North Korea has attempted to cover up Kim’s birthday in the past.
The former NBA star Dennis Rodman sang “Happy Birthday” to Kim at a basketball game in Pyongyang on the day in 2014. But citizens were told Rodman sang Kim “a special song,” with no mention of his birthday.
Experts have posited various reasons for the silence on Kim’s birthday — and some could spell disaster for his government.
It’s too cold and expensive to celebrate
Hazel Smith, a researcher at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London who lived in North Korea from 1998 to 2001, said it was “not very surprising” that the country wasn’t marking Kim’s birthday.
“Kim Jong Un is treated today as the supreme leader whose words are automatically seen as authoritative because he has the familial lineage of the Kim family,” Smith said, adding that the birthdays of Kim’s grandfather and father, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, are already designated national holidays.
“North Korea’s propagandists don’t need another day to emphasize the point,” she said.
Smith also said that national celebrations were costly to organize and that it was too cold to hold outdoor parties this time of year.
“These celebrations for these national days are also very expensive and involve thousands of people, and January provides the coldest temperatures of the year regularly falling to -25 centigrade,” she said. “It’s not very feasible to organize yet another set of parades when they have Feb. 16” — Kim Jong Il’s birthday celebration — “to plan for.”
There’s growing discontent within the country
Another reason North Korea isn’t celebrating Kim’s birthday could be because of his unpopularity within the country as a result of sanctions.
International sanctions, especially those instituted after the 6th nuclear test in September, have caused a lot of hardship for workers with many losing their jobs as a result of the gradual slowing of coal exports. So public opinion of Kim Jong Un has dropped to a new low.
As the government pushes propaganda about its nuclear and missile development while even the more successful merchants are losing jobs and going hungry this year, people would only ridicule Kim Jong Un if they saw his birthday had been made a holiday.
The source added, however, that government authorities would still “conduct lectures” and “distribute snacks to children” on Jan. 8.
Nevertheless, the extent of Kim’s popularity remains unknown.
“I don’t think we know anything for sure about his popularity one way or another apart from it’s extremely dangerous to speak out against him,” Aidan Foster-Carter, an honorary lecturer at Leeds University who’s an expert on North Korea, told The Independent.
Maybe Kim’s cult of personality just isn’t big enough
Experts also say Kim hasn’t amassed a large enough cult of personality to have his birthday designated a national holiday.
Owen Miller, a Korea expert at SOAS, told The Independent that North Korea “might consider it too soon to take Kim Jong Un’s personality cult up to that level.”
“Kim Jong Il was anointed as successor [to Kim Il Sung] in 1980, and his cult was built up long before he became leader,” Miller added. “Kim Jong Un, on the other hand, was only introduced to North Koreans a year or two before he became leader in 2011.”
Some experts even suggested that Kim was trying to reinvent himself as a man of the people and that designating his birthday as a national holiday would hamper that image.
Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, a Democratic candidate in the 2020 US presidential election, unveiled a plan to combat post-traumatic stress in the military and revealed he sought mental health services following his deployments to Iraq.
Moulton, a retired US Marine Corps infantry officer, deployed four times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He fought in two majorbattles in the Iraq War and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation medal with accompanying “V” devices for valor.
“When I came back from Iraq I sought help for managing post-traumatic stress. I’m glad I did,” Moulton said in a tweet on May 28, 2019. “Today, I’m sharing my experience because I want people to know they’re not alone and they should feel empowered to get the treatment they need.”
His experience overseas led him to seek counseling at least once a week, Moulton said to POLITICO.
“I had some particular experiences or regrets from the war that I just thought about every day, and occasionally I’d have bad dreams or wake up in a cold sweat,” Moulton told the publication. “But because these experiences weren’t debilitating — I didn’t feel suicidal or completely withdrawn — it took me a while to appreciate that I was dealing with post-traumatic stress, and I was dealing with an experience that a lot of other veterans have.”
Congressman Seth Moulton speaking with JROTC students.
He continues to sees a counselor once a month for a routine check-up, and he said “there will always be regrets that I have.”
“But I got to a point where I could deal with them and manage them,” he continued in his interview with POLITICO. “It’s been a few years now since I’ve woken up in a cold sweat in bed from a bad dream or felt so withdrawn from my friends or whatever that I would just go home and go to bed because I miss being overseas with the Marines.”
