Unconventional warfare is necessarily a messy business. It entails finding the enemies of our enemies and convincing them to fight our mutual foes, even if we’re not necessarily friends. It reduces America’s risk in blood, but it also means our national security rests on the shoulders of foreign fighters. In the confusing situations this creates, one top officer in the Afghanistan invasion had three simple questions to cut through the chaos.
U.S. special operators pose with Hamid Karzai during the invasion of Afghanistan. Karzai would go on to be president of Afghanistan.
During the invasion, then-Lt. Col. Mark Rosengard was in command of Task Force Dagger, and he had to greatly expand the unconventional warfare program in the country. So he couldn’t spend days or weeks of time and reams of paper figuring out whether he would trust one potential guerrilla leader or another.
So, according to reporter Sean Naylor in his book Not a Good Day to Die, Rosengard just asked three questions.
First, “Do we have a common goal today, recognizing tomorrow may be different?” Basically, do the militiamen or guerillas want the same outcome as the American forces? Including, do they want to see the same people die?
Next, “Do you have a secure backyard?” Simply, do the local forces have somewhere safe-ish to train? If the forces have to constantly quit training in order to fight off attacks, then they won’t be able to actually train. But if there’s any sort of safe compound in which to get to work, then it’s time to ask the third question.
“Are you willing to kill people?”
Yeah, that’s not a very complicated one.
Taken together, these three questions would let Rosengard know whether he could get to work with a new commander. Of course, there were additional concerns that he had to keep track of.
Afghan forces in a discussion with a senior weapons sergeant of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces.
For instance, on the first question, you would need to keep track of whether the militias might really turn on you tomorrow. It’s a bad idea to spend too much time training foreign fighters who only have a few days or weeks of loyalty to America left.
But, overall, these three questions match up with American choices in other wars.
Gen. John “BlackJack” Pershing made alliances with Moro tribesmen in the Philippines and hired them as law enforcement officers even though he knew their long-term goals would be different. And President Franklin D. Roosevelt allied America with Russia to destroy Germany, adding the Soviet Union to the Lend-Lease Act of 1941 despite it being clear that the U.S. and Soviet Union would eventually be at loggerheads.
Rosengard’s gambles in Afghanistan largely worked out for the invasion, and U.S. special operators and unconventional forces took large sections of the country in the Winter of 2001, a period in which they had planned to take just a small foothold in the north. The operators and their guerrilla allies also were able to bring Hamid Karzai back to the country to take power, helping cement American control of the country.
But, of course, the issues with Afghan forces in the invasion were quickly felt. Pashtun tribesmen were extremely helpful in taking the country from the Taliban, but their half-hearted attacks at Tora Bora are thought to have been a major contributor to Osama Bin Laden’s escape from that mountain stronghold into Pakistan where he would successfully hide until his death in 2011.
The Force may be strong with your family, but are you ready for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker? The final installment of what is now called “the Skywalker” saga will bring a specific story of a galaxy far, far away to a close this year. Of all the new Star Wars films, this is probably the one you won’t want to miss in the theaters, simply because everyone will ruin it for you if you wait. But, what the hell is going on with this movie? Which Skywalker is rising? Why is this the “end” of Star Wars? And just how many characters are coming back to life?
Here’s your Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker cheatsheet.
1. Rise of Skywalker is “Episode IX” which marks the end of regular Star Wars movies as we know them.
Back in the eighties, Star Wars creator George Lucas often said that the classic trilogy of films was actually just one part of a larger story consisting of a “trilogy of trilogies.” But, after Lucas created Episodes I, II and III from 1999-2005, he changed his mind and decided that Episode VI: Return of the Jedi — was a decent place to end the story. In 2004, Lucas inserted a digital Hayden Christesen as the ghost of Anakin Skywalker and called it a day. But, then, in 2012, Lucas sold his company — Lucasfilm — to Disney and the rest is history. Since 2015, there have been four new Star Wars movies; The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi, and Solo. But, only two these (Force Awakens and Last Jedi) have had the traditional episode numbers at the beginning. So, The Rise of Skywalker is a sequel to Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, but also the conclusion of ALL the episodes, beginning with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. After Rise of Skywalker, it seems like the will no longer be Star Wars movies with episode numbers, meaning the 2022 Star Wars movies will be organized differently.
2. Okay, so I can tell my kids these were planned all along?
You can tell your children whatever you want about how Star Wars was written and created, but the fact of the matter is, literally all of Star Wars, including the original trilogy, was kind of made-up as it went along. George Lucas has gone on record saying that he wasn’t sure when Darth Vader would have been revealed as Luke’s father originally, and early drafts of the script for the EmpireStrikes Back confirm this: At some point in the drafting process, screenwriter Leigh Brackett hadn’t even been told (or Lucas hadn’t decided?) if Vader was Luke’s father at all. This bit of trivia is a good microcosm for how to think about the new movies, too. Originally, J.J. Abrams was only supposed to direct The Force Awakens, but then, after Lucasfilm fired Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow from working on Episode IX, Abrams was brought back in to direct and co-write the movie. Abrams co-wrote Rise of Skywalker with a guy named Chris Terrio, whose previous credits include Justice League and Batman Vs Superman, so take that however you want.
