In the 241 years since the US declared independence from the English in 1776, the uniforms of those serving in the US Army have changed drastically.
Over the years, as the nation grew, uniforms, too, have evolved to fit the times and take advantage of changes in tactics and technology. In some cases, as this paper from US Army History notes, the changes were minor affairs, while in other cases, the look of the US Army was radically changed.
The German Kriegsmarine was once one of the most feared military forces on Earth, particularly the U-boat fleet. While the German surface fleet was smaller and weaker than the navies of its opponents, the “wolf packs” patrolled beneath the waves, shattering Allied convoys and robbing Germany’s enemies of needed men and materiel.
A German sailor works on U-boat communications.
But the U-boats didn’t do this on their own. One of the most successful code-breaking efforts in the war was that of the Beobachtung Dienst, the Observation Service, of German naval intelligence.
The German service focused its efforts on decoding the signals used by the major Allied navies — Great Britain, the U.S., and the Soviet Union — as well as traffic analysis and radio direction finding. With these three efforts combined, they could often read Allied communications. When they couldn’t, the traffic analysis and radio direction finding made them great guessers at where convoys would be.
Allied merchant marine and navy personnel were rightly afraid of U-boat attacks, but they seem to have underestimated how large a role the B-Dienst and other German intelligence services played. This led them to make errors that made the already-capable B-Dienst even more effective.
First, Allied communications contained more data than was strictly necessary. The chatter between ships as they headed out could often give German interceptors the number of ships in a convoy, its assembly point, its anticipated speed and heading, where it would meet up with stragglers, and how many escorts it had.
A destroyer, the USS Fiske, sinks after being struck by a German U-boat torpedo.
This allowed B-Dienst to identify the most vulnerable convoys and guess where and when the convoy would move into wolf-pack territory.
Nearly as damaging, the British would sometimes send out the same communications using different codes. When the British were using some codes the Germans didn’t know, these repeated messages end up becoming a Rosetta Stone-like windfall for the intercepting Nazis. They could identify the patterns in the two codes and use breakthroughs in one to translate the other, then use the translations to break that code entirely.
When the Allies weren’t repeating entire messages, they were sending messages created with templates. These templates, which repeated the same header and closer on each transmission, gave the Germans a consistent starting point. From there, they could suss out how the code worked.
All of this was compounded by a tendency of the British in particular and the Allied forces in general to be slow in changing codes.
So, it took the British months after they learned that the Germans had broken the Naval Code and Naval Cypher to change their codes. The change was made in August 1940 and was applied to communications between the U.S. and Royal navies in June 1941.
But with the other missteps allowing the B-Dienst to get glimmers of how the code worked, the code was basically useless by the end of 1942.
German U-boats in World War I had to hunt for their targets. Their World War II counterparts still hunted, but frequently benefited from their great intelligence services.
(Painting by William Stower, The Sinking of the Linda Blanche)
This had real and devastating effects for Allied naval forces who were attempting to pass through U-boat territory as secretly as possible. 875 Allied ships were lost in 1941 and 1,664 sank in 1942, nearly choking the British Isles below survivable levels.
But, despite the B-Dienst success, the Battle of the Atlantic started to shift in favor of the Allies in 1942, mostly thanks to increases in naval forces and advanced technology like radar and sonar becoming more prevalent. Destroyers were more widely deployed and could more quickly pinpoint and attack the U-boats.
When Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited America in Sep. 1959, the trip was meticulously planned. One day of the trip was devoted Hollywood and filled with visits to movie studios, a lunch with Hollywood icons, and a tour to Disneyland.
Walt Disney was going to show Khrushchev around the park himself. He even planned to show off his navy for the Soviet premier.
Unfortunately, the Disneyland visit was canceled due to security concerns among city leaders and State Department planners. The Americans seemed to hope that tours of 20th Century Fox Studios and a lunch event filled with movie stars would keep the premier from complaining about Disneyland.
But the 20th Century Fox President Spyros P. Skouras put the Soviet leader in a bad mood. Skouras made jokes about an old quote of Khrushchev’s that said that communism would bury capitalism.
Khrushchev was enraged by the Fox president’s comments and said, “If you want to go on with the arms race, very well. We accept that challenge. As for the output of rockets –well, they are on the assembly line. This is a most serious question. It is one of life or death, ladies and gentlemen. One of war and peace.”
And then the enraged Khrushchev was told he wouldn’t be able to visit the happiest place on earth. Instead of enjoying his time with Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe and Shirley MacLaine, he gave an angry speech asking why he couldn’t go to Disneyland.
“What is it?” Khrushchev asked. “Do you have rocket launching pads there? I don’t know. What is it? Is there an epidemic of Cholera there or something? Or have gangsters taken hold of the place that can destroy me? And I say, ‘I would very much like to go and see Disneyland.’ For me, such a situation is inconceivable.”