Moulton’s proposal calls for a wide range of changes to diagnosing and treating service members’ mental health — including annual mental health check-ups for service members and veterans, “mandatory counseling” within the first two weeks of service members returning from combat, a program for families of veterans to recognizes symptoms, an exploration of alternative medicines like marijuana at Veterans Affairs hospitals, and the creation of a National Mental Health Crisis Hotline.
Rep. Seth Moulton Makes His Case for the White House
The plan comes amid record-high suicide rates amongst active-duty service members — over 320 service members died by suicide in 2018, according to Military.com. On average, 20 veterans and service members kill themselves each day, according to the latest data from the VA.
His plan also tackles mental health awareness for the general population, and would institute health screenings for high schoolers and education on healthy mental health habits.
“We’re aiming this week to highlight the effects of PTS in the lives of many veterans, including in [Rep. Moulton’s] own experience, and rolling out a plan to address PTS both for veterans and non-veterans alike,” a campaign spokesperson told INSIDER.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Taliban has reportedly made a major concession to the US during their peace talks in Afghanistan, according to the Wall Street Journal.
As US diplomatic officials and leaders of the insurgent group discuss the end of the 17-year war in Afghanistan, one source familiar with the talks told the Journal that the Taliban has agreed to oppose “any attempts by militant groups to use Afghanistan to stage terrorist attacks abroad.”
The concessions, if finalized, would seem to support an eventual US withdrawal on the grounds that Afghanistan, even under the Taliban, would not become a safe haven for terrorists to train and launch attacks outside the country. The Taliban continues to use brutal tactics against civilians and coalition forces, including suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices to gain control of more of the country against the faltering government.
US negotiators, now in their fourth day of talks in Doha, Qatar, have sought assurance that the Taliban would not support militant groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS.
During a Sensitive Site Exploitation mission, a U.S. Navy Seal talks to local Afghani villagers about the movements of Al Qaida and Taliban, Jan. 24, 2002.
(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Tim Turner)
Sources familiar with the talks have told the Journal that that was previously a promise the Taliban was not willing to make due to the group’s relationship with al-Qaeda.
The group formerly led by Osama bin Laden formed in Pakistan but was able to establish roots in Afghanistan in the 90s. After the terror attacks on 9/11, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar refused to acknowledge Bin Laden’s role in the attacks or cooperate with US authorities, according to the Journal.
Although he would later acknowledge al-Qaeda’s responsibility, Taliban militants, who are still carrying out attacks on Afghan forces and coalition partners, hold Bin Laden in high regard. Because of this, leaders of the insurgency have previously refused to take steps to oppose al-Qaeda, sources told the Journal.
Their stance appears to have softened, as Taliban leadership has now reportedly agreed to oppose militant groups in Afghanistan; sources also told the Journal the leaders are no longer demanding an immediate and complete withdrawal of US forces, which American officials have argued might lead to civil war.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s official. U.S. troops in South Korea will have their curfew lifted. The United States Forces Korea put out the memo on June 16th, and it’s now in effect on a temporary basis to try this whole “treating troops like grown-ass adults” thing out. It’ll be up until around September 17th, when they will evaluate if the troops can handle not f*cking up the one good thing they’ve gotten in years.
Every U.S. troop in Korea has been briefed on this. One single f*ck up and it’s over for everyone. They’ll be on their best Sunday Morning behavior the entire time. This may have something to do with it not being a payday weekend and everyone’s NCO will be hounding them all weekend to not even consider doing dumb sh*t.
Who am I kidding? We know there’s still going to be that one asshole who screws it all up anyway and it’ll be gone before next weekend… Here are some memes for everyone not planning to be the biggest Blue Falcon in USFK.
The U.S. Army’s chief of staff recently made a bold promise that future soldiers will be armed with weapons capable of delivering far greater lethality than any existing small arms.
“Our next individual and squad combat weapon will come in with a 10X improvement over any existing current system in the world, and that will be critical,” Gen. Mark Milley told an audience at AUSA 2017 on Oct. 10.
Milley’s pledge to “significantly increase investments” in a leap-ahead small arms technology appeared low in the story I wrote for Military.com since soldier lethality was the lowest of the Army’s top six modernization priorities.
