You may have noticed a select few Marines and sailors walking around in their uniforms with a green rope wrapped around their left arm — it’s not just for decoration.
That green rope is called a “French Fourragere,” and it was awarded to the members of the 5th and 6th Marine Regiments for their heroic actions during the Battle of Belleau Wood from the French government in WWI.
This rite of passage extends to Marines who serve in those respected units today to commemorate their brothers in that historic battle.
The Fourragere is authorized on all service uniforms, and dress coats or jackets where medals or ribbons are prescribed.
During the bloody summer months of 1918, the Marines and the Germans fiercely fought one another just northwest of the Paris-to-Metz road. For weeks, German Gen. Erich Ludendorff had his troops attack U.S. forces with artillery, machine guns, and deadly gas.
Although the Marines sustained thousands of casualties during the skirmish, the infantrymen charged their opposition through the wooded area with fixed bayonets.
It’s reported the French urged the Marines to turn back, but the grunts proceeded onward frequently engaging the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.
By June 26, 1918, the war-hardened Marines confirmed that they secured the woods from German forces and took many prisoners.
And the French Fourragere reminds Leathernecks in this storied units of their World War I bravery.
‘If you’re a soldier in China, applying to leave the army is likely to leave a black mark on your social credit score.’ This was the striking opening line of a Sixth Tone article from April 2018 reposted on the Chinese military’s official website. The article was about the use of a social credit system by the People’s Liberation Army. However, it garnered surprisingly little attention for such a hot topic.
Excellent research has already been done on the various prototype social credit systems in China, but a big gap in that research is the question of how a social credit system might be applied to the PLA, particularly at a time when President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party are increasingly concerned about the military’s loyalty to the party.
The 2015 Chinese defence white paper stated that the PLA is enjoying a period of strategic opportunity and can therefore modernise through ongoing reforms. However, China has faced growing domestic and international criticism and pushback in recent months. The CCP is trying to put out fires on multiple fronts: continued freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea; a slowing economy; crises in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Taiwan; and the coronavirus outbreak.
The PLA is being pushed to be combat-ready as soon as possible, but military reforms haven’t been welcomed across the board. Changes in promotion structures, preferences for highly skilled labour and a new focus on high-tech joint operations have challenged the ways in which the PLA has operated for decades. However, the party’s longstanding battle to ensure that its army is loyal to it is an increasing priority under Xi, and the CCP continues to emphasise that the party controls the gun: 党指挥枪 (dang zhihui qiang). Under Xi, disloyalty to the party has been made illegal in order to protect the CCP’s power.
In the light of that threat perception, the PLA version of a social credit system seems to be a new tool for punishing betrayal, dissuading dissent and rewarding allegiance to the military.
The Sixth Tone article reports that 17 military personnel were ‘blacklisted’ in China’s social credit system in Jilin City and restricted from travelling by air and rail and from seeking civil service employment. Their names and addresses were posted in Chinese news articles and on the WeChat account of the Jilin City military recruitment office. They apparently ‘lacked the willpower to adapt to military life’. According to the article, they were prohibited from taking out loans and insurance policies and banned from enrolling in educational institutions for two years.
Similar examples have been reported in other provinces, where one-off punishments such as fines have been accompanied by permanent ones. For instance, two men in Fujian Province were punished by having their registration documents permanently marked with a note that read, ‘refused military service’.
More recently, in March 2019, Weihai City prefecture in Shandong published its own ‘Implementation Plan for the Evaluation of Personal Credit Scores in the Field of National Defense Mobilization’, which outlined how a social credit record could be used as both a carrot and a stick in domestic military matters. Punishments were listed for those deemed to be acting against national defence interests.
China’s 2019 defence white paper and other government documents state that ‘China’s national defense is the responsibility of all Chinese people’, so punishments for disloyalty aren’t directed solely at soldiers but also at civilians.
Until Xi’s reforms, the PLA was left to set and manage its own institutional priorities, but now it has to address corruption and tackle vested interests to take the military modernisation program forward. It seems that the application of a social credit system in the military is a potential additional measure to enforce strict compliance with new military guidelines.
The social credit system, which both co-opts and coerces, might also be used as a recruitment tool as the PLA competes against China’s private sector for highly skilled graduates. Weihai City’s system not only rewards those who join or extend their service in the military with bonus social credit points for them and their families, but also punishes those who do not.
Weihai’s military-related social credit system is integrated into the city’s ‘credit joint disciplinary mechanism’. Those who contribute positively or negatively to national defence have points added to or deducted from their personal records. Credit records are reportedly correlated with overall credit ratings, from AAA (integrity model) to D (dishonest). The repercussions of dissent extend beyond the soldier to his or her immediate family members. The naming and shaming is also becoming ever more public: transgressions are announced not just on government websites (such as the local military recruitment offices and the prefecture’s Credit China website), but also on social media accounts.