Complicating matters further is the fact that obviously, no one at Lucasfilm knew Carrie Fisher would tragically pass away in 2016. Statements from Lucasfilm suggest the story for Episode IXwould have been very different had Fisher been alive to play Leia again. Finally, Rian Johnson certainly didn’t write The Last Jedi with the knowledge that Fisher would die or that Trevorrow would be fired, meaning, the events of The Last Jedi could be seen as slightly incongruous with whatever Abrams cooks up.
3. I heard Leia is still in the movie. What’s up with that?
Carrie Fisher is appearing in The Rise of Skywalker as General Leia Organa, daughter of Anakin Skywalker, sister of Luke Skywalker, widow of Han Solo, and mother of Ben Solo AKA Kylo Ren. This is being achieved by using archival footage of Fisher from The Force Awakens. Apparently, J.J. Abrams had enough material left over to make it work. Disney, Lucasfilm, and the Fisher family have repeatedly said that Leia will not appear as a CGI recreation and that what you’ll see onscreen will actually be filmed footage of Carrie Fisher.
4. Who else is coming back?
Rise of Skywalker will also feature the return of Billy Dee Willians as Lando Calrissian, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, and, somehow, the character of Emperor Palpatine will laugh his way into the movie, too. Notably, two of these three characters are technically dead. Luke died in The Last Jedi and the Emperor was thrown down a shaft by Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi back in 1983. Mark Hamill has already said that Luke is almost certainly back as a Force ghost, kind of like what Obi-Wan did in the old movies. However, Lucasfilm and actor Ian McDiarmid (who played the Emperor in all three prequels and Return of the Jedi) have been tight-lipped about how that character will return. Bottom line: the Emperor laughs in the trailer for Rise of Skywalker, so, somehow, he’s back.
5. What about Rey’s parents?
In The Last Jedi, it was revealed by Kylo Ren that Rey’s mysterious parents from The Force Awakens were drunk junk-dealers who sold her into a life of servitude, Oliver Twist-style. Basically, they were nobodies. If you throw a rock, you can finally find someone around you right now who has a strong opinion about this twist one way or another. So, how will The Rise of Skywalker address it; even if you don’t want it too? Well, J.J. Abrams has said “there will be more” to the story of Rey’s parents. So, get ready for that. (Hey, let’s be honest, Star Wars has never been great about showing functional families!)
6. Can I buy tickets yet?
Nope, but that may change very soon. We’ll let you know when it does.
Right now, there’s just one trailer for The Rise of Skywalker, which debuted at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando this past spring. There might be a new one coming at the end of Augst at D23, but no one knows for sure. You can watch that trailer right here.
8. When does the movie come out?
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise ofSkywalker will be out in movie theaters around the world on Dec. 20, 2019. That’s a Friday, so, that means there will really be screenings as early as Thursday, the 19th, and reviews about a week before that. So, if you really want to save yourself from spoilers, avoid the internet, or any human interactions starting around Dec. 15, 2019.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
One of the things that often shocks new pilots is how brutally honest our debriefs can be. After nearly a full day of planning, briefing, and flying a mission, we’ll gather in a room and spend hours picking apart everything that went wrong. Even if all our objectives were met and the mission was a success, we’ll still comb through a “god’s eye view” of the flight, along with the various recordings from inside our cockpit.
Rank comes off in the debrief, meaning the most senior officer, or the most senior pilot, are open to just as much criticism as the newest wingman. I’ve been in debriefs where a young Captain held the Wing Commander’s feet to the fire over mistakes he made in the air. This usually comes as a shock to many in the military who are typically required to follow a strict hierarchy.
When is comes to mistakes, fighter pilots worry more about improvement than they do about rank. (USAF Photo)
As with all things related to flying, prioritization is key—we’ll start with the biggest things that went wrong and try to uncover their root causes. I was recently explaining to a civilian pilot that in the debrief we spend 90% of our time on the 10% that didn’t go according to plan. They were amazed that 10% doesn’t go according to plan. In reality though, it can often be much higher.
The type of flying we do has more in common with sports than a typical commercial flight. We are fighting a thinking adversary that is specifically targeting our weaknesses. We, in turn, are making decisions that are trying to exploit theirs. As we fight to seize the initiative inside this decision loop; dozens of potential outcomes can occur at each phase of the mission. A mission therefore almost never goes exactly according to plan. It’s a dynamic environment that forces the pilot to perceive, decide, and execute in a harsh environment, often with limited information and time.