As Milley was speaking, Textron Systems officials were showing off their new Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine, chambered for 6.5mm on the AUSA exhibition floor.
The working prototype has evolved out Textron’s light and medium machine guns that fire 5.56mm and 7.62mm case-telescoped ammunition developed under the Lightweight Small Arms Technology program.
Over the last decade, the Army has invested millions in the development of the program, which has now been rebranded to Textron’s Case-Telescoped Weapons and Ammunition.
Textron’s cased-telescoped ammunition relies on a plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile, like a conventional shotgun shell.
The ICTC is a closed bolt, forward feed, gas piston operated weapon, weighing 8.3 pounds. The 6.5mm case-telescoped ammunition weighs 35 percent less and offers 30 percent more lethality than 7.62mm x 51mm brass ammunition, Textron officials maintain.
“I think the most important thing is what we have been able to do with the intermediate caliber, the 6.5mm in this case,” Wayne Prender, vice president of Textron’s Control Surface Systems Unmanned Systems told Military.com. “We are able to not only provide a weight reduction … and all the things that come with it – we are also able to provide increased lethality because of the ability to use a more appropriate round.”
Textron officials maintain they are using a low-drag “representative” 6.5mm bullet while U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, is developing the actual projectile.
“We actually used three different bullet shapes and we scaled it,” said Paul Shipley, program manager for of Unmanned Systems. “We scaled 5.56mm up, we scaled 7.62mm down and took a low-drag shape and ran that between the two” to create the 125 grain 6.5mm bullet that’s slightly longer than the Army’s new 130 grain M80A1 Enhanced Performance Round.
Textron officials maintain that the new round retains more energy at 1,200 meters than the M80A1. At that distance, the 6.5mm has an impact-energy of 300 foot pounds compared to the M80A1 which comes in at about 230 foot pounds of energy, Textron officials maintain.
“The increased lethality we are referring to has to do with the energy down range,” Shipley said. “You can take whatever kind of bullet you want, compare them and it’s going to have increased energy down range.”
Lethality has always been a vague concept. Is it the amount of foot pounds of energy at the target? Or is it the terminal performance, or the size of the wound channel, it creates after it penetrates an enemy soldier?
It’s hard to predict how much performance will change if and when ARDEC creates a 6.5mm projectile that meets the Army’s needs.
A lot can be done to predict performance with computer modeling, but ultimately there is no way of knowing how a conceptual bullet will perform until it is live-fire tested thousands of times under multiple conditions, according to a source with intimate knowledge of military ballistics testing.
The Army has also spent years developing its current M855A1 5.56mm and M80A1 7.62mm Enhanced Performance Rounds. After many failures, the service came up with a copper-jacketed round composed of a solid copper slug that sits behind a steel penetrator tip designed to defeat battlefield barriers and remain effective enough to kill or incapacitate.
Is the Army going to throw all of that away, invest millions of dollars to redesign its ammunition-making infrastructure to switch to case-telescoped ammunition?
“What they’ve got in stockpile does what it does, and they know that is not good enough anymore, so they are faced with that choice,” Shipley said.
The Army has not come to a definitive conclusion on a future caliber, but it has been very open about its waning trust in the 5.56mm round.
In late May, Milley revealed to Congress that the M4 Carbine’s M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round cannot penetrate modern enemy body armor plates similar to the U.S. military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.
In August, the service launched a competition to find an Intermediate Service Combat Rifle chambered 7.62mm NATO. The Army intended to purchase up to 50,000 new 7.62mm rifles to meet the requirement, according to the solicitation, but sources say that the service has already backed away from that endeavor.
Textron’s 6.5mm case-telescoped carbine certainly looks like the leap-ahead, small-arms tech that the Army is searching for to arm its future soldiers.
Then again, the Army’s imagination was also captured in the late 1990s by the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, or XM29.
Remember that? It featured a 20mm airburst weapon mounted on top of a 5.56mm carbine. XM29 had an advanced fire-control system that could program 20mm shells to burst at specific distances. At 18 pounds, it proved to be too heavy and bulky for the battlefield.
Textron officials maintain that case-telescoped carbine can be customized to whatever the Army wants.
“It’s configurable,” Shipley said. “The technology that is inside is what counts.”
One would think that without a security clearance, the Director of Naval Intelligence would lose his job. In the case of Navy Vice Adm. Ted Branch, that didn’t happen.