The link between Weihai’s social credit score and national defence suggests that the PLA is also more concerned about its ability to mobilise the military in a national crisis than previously thought. If Xi’s anticorruption campaign was also a tool to address the CCP’s control over the military, then the targeting of those in PLA logistics roles further suggests a concern in the military’s leadership about the force’s ability to mobilise when needed.
It’s important to note that the PLA’s experience with social credit is based on isolated pilot projects and not a complete institution-wide program. However, the published examples indicate that those projects might be a strong indicator of a future system by which the PLA’s leadership ensures that the PLA remains the party’s army.
The M247 Sergeant York was officially designated as a “self-propelled anti-aircraft gun” but was for all intents and purposes a tank chassis with anti-aircraft guns attached to the top. The vehicle was named for one Alvin York, a famous and highly decorated WWI hero who captured over 100 German soldiers pretty much single-handedly. Unfortunately for the U.S. tax payers who spent just shy of $2 billion on it (about $4.8 billion today or, humourously enough, after appropriately adjusting for inflation to make the dollar values match, about 1/11th what the entire Apollo program cost), the final version of the weapon ended up being so useless its automatic targeting system couldn’t distinguish between a toilet vent fan and a jet plane, the vehicle itself couldn’t keep up with the tanks it was designed to protect, and it was made obsolete by advances in enemy weaponry after only a few dozen faulty units were made. Here now is the story of the forgotten M247.
This particular weapon was developed by the defunct off-shoot of Ford known as Ford Aerospace in response to a contract put out by the U.S. Army in 1977 requesting what they referred to as an, “Advanced Radar-directed Gun Air Defense System.” This was later re-dubbed, “Division Air Defense” which was itself shorted to DIVAD in official documentation.
In a nutshell, the Army wanted a drivable anti-aircraft system that was to serve alongside their newly developed M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley tanks in battle. The contract was put out in direct response to a battle tactic known as “pop-up” which essentially involved helicopters harassing tanks from a distance by hiding behind cover and then popping up briefly to let loose a volley of anti-tank missiles (which themselves were a newly developed technology) before hiding once again.
The U.S. Army found that the tactic was almost impossible to counter with the ground-based weapons it had available at the time as their leading anti-aircraft weapons system, the M163 Vulcan, only had a range of 1.2 KM (3/4 of a mile), while newly developed anti-tank missiles, such as the 9K114 Shturm used by the Soviets, could hit from a range almost five times greater than that. To add insult to injury, the Soviets had no problem countering the pop-up attack method thanks to their ZSU-23-4 Shilka, which is essentially what the United States wanted to copy.
To minimize production time and cost, the Army specified that the basis of the newly developed system had to be mounted atop an M48 Patton tank chassis (something the Army had in great surplus). Further, the system had to more or less use off-the-shelf parts, rather than anything being developed from scratch.
As to the final specific capabilities it was supposed to have, it had to be able to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed and be able to lock onto any target within 8 seconds, all with a minimum 50% chance to hit a target from 3 KM (1.9 miles) away with a single 30 second volley. It also had to be able to continually track up to 48 moving aerial targets, automatically identifying enemy aircraft, and intelligently prioritizing which should be shot down first. All the gunner had to do then was to select the target from the generated list and fire.
Several companies responded to the request with proposed systems, with the Army ultimately narrowing it down to two entrants- one developed by Ford Aerospace and one by General Dynamics, with both companies given $79 million to develop prototypes.
After extensive testing of two prototypes made by each company, in which General Dynamics’ reportedly shot down 19 drones vs. Ford’s 9, Ford was awarded the contract…
As you might have guessed, this decision was controversial, not just because the General Dynamics prototype outperformed Ford’s by a considerable margin, but because, unlike every other entrant, the M247 used more costly 40MM shells instead of 35MM ones which were extensively used by NATO at the time. Rumour had it that Ford stood to make more money from the use of 40MM rounds due to a business deal they had with the manufacturer. However, it should also be noted that the Army may have had good reason to favour the 40MM given its larger size and a newly developed 40mm round that had a proximity sensing fuse built in.
Whatever the case, Ford Aerospace won the lucrative contract and began immediate production of M247s in 1981.
Every M247 Ford produced had problems, mainly centered around their automatic targeting system. This ultimately led one soldier to speculate that the only way the M247 would manage to take out an enemy would be by “driving over the top of it.”