Despite the rocky events in Los Angeles, Khrushchev’s visit was a success. By the end of the trip, Americans’ perception of the leader had improved and journalists were reporting positively on his interactions with U.S. citizens.
Khrushchev and President Dwight Eisenhower had a summit at Camp David where they agreed on the need for peace and planned for Eisenhower to tour the Soviet Union.
This goodwill between the leaders was reversed in May 1960 after an U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, and the Cold War dragged on for decades.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has said the United States must be ready to resist attempted Russian interference in the country’s elections later this year.
“I don’t think there is any question in the [intelligence] community or at [the Department of Homeland Security] that Russians attempted to infiltrate and interfere with our electoral systems,” Nielsen said at a security forum in Colorado on July 19.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that they did it, and I think we should be prepared given that capability and will, that they’ll do it again.”
Retired General David Petraeus shared lessons learned from over fifteen years of combatting terrorists and extremists in the Middle East and Afghanistan at a forum Sept. 13.
The takeaway: even with all the US’s military’s capabilities, you can’t “drone strike your way out of a problem.”
Speaking at the Intelligence Squared US debate at New York University with the Council on Foreign Relations’ Max Boot, Petraeus — who commanded US and NATO troops in Afghanistan and served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency under former President Barack Obama — discussed what he views as the five lessons the US should have learned from combatting Islamic extremism.
First, Petraeus said that “ungoverned spaces” in the Muslim world will be exploited by extremists. Second, Petraeus said you need to do something about it, because “Las Vegas rules don’t apply.”
“What happens there does not stay there,” Petraeus added.
Third, the US must lead the charge, Petraeus said, because the US has the assets and the expertise that is “proving revolutionary” even as the military has let other countries’ troops — like the Iraqi and Afghan armies — take the lead on the front lines.
“We are advising and assisting others, and enabling with this armada of unmanned aerial vehicles that a bunch of commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan and I very much sought more of,” Petraeus said, adding that it’s not just the hardware that gives the US an edge, but the manpower and technical knowledge of the people that deploy and operate it.
Fourth, Petraeus said, there’s a clear paradox at play when combating extremist movements — like the Islamic State or al-Qaeda — that are explicitly linked to ideology.
“You cannot counter terrorists like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda with just counterterrorist force operations,” Petraeus said. “You can’t just drone strike or Delta Force raid your way out of this problem. It takes a comprehensive approach.”
The comprehensive approach Petraeus advocated involves not only targeted raids and drone strikes, but a coordinated effort among military, diplomatic, and intelligence channels to change “hearts and minds,” impose the “rule of law,” and work towards reconciliation between opposing sides.
And fifth, Petraeus said, is understanding that these conflicts are “generational struggles,” and they’re not going to be solved in a year, or even a decade.
“It’s going to require a sustained commitment,” Petraeus said. “And in view of that, it has to be a sustainable sustained commitment.”
After Boot asked whether President Donald Trump’s administration was up to the task, Petraeus parried that the “generals” within the White House are highly experienced.
Specifically referring to H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, and Ricky Waddell, McMaster’s deputy, Petraeus said they understand the complexities of prosecuting the war against Islamic extremists.
“These generals know that every problem out there is not a nail, and you just can’t find a bigger hammer,” Petraeus said. “In fact, you generally need a stiletto.”
Petraeus did say that the state of the US’s diplomatic corps — with many crucial positions at the State Department still unfilled, or with acting leaders — is “definitely a big concern,” adding that it “carries much more weight” to have the Senate confirm people to those positions.
In early February, the vice chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines testified before before lawmakers on Capitol Hill about the state of the U.S. military as the Trump administration takes office.
And many of the revelations from that testimony are disconcerting, to put it mildly. Here are some of the moments that will have you saying, “Oh, crap!”
1. The average age of Air Force aircraft is 27 years old
Take an average Air Force plane, and it was made in 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The last KC-135 was produced in 1965, the last B-52 was produced in 1962, the last F-15C was built in 1985, and the last F-16C for the Air Force was built in 2001. These are planes that will be around well into the next decade and beyond.
In other words, many of the planes the Air Force relies on are OLD.
2. The Air Force has only 55 fighter squadrons
Not only are the planes old, the number of fighter squadrons in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard has declined from 134 in 1991, the year of Operation Desert Storm, to 55 today. That is a decline of nearly 60 percent.
Yes, today’s precision weapons allow fighters to destroy multiples targets in one sortie, but sometimes, you still need numbers. The few active units we have are running their planes into the ground.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to Detachment 1, 138th Fighter Wing, dons his helmet before a flight. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske)
3. The Air Force is short by over 1,500 pilots
The Air Force’s pilot shortage was reported by FoxNews.com to be around 700 last year. Now, the service is reporting the total is over twice that estimate. This is not a good situation, senior leaders say.
