A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories - We Are The Mighty
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A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

Peter Oakley was a British pensioner and widower from Bakewell, Derbyshire, England.


On the Internet, he was known as geriatric1927, or “the Internet Grandad,” a YouTube personality whose long-running show Telling It All consisted of five to ten minute autobiographical videos, including his service as an 18-year old Royal Navy radar mechanic during World War II.

Though an aging (Oakley was 79 when he began his show) man telling old stories about his life may seem dry, his YouTube page was the #1 most subscribed page of 2006, just one year after the page’s launch. By the time Google purchased YouTube, Oakley had 30,000 subscribers.

“It’s a fascinating place to go to see all the wonderful videos that you young people have produced so I thought I would have a go at doing one myself,” he told the Guardian in 2006. “What I hope I will be able to do is to just bitch and grumble about life in general from the perspective of an old person … and hopefully you will respond in some way by your comments.”

While that may not seem like a lot by todays standards (Jenna Marbles, one of YouTube’s current top channels, has more than 15 million subscribers), in the early days of social media, Oakley’s stories were beating YouTubers signed by large networks and other brands. People were interested in watching Oakley muse on how the world had changed. His first video, called “First Try” now has almost 3 million views.

Oakley’s discussions on life, war, motorcycles, and more led to a YouTube stardom which allowed the widower to avoid the lonely life of a traditional aging pensioner, traveling all over the world, earning extra income. He was even asked to weigh in on other YouTube phenomena.

Oakley would be diagnosed with untreatable cancer in 2012. By that time, he had made more than 350 videos. His final video, the 434th on the page, was posted on February 12, 2014 and he died on March 23 that year.

His final words to his audience: “In conclusion, I would say my possibly final goodbye. So goodbye.”

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2 Americans killed, 2 wounded during heavy fighting in Afghanistan

The U.S. Central Command has announced that two American service members were killed and two more wounded during fighting in the Kunduz District of Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, on Nov. 3.


“On behalf of all U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, today’s loss is heartbreaking and we offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of our service members who lost their lives today. Our wounded soldiers are receiving the best medical care possible and we are keeping them and their families in our thoughts today, as well,” Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of USFOR-A, said in a press release. “Despite today’s tragic event, we are steadfast in our commitment to help our Afghan partners defend their nation.”

Afghan government and insurgent forces are fighting fiercely for Kunduz District, an area near the border with Tajikistan. Kunduz is a six-hour drive down Afghanistan Highway 76 from Kabul, the country’s capital. The city is one of Afghanistan’s largest.

Dozens of civilians were also killed in the fighting on Nov. 3, according to the New York Times. The incident is under investigation, but it is believed that most of the civilians killed and wounded were victims of an errant airstrike. Both U.S. and Afghan forces were conducting airstrikes during the fighting in Kunduz.

“As part of an Afghan operation, friendly forces received direct fire and air strikes were conducted to defend themselves,” spokesman Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland told Reuters.

“We take all allegations of civilian casualties very seriously.”

The Taliban told Retuers in a statement that Afghan commandos and U.S. troops were on a raid to capture a rebel commander when the fight took place.

The area was fiercely contested for most of Afghanistan’s so-called fighting season in 2016. Kunduz district was hit by a force of 100 or more fighters in July, and the Taliban took the Khanabad district of Kunduz province for a short period in August. The Kunduz district center even fell to the Taliban for a brief period in 2015 before being recaptured by Afghan forces.

It is Department of Defense policy not to release the names of killed service members until 24 hours after the next of kin has been notified.

Articles

FOX News launches 8th consecutive year of ‘Proud American’ Memorial Day programming

FOX News announced the launch of their eighth straight year of Proud American for Memorial Day weekend. Across all platforms, the special programming will be devoted to America’s Armed Forces, veterans and the fallen heroes the holiday was created for. 

In commemoration of Memorial Day, the signature series will feature uplifting and powerful stories of active members of the U.S. military as well as its veterans. Additionally, in recognition of the 2021 edition of Proud American, FOX News Media will donate $25,000 to The Navy Seal Foundation and $15,000 to the USO effort to deliver meals to service members supporting COVID-19 vaccine missions.

The special coverage will begin Friday May 28, 2021 with Janice Dean of FOX and Friends going live at the Intrepid Air, Sea & Space Museum. The following afternoon, Griff Jenkins will be co-anchoring FOX News Live from the Marine Corps Memorial in Washington, D.C.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories
Marine Corps Memorial. USMC photo.

Also planned for the weekend lineup is Proud America: Tunnel to Towers Special, which will be hosted by Army veteran and FOX and Friends Weekend co-host, Pete Hegseth. The event takes place at Liberty State Park with the Freedom Tower in the background. The event itself is sponsored by the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and will bring viewers through the organization’s history and the families it’s served. 