As an example of some of the issues here, in 1982 Ford was set to demonstrate the M247 to a gathered crowd of VIPs and military brass. However, the moment the M247’s tracking system was turned on, it immediately targeted the stands the gathered people were sitting in, resulting in complete chaos as those present trampled one another to get out of the way. Of course, the M247 required the operator to tell it to fire, so there was no real danger here, but one can imagine staring down a pair of 40mm cannons in a live demo would be a tad frightening.
After a while, the engineers thought they’d managed to fix the issue and the demo resumed, only to see the M247 shoot into the ground rather than the drone target it was “locked on” to.
In the aftermath, a Ford Aerospace executive claimed the “glitch” had been caused by the M247 being washed before the demonstration, damaging the targeting system. This explanation didn’t sit well with military brass or the many journalists present, one of whom, Gregg Easterbrook, mused that perhaps Ford Aerospace didn’t realize that it rained in Europe where the M247 was to be deployed.
Other problems with the M247’s targeting system included its seeming inability to tell the difference between helicopters and trees and its penchant for locking onto random other ground-based objects as threats. The most infamous example of this was that time an M247 ignored a passing drone it was supposed to be targeting and instead locked onto a nearby latrine exhaust fan, marking it as a low priority, slow-moving target.
The M247’s targeting system was so poor that even when presented with an unrealistically favorable scenario, such as a helicopter hovering completely still in mid-air, it still missed and took an agonizing 12 seconds just to acquire the target.
How was this targeting system so bad, given that it was developed using off-the-shelf parts that were shown to be reliable already? Mainly because the radar was one designed for the F-16 fighter jet. (In fact, it worked very well in the open air.) However, despite the efforts of the Ford and Army engineers, the random objects on the ground continually wreaked havoc on the radar’s ability to track low flying aerial targets like pop-up attacking helicopters. It also had significant problems tracking high flying targets because when the turrets were raised up they got in the way of the radar… (*queue Yakety Sax*).
On top of all this, the M247’s turret also couldn’t turn fast enough to track fast-moving targets and the hydraulics leaked in even marginally cold weather. Not a problem, of course, given it’s always balmy in the regions that were once the former Soviet Union… (In truth, even if it was balmy, it turns out the tracking system also struggled in high ambient temperatures and had trouble dealing with vibrations, such as generated continually when the M247 moved over the ground.)
Another major problem, as previously mentioned, was that the M247’s top speed wasn’t sufficient to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed, meaning it literally couldn’t drive fast enough to travel with the things it was specifically designed to protect. You might at this point be thinking that one’s on the Army because they’re the ones that made Ford use the M48 Patton tank as the base, and that’s not an entirely unfair thought. However, it should be noted that the M48 was previously capable of keeping up here, but Ford added about 17 tons to the original 45 in their modifications of the turret, making the tank much slower than it had previously been.
Despite all these problems to units being delivered, the Army continued to pump money into the project, mostly because there wasn’t a backup option and there was a very pressing need for such a weapon. However, rumors of the Army faking positive results for the M247 via putting it in unrealistically favorable conditions (such as hovering the drones and attaching radar reflectors), including Oregon state representative Dennis Smith going so far as to publicly accuse them of this, ultimately led to something of an inquiry on the matter. Specifically, in 1984, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger decided to oversee a set of amazingly expensive tests costing $54 million ($144 million today) to better determine what this weapon could and couldn’t do.
The tests did not go well. When the system utterly failed to hit any realistically flown drones, they resorted to having them fly in a straight line. After further failures to actually hit a target, the drones were made to hold still and equipped with radar reflectors… (Rather ironic for a weapon named after a famed WWI soldier known for his incredibly sharpshooting ability.)
All was not lost, however. In one of the rounds of tests where a drone was moving the M247 did manage to slightly damage it, knocking it off course, at which point the safety officer remotely self-destructed it as he was supposed to do if a drone did such a thing. Nevertheless, this was interpreted by the press as the military trying to make it look like the M247 had actually managed a kill, leading to even more outcry that the Army was just trying to fake the results to make the massively expensive M247 look good.
(As to that cost, while it’s widely reported today that the project cost close to $7 billion (about $18 billion today), in fact, that number includes about three decades of anti-aircraft weapon development leading up to and including the actual figure of about $1.8 billion (about $4.8 billion today) spent on the development of the M247s.)
In any event, around the same time of the debacle that was the 1984 tests, the Soviet Union were deploying longer-range anti-tank missiles that were capable of being fired outside of the then current range the M247 could effectively counter the attacks, even if the system did aim properly.
Thus, despite the pressing need for such a system with little in the way of a backup, Weinberger, with support from Congress, some members of which had been present at the test, canceled the project rather than trying to sink more money into it to fix it. In the coming years, most of the M247s found their way onto target ranges where they were destroyed in various tests by weaponry that could actually aim properly. Today, only a handful of M247s still exist, one of which can be found at the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park.