Planes are no good without pilots – and even new technology to make any plane an unmanned aerial vehicle will have some limits. If the balloon were to go up, where would the pilots come from? Probably the instructor cadres – which could be bad news for keeping a sufficient supply of pilots trained up in times of war.
4. Only three Brigade Combat Teams are ready to fight in the event of a major war
The Army cut its force structure from 45 brigade combat teams to what became an eventual total of 30. Yet despite the reduction of combat brigades, 1/3 of the Army’s brigade combat teams are considered ready, according to Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn.
Of those 10 brigades supposedly ready for combat, only three of these could fight today if the balloon went up. Three out of 30 – and that is the active-duty component. Just what, exactly, is the state of the National Guard? Do we really want to know?
5. 75 percent of Army Combat Aviation Brigades are not ready
Believe it or not, the Army’s Brigade Combat Teams are in better shape than its Combat Aviation Brigades. Only 1/4 of those units are ready – and these provide AH-64 Apaches for close support, as well as the Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters needed to transport troops and supplies.
6. 80 percent of Marine aviation units can’t train properly
Remember how the Marines had to pull about two dozen Hornets from the boneyard? Well, even with that, four in five Marine units cannot give their pilots and air crews proper training because they do not have planes.
7. The Navy is smaller than it has been since 1916
Today’s ships are very capable combatants. An Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer could probably sink or cripple most of a carrier’s escorts from a battle group off the coast of Vietnam fifty years ago.
But today, the Navy has a grand total of 274 ships. According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, in 1916, the Navy had all of 245 ships. Even if we were to reach the proposed 355-ship level, it would only have the Navy to roughly the size it was in 1997.
Few soldiers are as legendary as Finland’s Simo Häyhä. Known as the deadliest sniper in history, Häyhä served for just under 100 days during the 1939-1940 Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union.
In that short time, he is credited with killing over 500 men.
At long range Häyhä was lethal; his M28/30 sniper rifle (the Finnish version of Russia’s legendary Mosin-Nagant) accounted for half his estimated 500-542 kills. At close quarters, he was equally deadly with his Suomi KP-31 sub-machine gun, with some 250 Soviets falling victim to it. Not surprisingly, Soviet troops soon assigned Häyhä an appropriately sinister nickname: White Death.
Häyhä’s transformation into history’s most accomplished sniper traces back to 1925, when at twenty years old he served his mandatory year in Finland’s Army and afterward joined Finland’s volunteer militia known as the White Guard. Häyhä’s time with the militia sharpened what were already remarkable shooting abilities; a farmer and hunter, he was a natural marksman who regularly collected trophies at local shooting competitions.
When the Winter War broke out on November 30, 1939, Häyhä was nearly 34 years old. By the war’s end on March 13, 1940, he would become a legend. While most snipers used telescopic sights, Häyhä did without. Using a scope forced a sniper to lift their head a few inches higher than ordinary sights, making them an easier target for enemy snipers. Telescopic sights were also vulnerable to extreme cold. Häyhä’s solution was simple: Even in the poor light of a Finnish winter, he would rely on iron sights and the naked eye.
As the Soviets soon realized, the dim lighting didn’t affect his aim.
Finnish Army documents (as cited on Wikipedia) reveal just how deadly Häyhä was as a soldier. The war began on November 30, 1939. According to these documents, Häyhä had racked up his first 138 kills by December 22–only 22 days for 138 kills. The entry for January 26, 1940 ups his count to 199, an extra 61 in 35 days. By February 17, he was up to 219. In the 18 days after that, Häyhä killed another 40 enemy soldiers.
These stats reflect his sniping kills. Häyhä was just as deadly up close. His sub-machine gun accounted for another 250 kills. By March of 1940, he’d racked up an astonishing 500+ kills. Yet on March 6, his military career came to a sudden and near-fatal end.
Häyhä was a primary target of the Red Army; Soviets were keen to eliminate this seemingly unstoppable soldier who had spread so much fear, injury, and death among their ranks.
They’d tried everything, pummeling Häyhä’s presumed locations with artillery fire. Soviets also employed counter-sniping, flooding an area with snipers whose primary mission was to kill the White Death.
On March 6, 1940, the Red Army nearly succeeded. A Soviet sniper spotted Häyhä and shot at him with an explosive bullet, striking him in his lower left jaw.
The shot should have killed him. Häyhä, though severely wounded, somehow survived. Found by Finnish troops, he was brought into a field hospital. He wasn’t a pretty sight. One of the soldiers who brought him in bluntly described his injuries, saying “half his face was missing”. But once again, Häyhä had beaten the odds: permanently disfigured, but alive nonetheless.
Häyhä was lucky. Only days after he was shot, the Winter War ended on March 13, 1940 — the same day Häyhä regained consciousness. Finland honored the soldier for his service. Starting as a private in 1925, he’d only made ‘Alikersantti’ (corporal) when the Winter War started. After it ended, Corporal Häyhä was commissioned, becoming a “Vanrikki” (second lieutenant) with multiple decorations. He would spend the next few years recovering from the shot to his head, but Häyhä would eventually regain his health.