Branch was caught on the periphery of the “Fat Leonard” scandal, due to his actions while commanding officer of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).
You’ve probably heard of it by now. Numerous Navy officers and individuals tied to a contractor in the Far East have been indicted for all sorts of charges, including retired Navy Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, whose indictment was unsealed on March 14, according to a Defense News report.
Branch had his security clearance suspended in 2013, months after he became Director of Naval Intelligence. A March 2016 report by USNI News noted that then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus discussed the situation with the Senate Armed Services Committee in a hearing.
“When I was informed in late 2013 that Adm. Branch was possibly connected to the GDMA case, I thought because of his position I should remove his clearance in an excess of caution. I was also told — assured — at that time that a decision would be made in a very short time — in a matter of weeks, I was told — as to whether he was involved and what would be the disposition of the case,” Mabus explained to Senator Joni Earnst (R-IA).
Branch’s situation had languished for almost two and a half years at that point.
“Naval intelligence is OK. The whole situation is less than optimal and frustrating, but we are where we are,” he told Military.com in Feb. 2016. “And we will persevere. And I will lead in this capacity until somebody tells me to go home.”
Branch retired on Oct. 1, 2016, upon the confirmation of his successor, Vice Adm. Jan Tighe.
During Branch’s time as captain of the Nimitz, the 10-part PBS documentary series “Carrier” was film on the vessel. The series was produced by Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions, the same company that did the Oscar-winning film “Hacksaw Ridge.”
In another historic change for the military, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday lifted the ban on transgender persons serving openly in the ranks, calling the move “the right thing to do” both practically and as a matter of principle.
Starting immediately, “Otherwise qualified service members can no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied re-enlistment or continuation of service just for being transgender,” he said at a Pentagon news conference. “Our military, and the nation it defends, will be stronger” as a result, he said.
The secretary said he was acting to ensure that the military of the future had access to the widest talent pool. “We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” he said.
Another reason for lifting the ban was to end discrimination against those who are transgender and currently serving, Carter said.
He cited Rand Corp. statistics estimating that about 2,500 people out of approximately 1.3 million active-duty service members and about 1,500 out of about 825,000 reserve service members are transgender. The upper range estimates put the number of transgender persons on active duty at 7,000 and at 4,000 in the reserves, he said.
Most importantly, allowing transgender persons to serve openly was a matter of fairness and living up to the American principles of equal treatment and opportunity under the law, Carter said.
“Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should be afforded the opportunity to compete to do so,” he said.
Carter quoted Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who said, “The United States Army is open to all Americans who meet the standard, regardless of who they are. Embedded within our Constitution is that very principle, that all Americans are free and equal.”
The lifting of the transgender ban was the latest in a series of rapid and wide-reaching social and cultural changes in the military going back to the 2011 action to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy against gays serving openly in the military and continuing through Carter’s move last January to lift restrictions on women serving in combat.
Critics have scorned the changes as “social engineering” that would impact readiness and the ability to fight, and the transitions have been adopted reluctantly by many in the upper ranks.
Significantly, Carter was standing alone at the podium when he made the transgender announcement. In matters of major policy statements, the defense secretary is usually joined by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but Gen. Joseph Dunford was absent.
Dunford was also absent when Carter announced that he was opening combat military occupational specialties to women. As commandant, Dunford had urged closing some combat positions in the Marine Corps to women.
When asked about Dunford’s absence, Carter did not respond directly.
“This is my decision,” he said.
Carter said the decision was supported by the “senior leadership,” but did not say whether Dunford was included in the senior leadership.
Criticism of Carter’s action from Capitol Hill was immediate. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the announcement as “the latest example of the Pentagon and the President prioritizing politics over policy.”
“Our military readiness — and hence, our national security — is dependent on our troops being medically ready and deployable,” Thornberry said. “The administration seems unwilling or unable to assure the Congress and the American people that transgender individuals will meet these individual readiness requirements at a time when our armed forces are deployed around the world.”
However, Carter had the authority to change the policy on his own, and it appeared that Congress could do little to block him. Thornberry was vague on whether Congress might seek to act. His statement said that “Congress would examine legislative options to address any readiness issues that might be associated with the new policy.”
OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, or SLDN, a group supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender military community, praised the lifting of the ban. “Transgender service members have been awaiting this announcement for months and years. It has been long overdue,” said Matt Thorn, executing director of the group.
Thorn said Carter “has given a breath of relief and overdue respect to transgender service members who have been and are currently serving our country with undeniable professionalism, the utmost respect and illustrious courage, with the caveat to do so silently. Today, we mark history, once again, by ending the need to serve in silence.”
Carter had made his position on the transgender ban clear last July, when he called the ban “outdated” and ordered a study on lifting it.
“I directed the working group to start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified,” he said.
The study looked at other militaries that already allow transgender service members to serve openly. Currently, about 18 militaries allow transgender service, including those of Britain, Israel, Australia, Brazil and Chile.
Based on the analysis of other militaries, Rand concluded that there would be “minimal readiness impacts from allowing transgender service members to serve openly,” Carter said. Rand also estimated that health care costs would represent “an exceedingly small proportion” of the department’s overall health care expenditures, he said.
The Pentagon signaled it plans to pay for costs associated with transgender health care.
“Medically necessary” gender reassignment surgery and medications will also be covered beginning in about 90 days, Carter said.
“Our doctors will give them medically necessary procedures as determined by the medical professions,” he said. “In no later than 90 days, the DoD will issue a commanders’ guidebook for leading transgender troops, as well as medical guidance to military doctors for transgender-related care.”
The success of changing the policy on transgender service will be determined by how the changes are put in place, said Carter, who set out a year-long course of gradual implementation.
Within three months, the department will issue a commanders’ guidebook on how to deal with currently-serving transgender service members, along with guidance to doctors for providing transition-related care if required to currently-serving transgender service members, Carter said. Also within that time period, service members will be able to initiate the process for officially changing their gender in personnel management systems, he said.
Following the guidance period, the focus will turn to training the entire force on the new rules — “from commanders, to medical personnel, to the operating force and recruiters,” Carter said.
By the one-year mark, all service branches will begin allowing transgender individuals to join the armed forces, assuming they meet accession standards. Also, an otherwise-qualified individual’s gender identity will not be considered a bar to admission to a military service academy, or participation in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or any other accession program if the individual meets the new criteria.
Immediately, however, transgender soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen will no longer have to live with the possibility of being booted from the service or denied re-enlistment solely because they are transgender, Carter said. “Service members currently on duty will be able to serve openly,” he said.
On the subject of “gender re-assignment” surgery, Carter said the Pentagon will not pay for recruits to have it. “Our initial accession policy will require an individual to have completed any medical treatment that their doctor has determined is necessary in connection with their gender transition and to have been stable in their identified gender for 18 months, as certified by their doctor, before they can enter the military,” said.
The decision on whether to allow those already in the ranks to have gender re-assignment surgery paid for by DoD would be up to the individual’s military doctor, Carter said. “The medical standards don’t change,” Carter said, and all service members will be entitled to “all the medical care that doctors deem necessary.”
In response to a question about whether Tehran would free Iranian-American father and son Baquer and Siamak Namazi, Zarif said on September 21 that the only way for him to have influence on the courts is through a swap for Iranians he claimed the United States is holding unjustly.
“Let’s not put one person in front of another. Let’s do a universal deal. I repeat, we can exchange all prisoners, period,” he said.
Washington has long demanded that Iran release U.S. citizens including Baquer and Siamak Namazi, who were jailed in 2016 and 2015, respectively.
Baquer Namazi, the former governor of Khuzestan Province under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was arrested during a trip to Iran to see his imprisoned son.
The United States has exchanged prisoners with Iran before. Navy veteran Michael White, detained in 2018, returned home in June as part of a deal in which the United States allowed an Iranian-American physician Majid Taheri to leave to Iran.
In December 2019, Tehran freed U.S. citizen Xiyue Wang, who had been held for three years on spying charges, in a swap for Iranian Massoud Soleimani, who faced charges of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Tehran denies it holds people on political grounds, and has mostly accused its foreign prisoners of espionage.
On Nov. 14, 1910, the U.S. military took its first step toward linking flight and naval operations when Eugene Ely made the first carrier takeoff, guiding a Pusher biplane off the deck of the light cruiser USS Birmingham in the waters of Norfolk, Virginia.