With the 20th anniversary of 9/11 just on the horizon, it promises to be a deeply moving segment with interviews featuring the surviving families of those who died in the terrorist attacks. 

Hegseth will also be hosting another edition of his veteran show, Modern Warriors, later that evening. This time though, the title includes something new: Reflections. Viewers will hear and see the stories of four American warriors and other veterans as they share their experiences at war and the losses they mourn. 

Marine Corps and combat wounded veteran Johnny Joey Jones also put his voice on a 5-part podcast series that reminds Americans what the holiday is really about. Jones will also lead a two hour radio special for the network as well. 

The programming will also feature a special edition of Jason in the House with FOX News contributor and former Utah Congressman, Jason Chaffetz. 

Coverage of events throughout the country and America’s fallen will continue through to Memorial Day on Monday May 31, 2021. Through that somber day, active duty military members and veterans will receive access to FOX Nation for an entire year, free of charge. Individuals just have to click here to register.

FOX News Media and its representatives have stated that they are proud to continue the tradition of highlighting and honoring America’s heroes through Proud American.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Coastie serves as liaison for Combined Maritime Forces in Bahrain

An enlisted leader is proving the Coast Guard’s reach extends far beyond America’s coastlines.

Bahrain is the epicenter of the Combined Maritime Forces — a partnership comprised of 33 different nations dedicated to combating terrorism and piracy, while promoting maritime safety. Command Master Chief Lucas Pullen, the first Coast Guard member to hold a senior enlisted leadership role for a coalition force, serves as its liaison. The decision to put him in that position instead of a sailor was done purposefully, he says.


Since the CMF operates as a part of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, a coastie brings objectivity, Pullen explained. In the midst of extensive Navy operations, him being in the Coast Guard more clearly defines his position and role.

“With this there are no blurred lines on who does what, I am able to specifically make sure things are working for the coalition side of things,” Pullen said.

The Oklahoma-native enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1998 to become a Boatswain’s Mate, a rating that is the operational core of almost every mission. After completing basic training, he was assigned to Small Boat Station South Padre Island, Texas, according to his official biography. As an operator, he gained experience “in maritime law enforcement to include fisheries, counter-narcotics, and counter-migrant operations, as well as search and rescue, and maritime security operations.”

Pullen’s extensive 22-year Coast Guard career prepared him for his new role as the senior enlisted leader of the CMF. He now works directly with senior military leaders from the multi-national partnership to promote security and stability across 3.2 million square miles of international waters.

“As a command master chief, one of my main jobs is the people and their families,” he said.

Working directly with members of the coalition has been an incredible experience, Pullen added. He described a typical day as starting with sharing Arabic coffee with a Kuwaiti leader and ending with tea and scones with the British. He loves the diversity and continuous ability to learn from the other nations’ military leaders, he said, also expressing his position in Bahrain will serve him well for further Coast Guard positions, although none will probably be as unique and involved.

Prior to Bahrain, the Pullen family was stationed in Guam — a duty station the kids did not want to leave. Marcy Pullen, who has moved 10 times with her husband, didn’t initially think she and the couple’s children would be eligible to PCS to Bahrain. It is typically an unaccompanied tour but a waiver changed that.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.

“I didn’t hesitate, I said let’s go,” she said.

Her husband praised his family’s resiliency and strength. Their oldest son, Tucker, is 17 and about to start college. If he attends the same college all four years, it’ll be the longest he’s ever lived anywhere.

Adjusting to life in Bahrain has included a unique set of experiences for the family, due to the political influence, culture, and customs. Seated to their left could be a fellow military kid while on their right, a Saudi Arabian royal.

Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne shared her struggle with not being able to just go explore or do things independently off base because it isn’t safe, especially for girls. Bahrain is a very conservative country where most women are either hidden or extensively covered when in public. But Levi, 13, also says there’s some good to being a military kid in Bahrain.

“I loved getting to do new things like learning how to play cricket with the Australian military kids. You get all of these amazing experiences that are out of the way and interesting,” he said.

All of the kids did agree on one thing: the food is amazing. One of their favorite things to eat is Baklava, a sweet dessert dish made with nuts and honey.

Pullen also credits the Coast Guard with preparing his family for such a unique assignment in the Middle East.

“Our quality of life thought process is very different from the other branches. I think we are very resilient as a service because we go into these remote locations without big military bases. We pick up all the military challenges without the resources there to support us,” he explained.

Marcy Pullen echoes his sentiment, reflecting on how hard it was as a new Coast Guard spouse and mom. She takes those lessons and experiences with her, using what she’s learned to help all military families who may be struggling to adjust to life in Bahrain.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

Lucas and Mary Pullen Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.

With one year left in Bahrain, travel remains high at the top of their bucket list — though COVID-19 and tensions overseas have heavily restricted movement. As the Pullen family reflected on their journey, they agreed each move has brought new lessons and memories. They eagerly anticipate their next Coast Guard adventure that can take them anywhere.