After the war, he became a successful moose hunter and dog breeder. Against him, the moose stood no chance. Finland’s President Urho Kekkinen was also a keen hunter and Häyhä, once a nobody from the Finnish border country, became one of the President’s regular hunting partners.
Entering a veteran’s nursing home in Hamina in his old age, Häyhä spent his remaining years quietly. He died on April 1, 2002 aged 96, a national hero in his native Finland and a legend in military history. Asked how he’d been so successful he answered simply: “Practice.”
If you’ve been on the internet at all for the last few weeks, you’ve probably seen news regarding the Facebook event “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us.” It started out mostly as a joke – if you couldn’t tell by the name of the group that’s hosting it being called “Sh*tposting cause im in shambles” and the only actual plan set forward is to “Naruto run faster than their bullets.” Even the date of September 20th is a reference to the anniversary of Leeroy Jenkins storming Upper Blackrock Spire by himself in World of Warcraft.
That was until, at the time of writing this article, 1.6 million people clicked “Going,” another 1.2 million are “Interested,” and a four-star general at the Pentagon had to be debriefed by some poor lower-enlisted soldier about the intricacies of a 1997 Japanese manga series about a teenage ninja with a fox demon inside him.
Which begs the question: “But what if it wasn’t a joke?” Well. It’s really circumstantial.
Something tells me that this place will probably undo most of the plans to storm Area 51.
(Screengrab via YouTube)
Absolutely nothing happens
Anyone who’s ever thrown a party using Facebook’s Event page can tell you that not all people are going to show up. Of the supposedly millions that said they’d be willing to attend, I can safely say that it will be nowhere near that number in reality.
In case there are those people that ordered a plane ticket to Nevada and are too stubborn to cancel, it doesn’t look likely either. It’s still going to be a logistical nightmare. The meet-up location at the Area 51 Tourist Attraction is still 72.4 miles from the actual “Area 51.” Unless you drove there or are renting a car, there’s no way in hell anyone is willing to walk that distance in the Nevada desert for a joke.
Everyone gets there, makes a few videos for YouTube, and goes their merry way and this all becomes a funny joke that we reference every now and then. For reference on where this meet up is supposed to happen, the video below is where “millions” of people are supposedly going to congregate. Good luck with that.
Imagine wanting to raid Area 51 to see all the futuristic alien tech just to come face-to-face with a row of these…
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman First Class Lauren Main)
They can, in fact, stop all of them
This possibility is also semi-broken down into ways that it would end in complete failure. The only difference is where the raid is stopped.
My personal guess for most likely scenario on this list is that local law enforcement would probably break up the unlawful gathering outside of a middle-of-nowhere gift shop/brothel long before anyone made a move to storm the actual installation. Given the potential crowd gathering with the sole intent on committing a federal crime, the police will probably be on scene with riot gear ready.
If, by some stretch of the imagination, the raid manages to not get stopped somewhere in the desert or single road onto the installation, they’ll be greeted by armed guards along the way. The defense contractors currently guarding the site would probably have their numbers bolstered from troops at nearby Nellis Air Force Base, Creech Air Force Base, and more.
The same rules of engagement that govern military operations would still likely apply. Violently engaging with a crowd of American citizens would be the absolute final resort if this line in the sand had to be reached. The “cammo dudes” today normally shoo away would-be onlookers without the use of deadly force. Anyone who’s made it this far would more than likely be detained without trouble.
But, you know, the use of deadly force IS authorized for just such an occasion…
Face it. The Fermi Paradox is real. If intergalactic aliens exist out there, they wouldn’t give a flying f*ck about stopping by Earth. Would you care about stopping by an anthill lifetimes out of your way?
(Image Credit: NASA)
Full and official disclosure (of how boring Groom Lake actually is)
Okay. Let’s finally get this out of the way because the mystery surrounding Area 51 is so enticing that it’s spawned countless conspiracy theories about what actually happens over there. Here goes…
There’s no way in hell that this could work as advertised. No amount of Kyles to punch the drywall out of the fence or Karens to speak to the managers will get you a Banshee from the Halo series. And I hate to break it to the other anime fans out there, but even by the show’s standards, if they’re still are able to casually have a conversation with each other while running at top speeds – they haven’t broken the sound barrier (at 1,125 ft/s.) Most calibers of ammunition probably used by any guard are still much faster.
That doesn’t mean this could all be a waste. Even by some strange miracle they actually do manage not to get turned into paste on first sight, they’d probably be in the exact same boat as if one of the many Freedom of Information Act requests got approved. They’d learn that it’s not that interesting.