The baddest bad guy in all of Star Wars is also, perhaps, the most famous fictional father of all time: Darth Vader AKA Anakin Skywalker. But, after Vader was out of the picture in Return of the Jedi, newer Star Wars movies have struggled to introduce family drama into the saga that was as meaty and as frightening. Since 2015’s The Force Awakens, the primary villain of new Star Wars has mostly been Kylo Ren, previously known as Ben Solo, before he turned evil and killed his dad, Han Solo. But, back in 2015, it was hinted that Kylo Ren had some muscle to help with his dirty work; the mysterious Knights of Ren. Now, like the Spanish Inquisition on Monty Python, they’re back! Nobody expects the Knights of Ren!
Thanks to newly released photos from The Rise of Skywalker, it finally looks like we’ll get some answers about who the hell these dark knights really are.
On May 22, 2019, Vanity Fair released its latest cover story, a huge preview of The Rise of Skywalker written by Magicians novelist, journalist and all-around cool dad, Lev Grossman. As with most Star Wars films, this feature was accompanied by beautiful photos from legendary photographer Annie Lewbowitz. Chewbacca is reunited with Lando, Luke Skywalker’s ghost (maybe?) stands proudly with R2-D2 and Rey and Kylo Ren duke it out again with their lightsabers. But, for fans thinking about the villains of the new saga, one minor detail was confirmed by the photos, which has major implications: The Knights of Ren are back!
In one early photo, evildoers, dressed all in black are depicted with the following caption:
“J.J. Abrams, alongside Stunt Coordinator Eunice Huthart, directs the Knights of Ren; elite fearsome enforcers of Kylo Ren’s dark will.”
Up until this point, it wasn’t entirely clear if the Knights of Ren would actually return in The Rise of Skywalker, or, like, at all. After being introduced in a flashback in The Force Awakens, hardcore fans and regular people alike have been scratching their heads for four years now about who these people could be. Like Kylo Ren, are they also former students of Luke Skywalker’s turned to evil? Are all of them men? Could another, long-lost member of the Skywalker/Solo family be chilling under those creepy masks? How come they don’t all get lightsabers?
Not, it looks like The Rise of Skywalker is poised to answer this question. It may be a small thing, but considering the fact that Kylo Ren could seemingly turn back to the light side of the Force at any point, then it feels likely any of the Knights of Ren could become the latest scum and villainy in the Star Wars universe. (We don’t know who Kylo is fighting in those trailers, after all.)
Star Wars loves to have a good role reversal when it comes to evildoers. In the original trilogy, Darth Vader was revealed to be Luke’s father. In, the prequels, a kindly senator was really a Sith Lord. Even in Solo: A Star Wars Story, a dreaded gang leader — Enfys Nest — is secretly a revolutionary woman in disguise.
So, now that we know the Knights of Ren are back, we should be prepared for some answers about them, but also, some twists, too.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
From a troop’s first day in the military to their last, they’ll pick up various leadership traits that will (hopefully) propel them into a positive, productive future. Although most of us won’t ever know what it’s like to lead a whole platoon or battalion, we’re often thrown into temporary leadership roles as we take boots under our wings, showing them how sh*t gets done while fostering a level of respect.
Leadership can be taught during training, but it’s not truly understood until you’re in the field. The following skills are the cornerstones of leadership.
We’ve all experienced first-hand how infuriating it is when someone constantly feels the need to put in their two cents — just because they can. Many young leaders, eager to meaningfully contribute, will feel compelled to change something to their liking, even if it won’t help better complete the mission at hand.
It’s an important to know when you should back away.
Show one, do one, teach one
It’s up to the military’s leaders to impart their knowledge onto junior troops. As essential part of the military is training troops to win battles. When a troop doesn’t know how to pass a certain test, it’s up to their leader to teach them.
The winning strategy here is, “show one, do one, teach one.” The leader will first show a troop how to do something, that troop will then do it for themselves, and then, finally, that troop will go teach another how to complete the task.
They say that teaching is the best way to learn — this method benefits both a leader and his troops.
All too often, we see orders get passed down by people who wouldn’t dare complete the task themselves. These so-called leaders tell you, “good luck,” and then show up in the end to take all the credit.
Don’t do this. Instead, lead from the front. Help with the dangerous missions you helped plan.
Know your team’s strength and weakness
When you walk onto the battlefield, either literally or metaphorically, it’s important to know what each individual in the team is best at in the event something pops off. We’ve encountered leaders who don’t know elbows from as*holes when it comes to their squad.
We’d all like to be appreciated for our hard work, but victories are rarely due to a single act. Recognize that the military is a team environment. Each member plays an important role in achieving victory. Taking all the credit for a group’s hard work only makes you look dumb.