Visit https://www.cusnc.navy.mil/Combined-Maritime-Forces/ to learn more about Combined Maritime Forces.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise is massive

The Rim of the Pacific Exercise, better known as RIMPAC, is the largest regular naval exercise in the world. Every even-numbered year, countries from around the globe take part in this massive operation. 15 nations took part in RIMPAC 2018 (China was disinvited), bringing together a total of 48 ships off the coast of Hawaii.

But there’s much more to RIMPAC than ships.


All sorts of units take part in this massive, international exercise. Off the coast of Southern California, participants carried out mine counter-measures exercises. Dolphins from the Navy Marine Mammal Program also pitched in to help with mine-clearing. Meanwhile, Camp Pendleton got in on the RIMPAC action as United States Marines trained with their Mexican and Canadian counterparts.

If that’s not enough, the United States Army and Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force teamed up to put some hurt on a ship. Special Operations forces also got to do their thing during this exercise — hell, even the bands got involved!

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

A Mk 7 bottlenose dolphin prepares to mark a “mine” during RIMPAC 2018.

(US Navy)

Historically, there’s been no limit as to what missions might be practiced. Ships get sunk during RIMPAC (arguably a highlight of the exercise), but units there also practice humanitarian missions, amphibious assaults, and even submarine rescues.

In 2018, the exercise was interrupted by a real search-and-rescue mission off the island of Hawaiian island of Niihau that involved Navy and Coast Guard units. In short, if it can happen in war, it can happen at RIMPAC!

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

Multi-national Special Operations Forces (SOF) participate in a submarine insertion exercise with the fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) and combat rubber raiding craft off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise.

(U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Michelle Pelissero)

This year, two aircraft carriers, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and JS Ise (DDH 182), took part, as did the amphibious assault ship USS Bon Homme Richard (LHD 6), HMAS Adelaide (L01), and 44 other vessels, ranging from the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T AH 19) to the Peruvian maritime patrol boat BAP Ferre.

Watch the video below to get a glimpse at all the ships that took part in RIMPAC 2018!

Articles

This is what the Army’s top general wants in a future tank, and it’s straight out of ‘Starship Troopers’

The tank is far from obsolete and the US will need a new armored vehicle to replace its 1980-vintage M1 Abrams, the Army Chief of Staff said here this afternoon. But what kind of tank, on what kind of timeline? Gen. Mark Milley made clear he was looking for a “breakthrough,” not incremental evolution – which probably means that the new tank will take a long time.


“Are we sort of at that point in history where perhaps mechanized vehicles are going the way of horse cavalry and going the way of the dinosaur?” Milley asked. “I don’t think so — but I’m skeptical enough to continue to ask that.”

“We have a good, solid tank today,” Milley said of the M1. “Having said that, we do need a new ground armored platform for our mechanized infantry and our tanks, because it’s my belief that, at least in the foreseeable future — and you can follow that out to 25 years or so — there is a role for those type of formations.”

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories
Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman

“What are some of the technologies?” Milley said. “There’s Active Protection Systems” – electronic jammers and mini-missiles to stop incoming anti-tank weapons – “(and) there’s reduced crews with automated turrets” – as found on Russia’s new T-14 Armata, which Milley said the Army is studying closely – “but the real sort of holy grail of technologies that I’m trying to find on this thing is material, is the armor itself…. If we can discover a material that is significantly lighter in weight that gives you the same armor protection, that would be a real significant breakthrough.

“There’s a lot of research and development going into it,” Milley said. That’s true, but in all my conversations with Army and industry experts in recent years, no one believes we’re close to a “breakthrough.” Modest improvements in armor materials are in the works, but nothing that would change the fundamental calculus that makes protection heavy.

The trend, in fact, has been for everything to get heavier. The M1 tank started out in 1980 weighing about 60 tons, enough to stop most Soviet anti-tank shells and missiles of the day, but has grown to almost 70. The M2 Bradley, a heavily armed troop carrier called an Infantry Fighting Vehicle, grew from a fairly fragile 25 tons to a robust 40, with contractor BAE now proposing a 45-ton model. Some designs for a Bradley replacement, the proposed Ground Combat Vehicle, grew as heavy as 84 tons before the cash-strapped Army cancelled the program.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories
Russian T-14 Armata. Wikimedia Commons photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin.

While the Army is now looking at lighter vehicles, the experts I’ve talked to are not counting on lighter armor. Instead, they’re contemplating trade-offs once deemed heretical, like building an air-droppable light tank to support paratroops, or having the Bradley replacement only carry half an infantry squad.