It’s officially known as Groom Lake, and it’s just a testing ground far enough away from any civilian interference for top-secret aircraft like the U-2 spy plane and the precursor to the SR-71 Blackbird. Logically speaking, the timelines match up with “suspected” UFO sightings. Through the use of Google Satellite, you can also see countless craters in the ground still leftover from missile testing. The only reason they’re out there is because it’s one of the most remote locations in the continental U.S.The U.S. military is still developing new top-secret aircraft and missiles, and the area is still marked off for that reason. CIA documents released in 2013 showed this.
However, the large crowd outside their gates (or the possibility of a large crowd) could be enough for the government to go on record to say that there’s nothing extraterrestrial going on.
But Mattis, a retired Marine general, is not the only US military officer who has supplemented his martial knowledge with academic achievement.
In that spirit, the US Army has distributed reading recommendations so soldiers and civilians alike are able “to sharpen their knowledge of the Army’s long and distinguished history, as well as the decisive role played by landpower in conflicts across the centuries.”
Below are some of the books recommended by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to help better understand the world’s current strategic environment, along with his explanations for their inclusion.
“Blending historical evidence with interviews of an amazing array of individuals, [Singer] shows how technology is changing not just in how wars are fought, but also in the politics, economics, laws, and the ethics that surround war itself.”
“Contending that states throughout history have been driven to acquire greater power and influence as a means of guaranteeing their own security, [Mearsheimer] concludes that current efforts at engagement and seeking harmonious relations between states will ultimately fail and predicts that the U.S. security competition with a rising China will inevitably intensify.”
Kennedy’s “far-ranging survey explores the relationship between economics, strategy, technology, and military power. He argues for the primacy of economic factors to explain why some states achieved great power status. By the same token, nations stumbled and declined when their financial resources could no longer support their military ambitions and commitments.”
“Between 1500 and 1800, the West sprinted ahead of other centers of power in Asia and the Middle East. … Today, that preeminence is in decline as China, India, Brazil, and other emerging powers rise. Kupchan considers how those principles associated with the West — democracy, capitalism, and secular nationalism — will continue to endure as new states outside the Western world gain greater economic and political prominence.”
O’Hanlon “wonders where large-scale conflicts or other catastrophes are most plausible. Which of these could be important enough to require the option of a U.S. military response? And which of these could, in turn, demand significant numbers of American ground forces for their resolution?”
“He is not predicting or advocating big American roles in such operations — only cautioning against overconfidence that the United States can and will avoid them.”
“Zeihan examines how the hard rules of geography are eroding the American commitment to free trade; how much of the planet is aging into a mass retirement that will enervate markets and capital supplies; and how, against all odds, it is the ever-ravenous American economy that — alone among the developed nations — is rapidly approaching energy independence.”
“He concludes that geography will matter more than ever in a deglobalizing world and that America’s geography is simply sublime.”
“In this masterful study of urban warfare, DiMarco explains what it takes to seize and hold a city literally block by block and provides lessons for today’s tacticians that they neglect at their own peril.”
“Burrows examines recent trends to forecast tectonic shifts that will drive us to 2030. A staggering amount of wholesale change is happening — from unprecedented and widespread aging to rampant urbanization and growth in a global middle class to an eastward shift in economic power and a growing number of disruptive technologies.”
“In an era of high technology and instant communication, the role of geography in the formation of strategy and politics can be undervalued. … In a series of case studies, Grygiel, a political scientist, highlights the importance of incorporating geography into grand strategy. He argues that states can increase and maintain their position of power by pursuing a geostrategy that focuses on control of resources and lines of communications.”
With President Donald Trump’s first official State of the Union address on Jan. 30, the White House’s security apparatus is making preparations for a grim worse-case scenario.
If there was a targeted attack on the Capitol, someone would have to take over the government.
Excluding the years immediately after a new president is elected, one member of the president’s Cabinet has been selected every year since the 1960s to be the “designated survivor.”
They sit out the State of the Union far away from the House chamber, so that in case there is a catastrophe, a Senate-confirmed official could take the reigns of the presidency. Since 2005, a designated survivor from Congress has also been selected in order to rebuild the legislative branch.
This year’s designated survivor has not been announced yet. Although highly unlikely, this doomsday scenario has captured the imaginations of screen writers and TV producers, spawning a an entire show on ABC called simply “Designated Survivor.”
In the real world, designated survivors have often tended to be low-ranking cabinet members, and until 9/11, had spent their evenings away from Washington, DC, in a variety of ways. Almost all choose to kick back, relax, and enjoy the perks of the presidential treatment for a few short hours.
Here are how past designated survivors have spent their State of the Union addresses as the possible president-to-be:
A designated survivor has been selected for the State of Union address since sometime in the 1960s, but the first one documented person was secretary of housing and urban development Samuel R. Pierce Jr. at former President Ronald Reagan’s in January 1984.
In 1996, secretary of health and human services Donna Shalala spent the State of the Union address in the White House. She reportedly ordered pizza for her staff after former President Bill Clinton told her, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
In 1997, secretary of agriculture Dan Glickman visited his daughter in Lower Manhattan to hang out at her apartment — “nuclear football” and all. But after the State of the Union ended and Secret Service left, they were left looking for taxis in the pouring rain.