Earlier in 2019, President Trump wanted to send U.S. troops into Mexico to assist the Mexican government in fighting drug cartel violence. But even after the brutal killing of an American family in Mexico, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declined Trump’s offer to accept American troops inside Mexico. Trump wanted to “wipe them off the face of the Earth,” saying we just needed a “call from your great new President.” But that call never came.
In order to expand the range of options for American intervention, Trump is looking into designating the cartels as a foreign terrorist organization, a move he says will come in the next 90 days.
“They will be designated,” Trump said in the interview. “I’ve been working on that for the last 90 days. You know, designation is not that easy. You have to go through a process and we’re well into that process.”
That process means the cartels acting like a foreign terrorist organization, specifically meeting certain criteria set by the State Department. The organization must be foreign, have the capability to engage in terrorist activities, and present a threat to U.S. national security.
Under the ‘terrorist activity defined, they meet the criteria for being engaged in hijacking and sabotage conveyances, detaining/murder/injuring an individual or a government organization to keep them from doing any act as a condition for the release of an individual,” Lenny DePaul, Chief Inspector/Commander of the U. S. Marshal Service, told Fox News.
The groups are also guilty of targeted assassinations, using explosives to threaten and destroy government institutions, and posing a danger to individuals and property.
Once designated a foreign terrorist organization, cartel members would no longer be able to enter the United States, Americans would no longer be able to do business with these groups, their sub-organizations, or legitimate organizations with ties to the cartels. This includes doing business with any known member of any cartel. Domestic law enforcement would also be able to prosecute gang members and drug dealers using anti-terrorism laws. An estimated 80 percent of weapons used by cartels come from the United States, and the violence is only getting worse.
Since 2006, some 250,000 people have been killed in cartel infighting. The reason? The Mexican Government under President Felipe Calderon declared war on the cartels in an effort to end drug and gun violence. It began with 6,500 troops sent to Michoacán state and ended with 45,000 being sent in. By the end of Calderon’s term, 120,000 Mexicans were dead due to cartel-related violence. Since the escalation of violence, the cartels have turned into full-on insurgent groups.
(Drug Enforcement Agency)
The cartels have begun to hire mercenaries and recruit paramilitary forces to protect their trade routes and territories. They use insurgent tactics and propaganda methods to intimidate journalists and influence the Mexican populace. When their public relations campaigns have little effect, they all turn to violence and targeted killings.
But Mexico is pushing back against the United States.
“Our problems will be solved by Mexicans,” President Andres Manuel Lopez said a press conference. “We don’t want any interference from any foreign country.”
US aircraft carriers are a “tremendous expression of US national power,” and that makes them a target for adversarial powers, the US Navy’s top admiral said Feb. 6, 2019.
“The big thing that is occupying our minds right now is the advent of long-range precision weapons, whether those are land-based ballistic missiles, coastal-defense cruise missiles, you name it,” Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said at the Atlantic Council, adding that the systems wielded by adversaries are “becoming more capable.”
Chinese media has recently been hyping its “carrier-killer” DF-26 ballistic missiles, which are reportedly able to hit targets as far as 3,500 miles away. China released footage of the Chinese military test-firing the missile in January 2019.
DF-26 medium-range ballistic missile.
The purpose is to send “a clear message to the US about China’s growing missile capability, and that it can hold at risk US strategic assets, such as carriers and bases,” Adam Ni, who researches China at Macquarie University in Sydney, recently told the South China Morning Post.
“There’s two sides, an offensive part and a defensive part,” Richardson said Feb. 6, 2019, stressing that the Navy’s carriers are adapting to the new threats. “The advent of some of new technologies, particularly directed energy technologies coupled with the emerging power generation capabilities on carriers, is going to make them a much, much more difficult target to hit.”
Speaking with the crew of the new supercarrier USS Gerald R. Ford on Feb. 5, 2019, Richardson said, “You are going to be able to host a whole cadre of weapons that right now we can just start to dream about. We’re talking about electric weapons, high energy laser, high-powered microwave [and] very, very capable radars.”
Aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Erik Hildebrandt)
The expensive billion carrier is expected to be deployed in the next few years.
“Rather than expressing the carrier as uniquely vulnerable, I would say it is the most survivable airfield within the field of fire,” Richardson said Feb. 6, 2019, in response to questions about carrier vulnerability. “This is an airfield that can move 720 miles a day that has tremendous self-defense capabilities.”
“If you think about the sequence of events that has to emerge to be able to target and hit something that can move that much, and each step in that chain of events can be disrupted from the sensing part all the way back to the homing part, it’s the most survivable airfield in the area,” he said.