Such smaller vehicles would be lighter, as well as more maneuverable on narrow city streets – a key consideration because many Army leaders, including Milley, expect future warfare to be fought increasingly in urban settings. Mosul is a brutal but ultimately small-scale “preview” of future city fights in sprawling megacities, Milley said July 28. In Mosul – as in Fallujah in 2004 and Sadr City in 2008 – it took tanks to retake the city, working closely with regular infantry and special forces, he noted.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories
Light armored vehicles with Task Force 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8 traverse the rocky terrain of the Sinjar Mountains. Photo by Sgt. Eric Schwartz.

Lasers, Railguns, Robotics

While Milley put lighter-weight protection as priority number one, he also highlighted two other technologies that could revolutionize armored vehicle design. One is electrically-powered weapons, such as railguns – which use electromagnets to accelerate a solid metal slug to supersonic speeds – and lasers – which fire pure energy at the speed of light. “We’ve been using kinetic or powder-based munitions for five centuries,” Milley noted, but there are now major advances in alternative forms of firepower.

So far, lasers and railguns are being developed primarily as defensive weapons, able to shoot down drones or cruise missiles more quickly and cheaply than surface-to-air missiles. However, Air Force Special Operations Command plans to put a 150-kilowatt laser on its AC-130 gunships to disable enemy vehicles by silently burning through key components. It’s not too far from an offensive laser that can fit in a big airplane to one that can fit in a big ground vehicle.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories
A target truck disabled by Lockheed’s ATHENA laser. Photo from Lockheed Martin.

The other potential breakthrough Milley mentioned was the “revolution in robotics.” The land is harder to navigate than empty sky or open sea, he emphasized, so ground robots will lag drones or unmanned ships, “but eventually we will see the introduction of wide-scale robotics.” Many of those will be small and relatively expendable scouts, designed to carry sensors or weapons ahead of the human force. Milley also wants his future tank to have enough automation not just to reduce the human crew required, but to optionally leave out the humans altogether, depending on the mission.

“Every vehicle that we develop, we probably need sure it’s dual use, so the commander on the battlefield at the time has the option of having that vehicle manned or unmanned,” Milley said. “They can flip a switch and have it be a robot.”

Building these future warbots will take a lot of thought. If you make an artificial intelligence smart enough to operate the tank some of the time, can you et the AI drive all the time and leave the human crew safe at home, where they can’t get killed or screw things up? If the humans aren’t inside the tank, do you let the AI pick targets and make the decision to kill them on its own? Pentagon policy says “never,” but if our robots have to wait for a human to say (or just think) “fire,” less scrupulous adversaries will be quicker on the draw. It’s a hornet’s nest of difficult questions that the Army – and the nation – will have to answer.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Turkey has to make its biggest decision since joining NATO

Turkey has always been at the intersection of two different worlds, bridging the gap where Europe meets Asia, where East meets West, and where many cultures historically clashed. During the Cold War, it was in Muslim Turkey’s interest to become a NATO ally. It had remained firmly in the NATO sphere until recently. Now the U.S. is giving the Turkish government an ultimatum.


A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

Guess why.

Within the next two weeks the Turkish government has to decide whether it will maintain its complete alliance with NATO partners and go all-in with the F-35 or risk a severe penalty and buy Russia’s S-400 missile system. The Turkish government has already inked a deal to buy Russia’s missile defense system, which would remove them from eligibility to buy the 100 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters it was promised – while facing the possibility of U.S. sanctions and other NATO fallout.

The U.S. Department of State gave Turkey until the first week of June to make the call.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.

Russia called Washington’s warning an “ultimatum,” and condemned the threat of sanctions as an attempt to strong-arm Ankara into buying Raytheon’s Patriot batteries and Lockheed’s Joint Strike Fighter. Turkey agreed to pay .5 billion for the S-400 system, one of the most advanced defense systems in the world. Turkey is also one of the manufacturing partners for the world’s most advanced fighter. But Turkey is already building the infrastructure for the S-400.

No one has stated exactly what the economic and military consequences for Turkey will be if they fail to reject the S-400.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans and songwriters will come together for live PBS taping in Nashville

Award-winning songwriters, veterans, and service members will come together to share music at the Songwriting With Soldiers concert on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, at Nashville’s War Memorial Auditorium.

The concert will feature musicians performing original songs shared by nonprofit organization Songwriting With Soldiers. Performers include Bonnie Bishop, Gary Burr, Beth Nielsen Chapman, Radney Foster, Mary Gauthier, James House, Will Kimbrough, Georgia Middleman, Gary Nicholson, Maia Sharp and Darden Smith.

Their songs have been recorded by the likes of Garth Brooks, Jimmy Buffett, Cher, Kelly Clarkson, Emmylou Harris, Fleetwood Mac, Reba McEntire, Willie Nelson, John Prine and Ringo Starr.


This performance shines a light on two important things – the power of music to help us connect, and the need to listen to today’s veterans and military families. These are the war stories of our times, and they have much to teach us,” said Songwriting With Soldiers co-founder Mary Judd.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

Photo courtesy of Stacy Powell.