In 2000, secretary of energy Bill Richardson spent his time as designated survivor hanging out with his family in coastal Maryland. They dined on roast beef and drank beers as the Secret Service watched over them.
But after the 9/11 attacks rocked the world, the role of designated survivor took on new gravity. From then on out, designated survivors were taken to an undisclosed location and didn’t speak to reporters about their experiences.
In 2006, secretary of veterans affairs Jim Nicholson had to deal with this new level of seriousness when he was transported via helicopter to an unknown location and given a security briefing. But was able to enjoy a steak dinner in the process.
Had anything happened to the president, Clinton would have succeeded former President Barack Obama because she was next in the line of succession, but because her location was known, another survivor had to be selected.
Before the tank entered the lexicon of military history, there was horse cavalry.
The horse, like the modern day tank, provided support to the infantry and artillery. However, while every kingdom, like every modern nation today, has some sort of mobile land support designed to punch holes through enemy lines, only a handful of nations have the best trained. So here we take a look at 5 epic cavalry formations of the ancient world.
1. The Numidians (light cavalry)
The Numidians were from what is now Algeria and were known for their cavalry abilities.
The Numidian cavalry of the ancient world. (Photo Wikimedia Commons)
Hannibal used these Numidian cavalrymen during the Second Punic War. So what made the Numidian cavalry so darn good?
The Numidians saw many battles during Hannibal’s campaign in Roman Italy. The Greek historian Polybius, describes the Numidian warriors as light cavalry armed with missile weapons (javelins). The Battle of Cannae 216 BCE, showcased their abilities.
What made the Numidian cavalry so effective at Cannae is that unlike the Spaniard and Celtic cavalries that also accompanied Hannibal, the Spaniard and Celtic horsemen were heavy cavalries that fought en masse, much like the Roman cavalry. The Numidians, being light cavalry, fought in a much looser formation and because of this, they harassed the Roman cavalry with complicated tactics before disengaging.
And while the Celtic and Spaniard cavalries had the Roman cavalry fixed, the Numidians went from harassment to providing shock support once the Roman cavalry turned their back. This caused the Roman cavalry to flee once the Numidians made contact and understood that if they do not make a break for it, they would be enveloped and decimated.
2. The Scythians (light cavalry)
The Scythians may not be the original inventors of asymmetrical warfare, but one could argue that they perfected it.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The Scythians were ancient nomadic horse warriors who were first mentioned by the Assyrians during the reign of Sargon II (reigned 722 – 705 BCE). What made these horsemen so powerful was that they were raised in the saddle and were typically armed with a distinctive composite bow.
The Scythian bow is unique and revered throughout the ancient world by kings, historians, and a philosopher. King Esarhaddon of Assyria had a Cimmerian bow, the Babylonian armies of Nebuchadnezzar II and Nabonidus were equipped with their bows and arrows, and even Hercules’ Greek portrait displays him armed with a Scythian bow. The Greek philosopher Plato said,
The customs of the Scythians proves our error; for they not only hold the bow from them with the left hand and draw the arrow to them with their right, but use either hand for both purposes.
When one examines the Scythian lifestyle, one can easily gain an understanding of the type of warfare necessarily carried on against more sedentary (non-migratory) people, like those in Mesopotamia. The Scythian took a guerilla approach to warfare as their method, using small bands to conduct military operations. Herodotus mentions their method of warfare when King Darius of Persia campaigned against them.
It is thus with me, Persian: I have never fled for fear of any man, nor do I now flee from you; this that I have done is no new thing or other than my practice in peace. But as to the reason why I do not straightway fight with you, this too I will tell you. For we Scythians have no towns or planted lands, that we might meet you the sooner in battle, fearing lest the one be taken or the other wasted. But if nothing will serve you but fighting straightway, we have the graves of our fathers; come, find these and essay to destroy them; then shall you know whether we will fight you for those graves or no. Till then we will not join battle unless we think it good.
The description indicates that the Scythians against whom Darius was warring had no center of gravity. King Darius’ military campaign into Scythia (modern Ukraine) went for nothing. As he could not catch them, the Scythians burnt their own their fields, destroyed Persian supplies, and harassed his forces with hit and run tactics.
In the end, Darius turned his large army around and headed home before it was annihilated.
3. The Parthians (light cavalry)
The Parthian horsemen are much like the Scythians.
The Parthians also known as the Parni/Aparni, originated from eastern Iran and like the Scythians, wore light attire, carried a composite bow and a sidearm — possibly a sword or a dagger. What made the Parthian horse archers so powerful was their ability to hit and run, and this was demonstrated at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BCE between the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire.