The Navy tapped Capt. Washington Irving Chambers — who has been called “the father of naval aviation” — earlier that year “to observe everything that will be of use in the study of aviation and its influence upon the problems of naval warfare,” according to the Smithsonian.
Chambers recognized the utility of shipborne landings and takeoffs. At a flying event in Belmont Park, New York, in October 1914, Chambers asked planemaker Glenn Curtiss and Ely if they would attempt to land on a ship if he supplied one. (Another account has Curtiss and Ely making the offer, and Chambers saying he had no money to finance the experiment but would provide a ship.)
On November 14 — a Monday soiled by fog and intermittent rain — a Curtiss Pusher biplane with floats mounted under the wings was loaded aboard the Birmingham. The US Naval Institute identifies the aircraft as a Hudson Fulton Flyer.
The cruiser was equipped with an 83-foot runway on its deck, but that length meant Ely only had 57 feet to take off.
Though the original plan was to steam into the Chesapeake Bay and launch the plane while underway, which would provide extra lift, it was foiled by the weather. That afternoon, Ely launched his biplane from Birmingham’s deck while the ship was as anchor.
After his wheels left the deck, Ely guided the plane toward the water to build up speed. But he miscalculated, and witnesses watched as the plane smacked into the water and bounced back into the air. The collision damaged the propeller and sprayed Ely’s goggles with saltwater.
After less than five minutes in the air, Ely set the plane down on a nearby beach. He had flown less than 3 miles.
‘The most important landing of a bird since the dove flew back to the ark’
A reporter for the Indianapolis Star noted afterward that, “Aerial navigation proved today that it is a factor which must be dealt with in the naval tactics of the world’s future.”
Ely and the Curtiss team had plans to fly on the West Coast in January 1911, and Chambers made arrangements to follow up their feat in Norfolk by landing on a ship.
The armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania, anchored in San Francisco Bay, was outfitted with a 120-foot platform. Ely, wearing a padded football helmet and bicycle inner tubes around his body for protection, took off from a nearby race track on the morning of January 18, 1911, flying a Curtiss Pusher with hooks on the landing gear.
Thousands of spectators watched as Ely made a safe landing on the Pennsylvania, with the plane’s hooks catching ropes stretched across the ship’s deck. After lunch with the captain, Ely took off from the Pennsylvania, landing safely at the race track.
Capt. C. F. Pond, commander of the Pennsylvania, called Ely’s feat “the most important landing of a bird since the dove flew back to the ark.”
Ely continued flying at sites around the country, earning acclaim. But his life was cut short by a crash at the Georgia State Fair on October 19, 1911. Though he was a civilian flier, Ely was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the Navy in 1933.
Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays on earth. But that doesn’t mean that conflicts simply freeze every December 25th.
Important events in both of America’s most formative wars — the Revolutionary War and the Civil War — took place on Christmas. British and German troops even celebrated the holiday together on Christmas Day during WWI.
Here’s a look at some of the major military events that have fallen on Christmas, a date with a surprisingly rich history.
Pierre Bienaimé wrote a previous version of this post.
5. 1776 — George Washington crosses the Delaware River
Washington led his troops across a 300-yard stretch of the Delaware River in the dead of night between December 25 and 26, 1776.
The surprise move would put Washington’s men a 19-mile march away from a garrison of Hessians (German mercenaries hired by the British to help them in their effort to retain a hold on the rebelling colonies) that the Continental Army took completely by surprise.
The Hessians’ quick surrender at the Battle of Trenton would be the first of two rebel victories in New Jersey (the other being the Battle of Princeton a week later) as the Continental Army regained control of the colony. This effectively reversed the British drive that had pushed the rebels across New Jersey in the previous months. The daring crossing of the Delaware ended up being one of the turning points of the war.
4. 1868 — US President Andrew Johnson pardons former Confederate soldiers
Nearly a century later, on Christmas Day of 1868, US president Andrew Johnson extended a full pardon and amnesty “to all and to every person who, directly or indirectly, participated in the late insurrection or rebellion.”
The internecine war had ended more than three years earlier, taking more American lives than any other conflict in history. But Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s scorched earth tactics late in the war left much of the South in ruins, and the country emerged from the war in a state of deep division.
Johnson had been a Tennessee congressman, senator, and governor before joining Abraham Lincoln’s presidential ticket. He was tipped in part to attract southern votes. Yet at war’s end he seemed bent on imposing harsh conditions on the defeated half of the country.