Many veterans struggle with reintegration. Songwriting With Soldiers holds weekend retreats across the country, pairing service members with professional songwriters to craft songs about their experiences in combat and coming home. The creative songwriting process is life-changing for participants as it offers a unique outlet to tell their stories, rebuild trust, release pain and forge new bonds.

The one-hour television special, “Songwriting With Soldiers,” will premiere nationally in prime time on PBS on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, at 10 p.m. (check local listings).

The program, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, will be taped for national broadcast on PBS this fall.

Tickets are on sale now for to the general public and are free to active military, veterans and their families. Tickets are available only at www.songwritingwithsoldiers.org/pbsconcert/.

This collaboration of Songwriting With Soldiers, PBS and WCTE Upper Cumberland PBS is produced by Todd Jarrell Productions and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) with additional underwriting from Sweetwater Music Instruments and Pro Audio.

The information contained on this page is provided only as general information. The inclusion of links on this page does not imply endorsement or support of any of the linked information, services, products, or providers.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

VA Vaccine Act approved by House heads to Senate

On March 10, 2021 the United States House of Representatives unanimously approved the VA Vaccine Act, requiring the Department of Veteran Affairs to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to all veterans.

With the passage of the VA Vaccine Act in the House, it changes things considerably. The language of the bill makes it a requirement that all veterans have the opportunity to receive the vaccine, regardless of attachment to the VA’s health services. This means quite literally any veteran can receive the vaccination as long as they qualify for VA services, including those living overseas. The legislation also includes the veterans caregivers.

There are some restrictions, however. Those enrolled in the VA healthcare system are prioritized over those who aren’t currently enrolled. When the vaccine supply is available, veterans not receiving VA care can then receive it. 

The bill was introduced by Congressman Mike Bost of Illinois, the leading Republican on the Veterans’ Affairs committee in the House of Representatives. “Getting vaccines into the arms of every person who wants one as soon as we can is key to finally getting us past this pandemic. In my mind, veterans should always be at the front of the line,” said Ranking Member Bost in a statement

Congressman Charlie Crist of Florida was also on the bill’s introduction. In a statement he shared his frustration in hearing from his veteran constituents who weren’t able to get through the red tape of the VA. “I’m proud that the House has taken decisive action to do right by Florida’s Veterans. I introduced Vaccines for Veterans Act because Veterans were calling my office saying they tried to get their coronavirus vaccine at the VA but were turned away,” he said.

Now, they won’t be. 

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories
(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

In a VA press release Acting VA Under Secretary for Health Richard Stone M.D shared that the VA now has a third highly effective vaccine to offer to veterans with the FDA emergency approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The release also shared that as of March 3, 2021 both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 had been administered by the VA  to almost 1 million individuals. The Johnson & Johnson version of the vaccine only requires one dose.

The VA Vaccine Act now heads to the Senate, where a similar measure was introduced on March 9, 2021. Senators will now have to make the decision on whether to act on the House approved bill or move forward with their own, potentially delaying the process of approval. Based on the swiftness that both Congress and the Biden administration are pushing the vaccinations of all Americans, it appears the Senate will approve the House bill. 

The bill has the support of nine Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) including Paralyzed Veterans of America, Minority Veterans of America, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion, Wounded Warrior Project, AMVETS and Veterans for Common Sense.

“After such a difficult year, stories of vulnerable veterans being denied lifesaving vaccines from VA are painful to hear,” said Bost in a statement.  “The VA VACCINE Act would make sure that doesn’t happen again. The bill gives VA the authority it needs to meet this moment. It is a lifeline for veterans and their caregivers. I urge my Senate colleagues to send it to the President’s desk as soon as possible.”

Acting VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Richard Stone said the VA is supportive of the legislation in an interview with Military Times. “It’s the next logical step for us,” he said. “Should Congress give us the authority, we’ll be ready.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is an actual Army report on witches in the Republic of the Congo

Please spare some sympathy for the member of the Special Operations Research Office who, in 1964, was ordered to take a good, hard look at the impact of “witchcraft, sorcery, magic, and other psychological phenomena” during the civil war in the Republic of the Congo.

Yup. This poor soul was actually tasked with investigating the burning question of, “Are we losing because of the witches?

The surprising answer was, to paraphrase, ‘At least partially.’


In fact, the 1964 paper even analyzed the viability of U.S. forces and their allies adopting magic for their own purposes. Oh yeah, if you wanted to be a U.S. Army witch doctor, this was the time to do it.

Except, of course, the U.S. didn’t actually believe magic was affecting the physical world. Instead, it was studying how the belief in magic affected the morale of troops fighting on each side of the conflict, and then it had to decide whether to engage in some play-acting; doing fake magic in order to affect the enemy’s perceptions.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

A Swedish soldier with U.N. forces on duty in Congo during the crisis.