Richardson said the carrier is less vulnerable now than at any time since World War II, when the US Navy was putting carriers in action, and those carriers were in combat taking hits. “The carrier is going to be a viable force element for the foreseeable future.”
US carriers are particularly hard, albeit not impossible, to kill.
“It wouldn’t be impossible to hit an aircraft carrier, but unless they hit it with a nuke, an aircraft carrier should be able to take on substantial damage,” retired Capt. Talbot Manvel, who served as an aircraft-carrier engineer and was involved in the design of the new Ford-class carriers, told Business Insider previously.
US carriers “can take a lick and keep on ticking,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
After weeks of speculation about North Korea’s leader Kim Jung Un’s health, Reuters reported a medical team was dispatched to North Korea to care for Kim. And yesterday, a senior executive of a Beijing-backed satellite tv station in China said Kim is dead.
The only thing we really ever know about North Korea is that we can’t ever be sure about what’s happening there, but rumors about Kim’s grave health and possible passing have been circulating for weeks.
When Kim failed to make an appearance on April 15 for the country’s most important holiday which honors the founder of the country (Kim’s late grandfather Kim II Sung), suspicion started building that Kim was sick. April 25 is another major holiday – the 88th anniversary of their armed forces, the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. As night falls in North Korea, the leader again failed to appear, bringing more people to believe that there may be some truth to the rumors that Kim is dead.
As of this writing, the White House and senior officials in the United States government remain tight-lipped about his health and are giving no credence to the rumors.
“While the US continues to monitor reports surrounding the health of the North Korean Supreme Leader, at this time, there is no confirmation from official channels that Kim Jong-un is deceased,” a senior Pentagon official not authorized to speak on the record told Newsweek yesterday. “North Korean military readiness remains within historical norms and there is no further evidence to suggest a significant change in defensive posturing or national level leadership changes.”
Earlier in the week, President Trump sent Kim Jong Un his well wishes. “I’ve had a very good relationship with him. I wouldn’t — I can only say this, I wish him well, because if he is in the kind of condition that the reports say, that’s a very serious condition, as you know,” Trump said on Tuesday during a White House press briefing. “But I wish him well.”
But on Thursday, when asked about Kim Jong Un’s condition, the president said, “I think the report was incorrect, let me just put it that way. I hear the report was an incorrect report. I hope it was an incorrect report,” he added, without providing further details.
Although the US remains somewhat quiet about Kim’s health, a Hong Kong Satellite TV executive told her 15 million followers on Weibo that she had a source saying Kim was dead. While we’re not sure if she named her source, her uncle is a Chinese foreign minister.
Photos of Kim appearing to lie in state have also been circulating social media, but they look suspiciously a lot like Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il’s final resting photos. We’re guessing photoshop is far more likely than a leaked photograph.
What happens if Kim dies? Likely, another Kim would take over. The possibility of his sister, Kim Yo Jong, being named leader is “more than 90%,” said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, as reported by the Associated Press. He noted she has “royal blood,” and “North Korea is like a dynasty.” Kim’s sister has accompanied him on various high-profile meetings in recent years, prompting many to speculate she’s next in line.
Is Kim Jong Un dead? We’re not sure. But as soon as we know more, we’ll tell you.
Many siblings serve together in the military, but not many are able to leverage their family ties to give back and further their units. For the Vetere brothers, they are leveraging each other’s experience in their different units to initiate and implement additive manufacturing, commonly known as 3D printing, to their respective units.
Twin brothers, U.S. Navy Lt. Adam Vetere and U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Mark Vetere, are natives of Andover, Massachusetts. Adam, currently serving as a Civil Engineer Corps officer assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1, is working with Chief Utilitiesman Justin Walker and Electronics Technician 1st Class James Merryman to implement additive manufacturing into daily battalion operations.
Mark, currently assigned to Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 31, has been implementing additive manufacturing to his unit for nearly two years. Now Adam is planning to implement the technology into NMCB-1 operations.
“At first I volunteered for the position because of my personal interest in learning about 3D printing; I think it has great potential in the Naval Construction Force,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother was the 3D printing representative for his command made it easier to get involved because I knew from the start I could learn a lot from him.”
With Mark and his team’s experience, the opportunity presented itself for NMCB-1 to send their additive manufacturing team to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, to discuss best practices, learn about printing capabilities, training programs and new policy being implemented into the different services.
“We were able to leverage our close relationship as twins to be able to skip passed a lot of the formalities and get straight to business,” said Adam. “It was easy to have full and open conversations about program strengths, weaknesses, policy shortfalls, lessons learned and areas of improvement. It was extremely beneficial.”
“It was eye-opening,” said Walker. “It gave us ideas on how we can implement this technology into our processes by seeing how they are currently operating. This opens up great potential for future interoperability.”