A three-ship formation of Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcons flies over Kunsan City, South Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
In training, if the bomber we were escorting was shot down, or if an enemy aircraft bombed the point we were defending, it’s usually multiple overlapping mistakes that led to the failure. In fact, everyone probably had an opportunity at some point to intervene and save the day. The fighter pilot debrief works because everyone is willing to take ownership of their mistakes.
Taking ownership is a skill. As fighter pilots, most of us are predisposed to win at all costs—within the rules and regulations. In the debrief though, with the mission already flown, the way to win is to accurately identify lessons that will make everyone better for the next flight. It’s a fragile environment that only works when everyone is willing to first look inward for failures to the mission.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors fly in formation with F-35A Lightning IIs (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)
It only takes one person trying to pass the blame for the collaborative environment to fall apart. Because it’s not stable, it requires constant maintenance, especially by those who could use their status to get by. The mission commander must be the first person to call themselves out for a mistake they made. Likewise, the pilot with the most experience must be willing to say they made a basic error that even a new pilot shouldn’t have made. The officer with the highest rank must be willing to set the example that rank doesn’t shield mistakes.
By treating everyone equally in the debrief, the mission can be analyzed in a sterile environment. We can figure out what went wrong and capture those lessons for future flights. To the casual observer it’s a brutal environment, but to the pilots in the debrief it’s just a puzzle on how to get better.
The US, Russia’s main nuclear rival, had no answer for this weapon— no defenses in place can stop it, no emergency-response plans in place address it, and no forthcoming projects to counter or neuter it.
On the surface, the doomsday torpedo represents unrivaled capability of nuclear destruction, but a nuclear arsenal’s worth rests on many factors, not just its ability to kill.
Eight nations control the roughly 14,200 nuclear weapons in the world, and another nation holds an additional 80 or so as an open secret.
Nuclear weapons, once thought of as the ultimate decider in warfare, have seen use exactly twice in conflict, both times by the US during World War II.
Since then, nuclear weapons have taken on a role as a deterrent. The US and Russia, Cold War rivals for decades, have not fought head-to-head since the dawn of the nuclear era, owing the peace at least in part to fear that a conflict would escalate into mutual, and then global, destruction.
What makes a good nuclear arsenal?
First, a good nuclear doctrine. Will a country strike first, or only in response?
Second, safety. Are the nukes secure? Does the country participate in nonproliferation treaties?
Third, do the nukes work as intended? Is the arsenal sufficient? Can the nukes survive an initial attack?
In the slides below, Business Insider has weighed these questions with the help of Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, to rank the world’s nuclear arsenals.
9. North Korea: the fledgling force
North Korea fails by virtually every metric used to measure nuclear arsenals. North Korea’s nuclear missiles may not even work, and the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, diverts money from essential services for his own people to foot the bill. The nation is a constant proliferation threat.
Furthermore, North Korea’s nuclear doctrine, as pieced together from decades of saber rattling, amounts to essentially saying it will nuke the US, South Korea, or Japan if it wishes, and as a first strike. In the 21st century, only North Korea has tested nuclear weapons, introducing the threat of radioactive fallout to a new generation.
North Korea serves the world as a reminder of the horrors of nuclear proliferation. Every day, intelligence officials investigate whether the poverty-stricken country has helped another rogue state acquire missile or nuclear-bomb technology.
North Korea remains an international pariah under intense sanctions for its nuclear activity, so why bother?
Because North Korea has a hopeless disadvantage in nonnuclear forces when compared to South Korea, Japan, or the US. Because Pyongyang can never hope to defeat any of its enemies in conventional fighting, it turned to nukes as a guarantor of its security.
North Korea’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: estimated 60
Weapons count rank: 9
North Korea has a number of short- to intercontinental-range ballistic-missile systems thought to operate off the backs of mobile missile launchers.
One analyst has warned that North Korea’s mobile launchers may simply distract from the real threat of hidden nuclear silos, but no evidence of such silos has ever appeared in US intelligence reports made public.
North Korea has tested a number of submarine-launch platforms and fields a fleet of older submarines, but this capability is thought to be far off.
North Korea’s nuclear arsenal comes down to a few older ballistic-missile systems in the field and some long-range systems in development, according to Kristensen.
It’s completely unknown if North Korea keeps its nuclear weapons mated or with the warhead affixed to the missile.
8. Pakistan: loose nukes?
Pakistan built nuclear weapons in response to its bitter regional rival, India, testing and proceeding with a relatively simple nuclear mission: deter or defeat India.
Pakistan managed to develop what’s known as a “credible minimum deterrent,” or the lowest number of nukes possible while still credibly warding off India, which has much stronger conventional forces and many times Pakistan’s population.