(Pressens Bild, public domain)

This wouldn’t be the Army’s only flirtation with the supernatural at the time. In 1950, a U.S. Army colonel helped fake a vampire attack to terrify communists in the Philippines, and psychological operations soldiers pulled a similar (but less effective) trick in Vietnam when they played ghost sounds over enemy troop concentrations.

The magical beliefs in the Congo revolved around two supposed classes of powers. There was sorcery, a system of magic that relied on rituals that were usually performed while mixing ingredients for a traditional medicine or preparing a charm. And there was witchcraft, a method of doing magic that relied on an innate ability that some people had from birth. These witches could simply wish for certain things to happen and, for some inexplicable reason, they would.

This magical belief was deep-seated in the Congolese. It had survived and even flourished despite nearly 100 years of economic and religious colonization. What missionaries and Belgian representatives sent to the country always found was that when push-came-to-shove, the bulk of the Congolese people would only incorporate European beliefs and power structures into their belief in magic. European beliefs were never able to replace traditional, magical ones.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

A Shona witch doctor in Zimbabwe.

(Hans Hillewaert, CC BY-SA 3.0)

When Belgium finally began relaxing its stranglehold in 1957 over what was then the Belgian Congo, this struggle had resulted in a deep rift between the Congolese who embraced European education and methods and those who were more dedicated to tribal beliefs and power structures. But both sides held magical beliefs. The European-influenced évolués, as they were known, simply hid those beliefs.

The Belgian Congo collapsed in 1960 and U.N. forces were eventually sent in to try and keep a tentative peace after repeated fighting and clashes. The stakes there were high. Certain parts of the Congo were quite resource-rich, including one of the breakaway zones. It also had Uranium that would be quite valuable to either the Soviet Union or the U.S., depending on who tied the emerging but troubled Republic of the Congo to their sphere of influence.

Hence U.S. military planners debating on twisting magical beliefs to their own ends. The rebellious forces often had the sorcerers (and the occasional witch) prepare magical defenses that were supposed to stop harm from European weapons.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

Swedish soldiers from the U.N. man a fighting position near a road in Niemba.

(Pressens Bild, public domain)

Upon deeper study, though, the 1964 paper recommended against weaponizing these beliefs against the Congolese rebels. There were a couple of major concerns. One was that these évolués were the ones most likely to be Congolese leaders that the U.S. would work with. Since they still believed in magic, they would probably balk at a U.S. mockery of it.

But they would balk even harder if their forces or their Western allies began dabbling in magic. Their entire political brand was built on not being superstitious and backwards like their peers (even though they did believe in the same magic).

Even more troublesome, though, was that while the belief in magic was near universal across the country, the exact details of the belief varied wildly between tribes and, sometimes, even between sub-tribes. As the paper described it, “Literally, one man’s charm might be another man’s potion.”

So, if a psychological operations unit were sent to capitalize on these beliefs, they would have to surreptitiously gather data on every targeted tribe and keep detailed records of it. Then, when crafting their messaging or other plots, they would have to adjust it for each tribe and then take care to keep the messages from sabotaging each other.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

Irish forces on duty in Congo during the Crisis.

(Irish Defence Forces)

But the most awesome concern with the program was the author’s worry that, if the U.S., Western, and government forces began openly engaging in magical operations against tribal leaders and insurgent witch-doctors, and the witch-doctors engaged in open counters, then the one near-guaranteed result would be an increased belief in magic.

In the post-war Congo, that would grant a ton of power to tribal leaders and witch-doctors, potentially necessitating power sharing that the évolués and their Western backers wouldn’t necessarily want. And, while there were government-friendly tribes, nearly all the insurgents were part of traditional tribal structures, so potentially strengthening the belief in magic would be a long-term problem for the West whether they won or lost.

Instead, the paper recommended overturning magical beliefs by showing them to be false. The biggest magical claim that witch-doctors made was that they could make troops invulnerable to Western weapons. So, every enemy soldier killed with a Western weapon weakened belief in magic. As the paper states it:

In the Congo, as elsewhere in black Africa, there is every reason to believe that disciplined troops, proficient in marksmanship, and led by competent officers, can handily dispel most notions of magical invulnerability.

In the end, it appears that no magical campaign was launched. But that hasn’t prevented decades of rebellions, coups, and other violence.

This unrest has unfortunately continued to this day — literally. On the day this article was written, accusations of recent murder by police, election violence by the state, and other human rights abuses were in the news.

Almost makes you wish the magic was real. Would be a perfect time to whip up a few charms to protect the population.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SF soldier arrested as part of potentially massive drug ring

Early August 2018, a decorated US Army Special Force soldier was arrested and charged in relation to an attempt to smuggle 90 pounds of cocaine from Colombia to Florida, but he may just be one player in a multimillion-dollar operation.