(Photo Wikimedia Commons)
The Roman general Crassus led his Roman legions into the desert wilderness thinking they were going to face a pussycat. Instead, they found themselves face-to-face with an equal foe. Once Crassus gave the order to form a square, the Parthian horse archers saw an opportunity. They showered the Romans with raining death.
The average Parthian horse archer, with a quiver of 30 arrows, loosed between eight to ten arrows a minute at Carrhae. It would take almost three minutes to exhaust his arsenal before needing to be resupplied. The amount of Parthian horse archers at the battle is estimated at 10,000. Now, if all 10,000 fired away for 20 minutes, the amount of arrows fired by an individual horse archer would have been between 160-200 arrows. Take 10,000 and the amount of arrows fired upon the Roman soldiers are estimated to have been an astounding 1.6-2 million arrows in a 20-minute timeframe.
In the convulsion and agony of their pain they writhed as the arrows struck them; the men broke them off in their wounds and then lacerated and disfigured their own bodies by trying to tear out by main force the barbed arrow heads that had pierced through their veins and muscles.
Romans could do little, for if they break formation they are dead, if they stand still they are dead but have a chance. Only nightfall saved them. While the Parthian horse archers showered the Romans with death, the Parthian cataphract was the hammer.
4. The Parthian Cataphract (heavy armored cavalry)
When it comes to heavy cavalry in the ancient world, the Parthian cataphract takes the lead.
Parthian heavy armored cataphract. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The word cataphract comes from the Greek Kataphraktos means “completely enclosed.” The origins of the cataphract may not have started with the Parthians but with the Massagetae, who also inhabited portions of Eastern Iran three centuries before the arrival of the Parthians. If you want more info on this, click “here.”
The Parthian cataphract in many ways looked like the medieval knights of Europe. What made them so effective on the field of battle was that the rider and horse were covered in armor. The rider would carry a lance, sword, and presumably a bow.
At the Battle of Carrhae, the cataphract would charge into Roman lines once the legions locked shields to protect themselves from the arrows. According to Plutarch, the cataphracts would hit the lines with such a force that “many (Romans) perished hemmed in by the horsemen. Others were knocked over by the pikes or were carried off transfixed.”
This hit and run attack would go on for some time until the Roman broke and fled.
5. Late Roman Equites Cataphractarii and Sassanid Clibanarii (very heavily armored cavalry)
It may be an understatement to say that Equites cataphractarii were heavy cavalry as they were indeed the heaviest of the bunch.
among them were the full-armoured cavalry (whom they called clibanarii or cataphracti equites), all masked, furnished with protecting breastplates and girt with iron belts, so that you might have supposed them statues polished by the hand of Praxiteles, not men. Thin circles of iron plates, fitted to the curves of their bodies, completely covered their limbs; so that whichever way they had to move their members, their garment fitted, so skilfully were the joinings made
The Clibanarii were Sassanid. However, the Sassanids also used this term to describe the Equites cataphractarii. The description provided by Ammianus Marcellinus about the Clibanarii goes as follows:
Moreover, all the companies were clad in iron, and all parts of their bodies were covered with thick plates, so fitted that the stiff joints conformed with those of their limbs; and the forms of human faces were so skilfully fitted to their heads, that, since their entire bodies were plated with metal, arrows that fell upon them could lodge only where they could see a little through tiny openings fitted to the circle of the eye, or where through the tips of their noses they were able to get a little breath. Of these some, who were armed with pikes, stood so motionless that you would think them held fast by clamps of bronze.
The Persians opposed us serried bands of mail-clad horsemen in such close order that the gleam of moving bodies covered with closely fitting plates of iron dazzled the eyes of those who looked upon them, while the whole throng of horses was protected by coverings of leather.
So who had the best cavalry in the ancient world? Well, the answer to that question is the various nomads who dotted the Eurasian Steppe, Central Asia, and the Iranian plateau. These various nomads are the ones who not only perfected horse archery and heavy cavalry, they also brought civilization the chariot.
However, horse archers and heavy cavalry — no matter the kingdom — would come to an end once the gunpowder age arrived. Eventually new tactics took the rider off his mount and placed him into a tank.
If you haven’t heard, the generous folks at Amazon are celebrating Veterans Day with the best discount ever: $40 off your Amazon Prime membership. For those of you doing the math at home, that’s 32% off. Free two-day shipping (and sometimes one-day shipping and in some locations, even same-day shipping) on all your favorite things like paper towels, and furniture, and clothes and, well, everything, should be enough to entice you to take advantage of this incredible deal.
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Getting married can be one of the most exciting times in one’s life, and marrying someone who serves is no different. That said, marrying into the military lifestyle can often come with an adjustment period. Ten military spouses agreed to speak candidly about aspects of military life – from moving to education – that they wish they would have known before marrying their spouse.