For the twin brothers, the military first drew their attention back in high school.
“I wanted to join the military, and our parents wanted us to go to college,” said Adam. “I feel like we made a good compromise and decided to apply for one of the service academies.”
Both brothers graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2015, though Adam was initially denied when he first applied.
U.S. Naval Academy.
“I just knew it was somewhere I wanted to go,” said Adam. “Knowing my brother would be there with me was the great part of it.”
Adam describes serving in the military as a lifestyle he and his brother enjoy sharing.
“We both love serving and love the lifestyle that is the military so we hope to continue it,” said Adam. “It’s nice to be able to have such a close relationship with someone that knows all the acronyms, jargon, processes and challenges that go into the military lifestyle. That certainly has made things easier.”
When asked about his parents and their thoughts on both him and his brother serving together, Adam chuckles with his response.
“I think they are proud of us, or at least I hope,” said Adam.
The twin brother’s decision to join the military came about in part because of a visit their parents took them on to New York City in 2001.
“Our parents took us to Ground Zero in 2001 around Thanksgiving time,” said Adam. “I was only nine at the time but I still have an image burned into my head of the rubble I saw from the end of the street that day. At the time I imagine I had little idea of what I was looking at, but as I got older growing up in a post 9/11 United States certainly played a role in being drawn to the military.”
Both brothers look forward to their future assignments in their respective branches. Mark was selected to attend Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and Adam recently accepted orders to Naval Special Warfare Group 1 Logistics Support Unit 1 in Coronado, California.
Not many film sets have to scan for unexploded ordnance before production can begin — but filming “Dunkirk” required just that. Luckily, nothing was left behind from a battle now more than 75 years old, and director Christopher Nolan was able to bring “The Dunkirk Spirit” back to life.
In 1940, the outcome of World War II looked bleak for Europe. France fell within weeks of the start of the German blitzkrieg, and the British Expeditionary Force — along with its French and Belgian allies — was trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk by the Nazi war machine.
Their salvation wasn’t coming from the Royal Navy or Air Force. No reinforcements were on the way. There would be more battles to fight, and those ships, planes, and men would be needed for the coming days.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Vice-Admiral Bertram Ramsay put Operation Dynamo, a planned evacuation of the British forces from Dunkirk, into action. In Dynamo, the British military enlisted the aid of British civilians and their personal boats to ferry the men off the beaches and take them back to the home island.
The 400,000 stranded at Dunkirk would just have to survive.
Sometimes, survival is enough.
Survival is what Christopher Nolan’s new film “Dunkirk” is about. The director has said numerous times that “Dunkirk” is not a war movie.
“People will call it what they want to call it when they see it,” Nolan told We Are The Mighty. “For me, having never fought in a war, the idea of diving in and telling a war story is daunting, it felt presumptuous. This is not something that I profess to be knowledgeable about. What I was fascinated by was the evacuation itself which to me, it’s not so much a conventional war story, it’s an honor story. It’s a race against time.”
The men on the beach at Dunkirk had to maintain their grit and their stiff upper lip in the face of an enemy that had them outgunned and surrounded. This spirit of determination became known in British culture as “The Dunkirk Spirit.”
“It has a deep meaning for the English people,” says Mark Rylance, who plays one of the Little Ship captains who sails for Dunkirk. “We were the underdogs on that beach but we rose to the occasion and eluded the enemy. The Dunkirk Spirit has to do with that perseverance, endurance, and also selflessness.”
An experience is an apt description of Dunkirk. The movie is shot on 65mm IMAX film, making for a truly immersive WWII moviegoing experience for the viewer. “Dunkirk’s” visual beauty comes from the attention to detail Nolan brings to telling the stories — from filming the movie at the beaches of Dunkirk, to the British .303 rifles, and the use of the real “Little Ships” (as they came to be called) in the film.
Nolan even crossed the English Channel on a small vessel, similar to one of the little ships. His voyage took 19 hours in the choppy seas of the channel.
“It was a very arduous crossing,” the director notes. “And that was without anyone bombing us. What really stuck with me was the notion of civilians taking small boats into a war zone. They could see the smoke and the fires for many miles. So their willingness to do that and what that says about communal spirit are extraordinary.”
The director was even able to sit down with veterans of the BEF at Dunkirk, who told him of their experience and added to the historical value of the film.
“There are very few left since 1914 so it was an honor for me to experience,” Nolan says. “They very generously met with us and told us of their experiences. It’s one thing to study history with books. It’s another to sit across the table from someone who’s actually lived it and listen to their story.”
Dynamo’s plan was to save at least 40,000 men from encirclement and destruction. The Little Ships helped pull a total of 338,000 troops off the beach.