Army Master Sgt. Daniel Gould was arrested in Florida on Aug. 13, 2018, in connection with an attempt to bring 90 pounds of cocaine into the US on a military aircraft, defense officials told NBC News early August 2018. That haul would be worth several million dollars on US streets.


Gould was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group based at Eglin Air Force Base in northwest Florida. The group’s area of responsibility is Latin America south of Mexico and the waters surrounding Central and South America. The unit is heavily involved in counter-drug operations in the region.

Gould is a veteran of Afghanistan, where he earned a Silver Star, the Army’s third-highest award, for fending off an ambush in late 2008.

His arrest came after US Drug Enforcement Administration agents found more than 90 pounds of cocaine in two backpacks aboard a military airplane that was bound for Florida. A military official told NBC News that a service member found the drugs and alerted authorities while the plane was still in Colombia.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

A US sniper team assigned to the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group competes in an unknown-distance event in Colombia during the Fuerzas Comando competition, July 26, 2014.

(US Army photo by Master Sgt. Alejandro Licea)

Gould had been on vacation in the city of Cali in southwest Colombia the week prior to his arrest. He was already back in the US when the drugs were discovered. Officials told NBC News that someone else put the two backpacks on the plane in Colombia but could not say whether that person was complicit in the smuggling attempt.

Now the investigation has reportedly turned to finding out what Gould was doing in Colombia during that vacation, whether others were involved in the smuggling attempt, and if this plot was undertaken by a larger network that has previously been linked to US military personnel.

According to an Aug. 26, 2018 report by Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, DEA investigators in Colombia are focusing on establishing who may have helped Gould acquire and transport the cocaine and whether military personnel involved in getting the drugs onto a plane knew what was going on.

Gould reportedly planned to leave Colombia on a commercial flight on Aug. 12, 2018, connecting through Miami before arriving at Fort Walton Beach, which is just a few minutes’ drive from Eglin Air Force Base.

However, according to El Tiempo, he changed his plans abruptly, switching his final destination to Pensacola, about an hour’s drive from his original destination — which may indicate he was aware the drugs had been discovered.

Investigators in Colombia are also trying to establish whether Gould had any connection to a trafficking network uncovered after the Oct. 2011 arrest of Lemar Burton, a US sailor caught with 11 pounds of cocaine in his luggage as he boarded a flight from Colombia to Europe.

Burton, assigned to Sigonella Naval Air Station in Sicily at the time, was in Colombia on personal leave, the US Embassy in Bogota said after his arrest. His arrest prompted an investigation that uncovered an international smuggling ring operating out of airports in Cali and Bogota, moving drugs to Europe.

The ring relied on couriers, mainly foreigners, to carry drugs in parcels like suitcases with false bottoms. In the months after Burton’s arrest, arrests were made in the US and Colombia. Several other US citizens were involved.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

A Blackhawk helicopter supports the US Army’s 7th Special Forces Group and Naval Special Warfare members during an exercise at in El Salvador, Dec. 2, 2016.

(US Army photo by Master Sgt. Kerri Spero)

The drugs Burton and Gould were attempting to transport were sourced to Buenaventura and Tumaco, two main drug-producing regions on Colombia’s Pacific coast that are part of the area in which Gould’s unit was supporting anti-drug operations, according to El Tiempo.

A source with knowledge of the case told El Tiempo that Colombian authorities had not been given information about the investigation and that the military aircraft in question did not leave from a Colombian base. A military source told the paper that it was not clear which US plane in Colombia was involved.

A DEA spokesman said the agency does not comment on ongoing investigations. A spokeswoman for the US Attorney for the Northern District of Florida said the office had no public information to offer about the case.

A spokesman for US Army Special Operations Command, which oversees the 7th Special Operations Group, said a service member was being investigated and that the DEA was leading the probe but declined to comment further. The command has said it was cooperating with law-enforcement on the case.

The investigation is ongoing and the nature of Gould’s involvement remains uncertain, but US military personnel getting involved in drug smuggling, particularly in Colombia, is not unheard of.

“It’s not unusual for servicemen to take advantage of the drug trade to make a lot of money,” said Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for DEA.

They “have access to these foreign countries. They have contacts, and a lot of times they actually smuggle the drugs on military aircraft,” Vigil added, pointing to cases he was involved in during the 1970s in which US service members smuggled heroin from Southeast Asia to the US, often carrying it in their personal luggage.

Authorities are trying to determine the timeline, the source of supply, and other people who may have been involved, Vigil said, adding that Gould may have gotten involved through his official duties or may have been connected with criminal groups, like remnants of the Cali or Valle de Cauca cartels, through personal contacts.

The smuggling attempt uncovered this month seemed “very sloppy,” suggesting those involved were “just getting into the business,” Vigil said.

“Anybody with a great knowledge [of trafficking] would’ve used a different transportation method or covered their tracks a little better.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

WWII Chaplain who comforted sailors in shark-infested waters awarded posthumous Navy Cross

Navy chaplain who comforted sailors whose ship was torpedoed in 1945, leaving them stranded in shark-infested waters, has been posthumously awarded his service’s second-highest award for heroism.