The day after being sworn in as the nation’s president, he asserted that “treason must be made infamous, and traitors must be impoverished.”
But according to the History Department at North Carolina State University, Attorney General James Speed tempered Johnson’s punitive intentions: “Mercy must be largely extended. Some of the great leaders and offenders only must be made to feel the extreme rigor of the law,” Speed advised.
Southerners enjoyed only conditional and limited pardoning (depending on their station during the war) — at least until this blanket amnesty on “the 25th day of December, A. D. 1868.”
3. 1914 — German, British, and French soldiers make temporary peace to celebrate Christmas together
In the midst of war, soldiers laid down their arms to sing Christmas carols, play soccer, and barter with the cigarettes and sweets they’d received in care packages from the nations they served.
In some places, the truce was limited to an occasion for each side to bury their dead strewn in no man’s land, the stretch of earth between opposing trenches that too often served as a killing field. In others, the skirmishing continued.
But some made the Christmas Truce of 1914 what it was: An odd yet heartening case study in how people react to the pressures of war.
2. 1941 — Japan seizes control of Hong Kong at the expense of the United Kingdom
Japan’s aggression during World War II began well before the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1931, Imperial Japan invaded Manchuria, a vast coastal region in northeast China. In 1937, it made advances on the rest of the country as well.
And though American involvement started with the Pearl Harbor attack, the surprise assault was immediately followed by Japan’s invasion of Hong Kong, a British holding, in late 1941.
Hundreds died in the 18-day battle for Hong Kong, and more were wounded or incarcerated in POW camps. Some would never return.
Japan announced the surrender of the colony by radio broadcast on Christmas Day, 1941.
1. 1941 — Admiral Émile Muselier captures Saint Pierre and Miquelon, an archipelago near Canada, for the Free French Forces
Admiral Émile Muselier captures Saint Pierre and Miquelon, an archipelago near Canada, for the Free French Forces (French Defense History Service)
The North American continent does not feature as a hot spot in the events of World War II.
But soon after France’s fall to the Nazis, the colonial governor of a few small islands off the coast of Newfoundland started working with the resistance.
On Christmas Eve, 1941, a small task force under Admiral Émile Muselier stormed the island under the cover of night. They met no resistance and the island’s administrative centers were taken within an hour, eliminating what otherwise could have served as a Nazi outpost deep among Allied nations while giving the Free French cause legitimacy.
Paratroopers assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment prepare to conduct security checks near the Pakistan border at Combat Outpost Dand Patan in Afghanistan’s Paktya province in 2012. | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Epperson
President Obama once again altered his withdrawal plan for Afghanistan on Thursday, announcing that 8,400 U.S. troops would remain in the country next year rather than the 5,500 he initially authorized.
The announcement by Obama at the White House, with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford flanking him, left decisions on future U.S. commitments to Afghanistan to the next president and essentially scuttled Obama’s dream of leaving office after ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The decision I’m making today ensures that my successor has a solid foundation for progress in Afghanistan, as well as the flexibility to address the threat of terrorism as it evolves,” Obama said. “I firmly believe the decision I’m announcing is the right thing to do.”
Currently, there are about 9,800 U.S. troops authorized for Afghanistan. Obama had earlier agreed to alter his plan to begin reducing that number to 5,500 by January 2017 by keeping the 9,800 in Afghanistan through the rest of this year, as recommended by his generals.
In a statement, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee who just returned from a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan, said “the decision to retain 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan into next year is certainly preferable to cutting those forces by nearly half. That said, when the president himself describes the security situation in Afghanistan as ‘precarious,’ it is difficult to discern any strategic rationale for withdrawing 1,400 U.S. troops by the end of the year.”
The United States needs to “up its game” in the Arctic, which is an increasingly important region as global warming opens up new sea lanes and makes oil and mineral resources there more readily available, the U.S. defense secretary has said.
The Arctic, which lies partly within the territories of Russia, the United States, Canada, and a handful of other countries, by some estimates holds more oil and natural gas reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, and Moscow has been intensifying its energy development there.
Russia has also embarked upon its biggest military push in the Arctic since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, beefing up its military presence and capabilities.
Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow is moving to re-open abandoned Soviet military, air, and radar bases on remote Arctic islands and build new ones as it pushes ahead with a claim to almost half a million square miles of the Arctic.
“Certainly America’s got to up its game in the Arctic. There’s no doubt about that,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters in Alaska before leaving on a trip to Asia.
Part of that would be an increased Coast Guard presence, with more icebreakers and other specialized vessels needed in the Arctic, he said.
Mattis said the Pentagon already relied on Alaska as a base for operations in the Pacific, and the interceptor missiles the United States maintains there already constitute the cornerstone of the U.S. homeland defense.
But he said that the warming of the Arctic had spurred a new rush for resources in the region that the United States has been reluctant to join.
“So the reality is that we’re going to have to deal with the developing Arctic… It is also going to open not just to transport but also to energy exploration,” Mattis said.
The United States and Russia have both expressed interest in boosting Arctic drilling, but Russia has gone further in developing its Arctic resources. Currently, the United States prohibits oil drilling in wildlife refuges in its Alaskan Arctic wilderness areas and most offshore areas.
Beyond the competition between Russia and the United States, early 2018 China outlined ambitions to extend President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping lanes that have been opened up by global warming.
(Photo by Michel Temer)
China also has been helping Greenland, whose territory covers a major portion of the Arctic, develop its vast, mostly untapped mineral resources.
China itself has no Arctic territory or coastline, so its increasing interest in the region has prompted concerns from Arctic states over its long-term strategic objectives, including whether that includes military deployment.
Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan, standing alongside Mattis, said there was bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress to view the Arctic in more strategic terms.
“I agree with the secretary, I think we’re behind, but I think we’re finally starting to catch up,” Sullivan said.
Studies show that much of the oil and gas resources in the Arctic is concentrated in Alaska, which the United States purchased from the Russian Empire in 1867 for $7.2 million. It became the 49th U.S. state in 1959.
Israel received three F-35s from the US on Tuesday, bringing its total inventory of the revolutionary fighter up to five, but according to a French journalist citing French intelligence reports, Israeli F-35s have already carried out combat missions in Syria.
In the Air Forces Monthly,Thomas Newdick summarized a report from Georges Malbrunot at France’s Le Figaro newspaper saying Israel took its F-35s out on a combat mission just one month after receiving them from the US.
Malbrunot reported that on January 12 Israeli F-35s took out a Russian-made S-300 air defense system around Syrian President Bashar Assad’s palace in Damascus and another Russian-made Pantsir-S1 mobile surface-to-air missile system set for delivery to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Israel has repeatedly and firmly asserted its goal to make sure weapons cannot reach Hezbollah, a terror group sworn to seek the destruction of Israel.
In March, Israel admitted to an airstrike in Syria. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “when we know about an attempt to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah, we do whatever we can to prevent this from happening, provided we have sufficient information and capabilities to react,” according to Russian state-run media.
However, the other details of the story seem unlikely. The only known S-300 system in Syria is operated by the Russians near their naval base, so hitting that would mean killing Russian servicemen, which has not been reported at all.
Also, as Tyler Rogoway of The Drive points out, the Pantsir-S1 air defenses would certainly bolster Hezbollah in Lebanon, but Israel wouldn’t be under immediate pressure to destroy this system. Their jets have advanced air defense suppression and electronic warfare capabilities that limit the threat posed by the Pantsir-S1, and make it unlikely that they would risk F-35s to attack them.
Jeff Halper, author of War Against the People, a book that looks at the military ties between Israel and the US, told Al Jazeera that Israeli pilots may be the first to see combat action in the F-35.
“Israel serves as the test-bed for the development of these kinds of new weapons,” said Halper. “The F-35 will be tested in the field, in real time by Israel. The likelihood is that the first time the plane is used in combat will be with Israeli pilots flying it.”
While the details remain sketchy and wholly unverifiable, Halper’s “test-bed” assertion has certainly been true of US-Israeli defense projects, like missile defenses, in the past. Rogoway also noted Israel’s history of rushing new platforms to the front lines as possible supporting evidence.
Short of taking responsibility for the attack, Israeli officials said it was a strike on Hezbollah targets, which they support.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told Israeli Army Radio: “I can confirm that the incident in Syria corresponds completely with Israel’s policy to act to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah in Iran. Naturally, I don’t want to elaborate on this,” according to the BBC.