO, but after the U.S., only Greece, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Poland, and Romania met NATO spending standards. Greece and Estonia are the second-highest spenders as a percentage of GDP.
“Paix en quittant.”
Countries actually left NATO.
Many balked at the idea of the United States leaving the alliance, as then-candidate Trump threatened to do while running for President of the United States. While the U.S. withdrawing from NATO would be a disaster for everyone, a member country leaving NATO isn’t unprecedented.
France left NATO between 1966 and 2009 because President Charles DeGaulle resented the idea that France wasn’t on an equal military and nuclear footing with the United States and wanted more independence for French troops. Greece left between 1974 and 1980 because of a conflict with NATO ally Turkey.
This is as close as they get. Right after this photo, they raided English coastal towns. Because tradition.
One member doesn’t have an Army.
Iceland doesn’t have a standing army (it has a Coast Guard though!) but is a member ally to NATO anyway. The island nation actually does maintain a peacekeeping force of troops who are trained in Denmark, but Iceland joined the alliance on the condition that it wouldn’t have to establish a standing army – NATO wanted Iceland because of its strategic position in the Atlantic Ocean. The island is protected by the Canadian Air Force.
Poland will no longer be taking Russia’s sh*t. Ever again.
Former enemies have joined NATO.
With the fall of the Soviet Union came a slew of countries who were much smaller than their former Soviet benefactor. Many of these countries were once members of the Warsaw Pact, the USSR’s answer to the West’s NATO. In order to keep former Soviet Russia from meddling in their newly-independent domestic affairs, many Warsaw Pact countries who trained to fight NATO then joined it, including Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and (after the unification of Germany) East Germany.
Pictured: Why Georgia wants to join NATO.
New NATO members could trigger the war it was designed to prevent.
The alliance is always courting new members to counter the threat posed by Russia. This means eventually NATO had to start looking east to find new partners – and many were willing. Unfortunately, pushing eastward puts NATO troops on Russia’s doorstep and there are certain countries that Russia considers a national security threat were they to go to NATO. Two of those, Ukraine and Georgia, have seen Russian invasions of their territory in the past few years in an attempt to thwart their eventual membership.
Russia warned NATO of a “great conflict” should either of them join the alliance.