Lt. Thomas M. Conway, a Catholic priest who died on Aug. 2, 1945, three days after a Japanese sub took out the heavy-cruiser Indianapolis, was recognized for his bravery during a Navy Cross ceremony Jan. 8 in his Connecticut hometown. Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite apologized that it took more than 75 years since World War II ended to honor the fallen chaplain.

“My mother taught me that it’s never too late to say you’re sorry,” Braithwaite said. “Today, the Navy is sorry for not recognizing Chaplain Conway’s heroism, dedication and courage sooner.”

Read Next: Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships Will Be on the Front Lines in the Pacific, SWO Boss Says

The Indianapolis was heading to the Philippine island of Leyte from Guam when it sank in the early hours of July 30, 1945. More than 800 crew members were forced into the ocean, some of whom were badly injured.Advertisement

They were left in the water for three days, where they faced dehydration and shark attacks. They were spotted by a Navy aircraft on Aug. 2. Only 316 survived.

Conway is credited with repeatedly swimming through the shark-infested waters to console clusters of sailors, according to the Navy. He encouraged them, prayed for them, and administered sacraments.

“After three days of tireless exertion to aid his shipmates, Conway finally succumbed to exhaustion and died,” a Navy news release about his posthumous award states. “His efforts were credited as a major reason 67 of his shipmates in his group were ultimately rescued.”

The chaplain stood by his men when they needed spiritual guidance most, Braithwaite said, as he presented the award to retired Navy Capt. John Bevins, a former pastor, during the private ceremony.

Conway, who grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut, before attending Niagara University in New York, joined the Navy in September 1942. He served at several East Coast naval stations before transferring to the Pacific Fleet, where he was assigned to the repair ship Medusa before joining the Indianapolis in 1944.

Braithwaite called Conway a beacon of putting service above self for all serving in the Navy and Marine Corps.

“His actions will inspire others who at dark and challenging moments in their lives must follow their heart to do their duty. For me personally, this has never been more relevant than during the very events of this week,” Braithwaite said last week, referencing the violent Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol.

“When you are entrusted to serve the men and women of the Navy and Marine Corps, you must always choose as Father Conway did, to do what you must do — your duty — rather than what you could do for yourself.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s the firepower the US is sending to take on Iran

The US military is sending a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East as a show of force to Iran. There is a ton of firepower heading that way.

The USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, which consists of the carrier and its powerful carrier air wing, as well as one cruiser and four destroyers, is moving into the region with an unspecified number of B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers, according to US Central Command.

These assets, according to US Central Command, are being deployed in response to “clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack US forces in the region.” This is in addition to strategic assets already in the area.


A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zachary S. Welch)

Aircraft carrier: USS Abraham Lincoln

Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, previously described aircraft carriers as “tremendous expression of US national power.” A carrier strike group is an even stronger message. “CSGs are visible and powerful symbols of U.S. commitment and resolve,” US European Command said in a statement on May 7, 2019.

The USS Abraham Lincoln, a mobile sea-based airfield, is the lead ship for the carrier strike group that bears its name and is outfitted with a highly capable carrier air wing.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

An F/A-18E Super Hornet.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan U. Kledzik)

Carrier air wing: fighters, electronic-attack aircraft, early-warning aircraft, and rotary aircraft

Carrier Air Wing Seven consists of F/A-18 Super Hornets, EA-18G Growler electronic-attack aircraft, E-2 Hawkeye early-warning aircraft, and a number of rotary aircraft from multiple squadrons capable of carrying out a variety of operational tasks.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

The USS Leyte Gulf.

(US Navy photo)

Cruiser: USS Leyte Gulf

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers are multi-role warships that run heavily armed with 122 vertical-launch-system (VLS) cells capable of carrying everything from Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles to surface-to-air missiles and anti-submarine-warfare rockets.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

The USS Mason.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anna Wade)

4 destroyers: USS Bainbridge, USS Gonzalez, USS Mason, and USS Nitze

Like the larger cruisers, destroyers are also multi-mission vessels. Armed with 90 to 96 VLS cells, these ships have air-and-missile defense capabilities, as well as land-attack abilities.

Early in the Trump presidency, two US Navy destroyers devastated Shayrat Airbase with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to punish the Syrian regime in the aftermath of a chemical-weapons attack.

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

The B-52 with all its ammunition.

(US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Robert Horstman)

Bombers: B-52s

The B-52 is a subsonic high-altitude bomber capable of carrying nuclear and conventional payloads. These hard-hitting aircraft can carry up to 70,000 pounds of varied ordnance and can be deployed to carry out various missions, including strategic attack, close air support, air interdiction, and offensive counter-air and maritime operations.

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

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