The “Dunkirk” story extends beyond the beaches and seas of the French coast. Nolan’s film tells the story from three points of view, using fictional characters to tell the full story of what happened on the land, seas, and in the air. It took about a week for ground troops to get off the beach via a mole (a large breakwater, often with a wooden pier built atop it), a day to cross the channel by boat, and an hour to cross by air.
Nolan’s story spans all three time frames and he faithfully recreates the extraordinary measures everyone at Dunkirk — including those in the skies above — took to survive. The operation to pull the recreation together was like a military operation in itself: thousands of extras, real French destroyers, and roaring British Spitfire and German ME-109 engines.
The effort took a toll on the filmmakers as well.
“I chose to really try and put the audience into that situation,” Nolan says. “Make them feel some degree of what it would be like to be there on that beach. I’d like the audience to go home with an understand of what happened there and hopefully some interest and respect for the war and the history of the real-life events”
When a senior al-Qaeda terrorist (or one from the Islamic State or Boko Haram) gets blown to smithereens, it makes the world a better place. An MQ-1 Predator drone made that happen late last month when its AGM-114 Hellfire missiles killed a senior al-Qaeda leader by the name of Farouq al-Qahtani.
According to a report by BBC News, al-Qahtani was hiding out in Kunar Provine, Afghanistan when the Predator carried out the strike on Oct. 23. Al-Qahtani’s death was confirmed by the Pentagon on Nov. 5. The Daily Caller reported that documents captured during the 2011 raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden mentioned al-Qahtani as a well-known figure, who was known by the alias Furuq al-Qatari.
“We have a good battalion over there led by brother Faruq al-Qatari,” one operative of the terrorist group wrote. The United States admitted Oct. 28 he was the target of a drone strike.
Predator and Reaper drones (also known as “Predator Bs”) have killed a number of high-ranking terrorists. Here’s some of the “greatest hits” that the MQ-1/AGM-114 Hellfire combination has pulled off:
Anwar al-Awlaki: A high-ranking member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Anwar al-Awlaki was involved in the attempt to use an underwear bomb to bring down an airliner on Christmas Day 2009 and had been in contact with the perpetrator of the November 2009 terrorist attack at Fort Hood. He also preached at the mosque that was attended by at least two of the 9/11 hijackers. Awlaki died on Sept. 30, 2011.
Ali Qaed Senyan al-Harthi: Ali Qaed Senyan al-Harthi was one of the suspected masterminds of the attack on USS Cole in October 2000. The strike carried out in November 2002 that killed him and five other al-Qaeda operatives was the first time an unmanned aerial vehicle was used against a senior terrorist.
Hakimullah Mehsud: The leader of the Pakistani Taliban was killed on Nov. 1, 2013. During his tenure, the Pakistani Taliban carried out the murder-suicide bombing at Camp Chapman in 2010 and the shooting of Malala Yousefzai on Oct. 9, 2012.
Baitullah Mehsud: The founder of the Pakistani Taliban and the immediate predecessor of Hakimullah Mehsud was killed on Aug. 5, 2009. Under his leadership the Pakistani Taliban had carried out the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
Not a bad start. Hopefully, there will be many more.
The reason comes down to an attacker’s motivation. Authorities have yet to name a motive for the Las Vegas attack, but officials quickly began identifying clues on Oct. 31 after what would be the deadliest terrorist attack in New York since Sept. 11, 2001.
“This was an act of terror, and a particularly cowardly act of terror aimed at innocent civilians, aimed at people going about their lives who had no idea what was about to hit them,” Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said at a news conference just two hours after the truck attack.
“He did make a statement when he exited the vehicle,” New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said of the truck’s driver, identified by authorities as Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbek national who had lived in Tampa, Florida. The attack ended when Saipov was shot by the police; he was then hospitalized.
“And if you just look at the M.O. of the attack, that’s consistent with what’s been going on,” O’Neill added. “So, that, along with the statement, that’s enabled us to label this a terrorist event.”
New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, called the Oct. 31 carnage a “lone wolf” attack and said there was no evidence to suggest it was part of a wider plot.
So even though authorities think Saipov acted alone, the attack is still being investigated as terrorism because of his apparent political motivation.
“While definitions for terrorism differ, the overwhelming majority of them distinguish terrorism from other crimes of violence by the purpose of the actor, not the severity of the harm caused,” Robert Eatinger, the former senior deputy general counsel at the CIA, told The Cipher Brief in October.
Saipov, however, hails from Uzbekistan, a country never listed in Trump’s proposed travel bans. Saipov used no firearms that legislation could restrict access to. And some of those who knew Saipov, who spent the months before the attack driving for Uber in New Jersey, have said he did not display any warning signs.