“I wish I knew that friendship would be so, so hard. And that the people I truly view as friends are never close because we move away. Yes, I knew we’d move. But after restarting my life four times now, I am really struggling to make friends and have my own tribe because it’s so much effort. And at some duty stations, it’s great. Others are terrible and you just never really connect with anyone the entire time (or you do and they of course move one second later). I feel like a lot of people won’t be my friend, because they know I will leave too. I also wish I knew that most of the country does not understand our lifestyle, like, at all.” – Melissa Sheridan, Air Force spouse
“Be diligent in finding your people – however many that may be for you – and you’ll thrive. Above all else, you will experience the best and worst in the world, but your mindset is everything.” – Missy Moore, Army spouse
“Life can be a real adventure if you stay open minded and flexible to new people, places and cultures! In my wildest dreams I would have never imagined where this path has led my husband and I. From meeting in Honduras while stationed there, getting stationed in an amazing area of Texas to living in a tropical paradise in Hawaii – just bizarre in all the most amazing ways!” – Katie Whitehurst, Air Force reservist and Army spouse
“I’ve never felt more supported than in this community, but I’ve also never felt so alone. Sometimes you can’t wait for that PCS to roll around and others you absolutely dread leaving a place that feels more like home than anywhere else. I wish I’d known that grief can include the giant loss you feel when you are forced to leave a place and people you love. I wish I’d known the guilt I would feel for not giving my children roots.” – Chelsea Coulston, Navy spouse
“It’s OK to find a new home and you are going to find friendships that are more meaningful than any in your life prior.” – Jaci Greggs, Army spouse
“Accept that nearly nothing will go according to plan. Write plans down in pencil and buy the refundable tickets! Dates, missions, locations, etc., change often and with little notice.” – Alex Fernandez Rubio, Army spouse
“I didn’t expect that we would have a bunch of curtains that will never fit in the next house! I also didn’t expect to love the adventure so much. Military life truly is that. It’s hard, yes, but it’s also allowed me to see the world from a different perspective. Having a baby abroad was an unexpected surprise blessing that we really enjoyed! I also didn’t expect how intense the stress levels would be. Stress that isn’t what the average person experiences—like traffic—stress that not only cripples the military member, but cripples the entire family both physically and emotionally.” – Caroline Potter, Navy spouse
“I appreciate the college opportunity offered to me as a spouse of an enlisted soldier and I wish more spouses knew about and took advantage of the MyCAA program.” – Jenn Richardson, Army spouse
“I got married at 25. I had no idea at that point how important having a career would be to me, and that maintaining a career would be nearly impossible as a military spouse. We end up taking a backseat to our spouse’s career. It’s hard personally, professionally, and frankly, financially. The military does not prioritize helping spouses [who have] careers maintain them.” – Julie Yaste, Navy spouse
“I wish I would have known how little the military actually cared about the physical and mental health of my spouse. After 15 years, we have realized that it’s all a numbers game and about how much they can get out of their members without much regard for the life they have to live after service. I don’t think it would have changed my husband’s mind regarding his career but I would have approached a lot of things within his job differently regarding health.” – Kylie Martin, Navy spouse
“I wish I had known that my husband would be treated like [a] machine whose mental and physical health doesn’t matter. I wish I had known that the military doesn’t care about individuals, just the overall result and the ability to get results as quickly as possible.” – Hannah O’Melia Sherriff, Navy spouse
Your Advice for New Military Spouses Facing Their First Deployment
We asked our audience what advice they had for new military spouses facing their first deployment. With hundreds of responses from military spouses from all walks of military life, there is no shortage of support out there for you! Here are some of our favorite responses.
Power of Attorney and do NOT listen to all of the freaking horror stories some of the other spouses may impart. Your spouse is not their spouse or their friend’s best friend’s spouse. Have faith in your spouse instead of the b.s. stories. Brush off the gossip and its mouthpiece. Most of all, take time out for you… mind body and soul. You’re strong and you’ve got this. – Holly M.
An amazing spouse told me, “Count paychecks. Because 2 a month is way better than trying to count down 180+ days.” Definitely helped! – Caitlin M.
Have a candid discussion with both sides of the family about what to expect/not to expect as well as what is helpful/hurtful. Examples: best ways to stay in touch, care package ideas, why he/she can’t just come home for special occasions, whether or not RR is allowed and the process, things always change, etc. – Jane T.
Make goals, start a hobby, go back to school. Take care of yourself. Make time for self care. Talk about your spouse being gone, especially with your kids. Routine, routine (whether you have kiddos or not). Think out of the box for friends, we are a diverse community. Remember to send boxes and little things (I am horrible at this and after four deployments I slack) but I know how much my spouse appreciates a piece of home. It will feel like autopilot sometimes and that’s okay. Being sad is okay. Check with all your on post services! I was so young the first time I had no idea all the things I could use like MYCAA scholarships, and spouse get togethers (for parents and child free spouses!) just know you’re not alone. It never gets easier and every tour will have its struggles but you have tools at your disposal; learn to use them, and yes have a POA. – Andrea R.