Full on shooting wars and frequent cross-border skirmishes have broken out between India and Pakistan since World War II, making the relatively smaller country fear for its sovereignty.
“Pakistan has concluded that India can use its more advanced conventional forces to push into Pakistan and Pakistan wouldn’t have a choice except to use nuclear weapons,” Kristensen told Business Insider.
Pakistan would score highly for having a simple nuclear mission, and not going overboard in meeting it, except for two glaring issues: safety and responsibility.
Additionally, “Pakistan has lowered the threshold for nuclear weapons use,” by building smaller, tactical nuclear weapons, according to the Arms Control Association.
Pakistan Air Force Chengdu JF-17.
Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: 150
Weapons count rank: 6
Pakistan has ballistic missiles with ranges just long enough to hit anywhere in the country of India. It has built nuclear-tipped cruise missiles that can travel more than 400 miles.
Pakistan’s air force has reportedly practiced dropping nuclear bombs with its foreign-made planes. The US has specifically given Pakistan permission to modify its F-16 fighters to drop nuclear weapons.
Pakistan has no nuclear-missile-capable submarines, but has reportedly started work on one in response to India’s first nuclear submarine.
Pakistan is thought to keep its nuclear warheads separate from its missiles and delivery systems.
7. India: between a rock and a hard place
“India is still a nuclear posture that’s still in vivid development,” according to Kristensen.
While India had early success creating advanced nuclear devices, the rise of China and Beijing’s aggression in the region has made India divert its focus from one regional rival, Pakistan, to a second.
Just as Pakistan fears India’s greater strength and numbers, India has come to fear China’s growing and modernizing conventional forces.
But unlike Pakistan, India has sworn off nuclear first strikes and not looked into tactical nuclear weapons. Additionally, India is considered to be more responsible with its nuclear weapons and is assumed to keep them more secure.
India doctrine succeeds for the most part by having a credible deterrent that’s not overblown and good cooperation with other nuclear powers.
But India’s submarine fleet remains a dream at the moment, lowering its overall score.
India’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: 140 (stored)
Weapons count rank: 7
Like Pakistan, India has air-dropped and land-launched nuclear weapons. Initially, India built shorter-range weapons to hold Pakistan at risk, but has since evolved to take aim at China with longer-range systems.
India is testing the Agni V, a land-launched missile that can range all of China, but as Kristensen said, “once they develop them they have to build up their base infrastructure.”
India recently launched its first nuclear-powered submarine for a supposed deterrence patrol, but Kristensen said the patrol lasted only 20 days and did not bring armed nuclear missiles with it.
“India has to be able to communicate reliably with a ballistic missile submarine at sea, possibly under tensions or while under attack they have to maintain secure communications. That will take a long time,” said Kristensen.
As it stands, the missiles and submarine India has picked out for its underwater nuclear deterrent can’t range China’s vital points or most of Pakistan.
A briefing slide of the alleged Status-6 nuclear torpedo captured from Russian television.
6. Russia: bomb makers gone wild
Russia ended World War II with the Red Army outnumbering any force on Earth. But throughout the nuclear age, it saw Europe turn away from it in favor of the West.
Russia feared it was conventionally weaker than NATO, which has grown to include 29 nations, and started building the world’s most vast array of nuclear weapons.
“Russia seems to sort of be driven by a frantic exploitation of different options,” Kristensen said. “You have a very prolific sort of effort to bring in more experiments with many more and new systems, more so than any nuclear weapons state does.”
Russia is mainly focused on stopping a US or Western invasion and holding US cities and forces at risk. To combat the US with forces all over the globe, Russia needs a lot of nukes. Russia has signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, but stands accused of violating other arms agreements with the US.
Putin frequently looks to the country’s nuclear strength for propaganda purposes, announcing in 2018 no less than five new nuclear offensive and defensive systems meant to defeat the US in a nuclear war that nobody seriously thinks Russia wants.
No country needs five new nuclear weapons in a year.
While Russia has about the same number of nukes as the US, Russia’s have higher yields and could end all life on Earth more quickly and with great spectacle than any other nation.
But because Russia explores all kinds of ridiculous nuclear weapons, bases nuclear warheads near population centers, uses nuclear weapons to threaten other countries, and because the fall of the Soviet Union led to the greatest episode of loose nukes in world history, Russia sits on the low end of this list.
Russia has the full nuclear triad with constantly modernized bombers, land-based missiles, and submarines. The triad is a true 24/7/365 force with submarines on deterrence patrols at all times.
Additionally, Russia has a high number of tactical nuclear weapons with shorter-range and smaller-explosive yields, which arms-control advocates say lowers the threshold for nuclear war.
According to Kristensen, most of the supposedly revolutionary Russian nuclear strategic systems hyped by Putin will see limited deployments. While Putin hypes a new hypersonic, maneuverable intercontinental-ballistic-missile (ICBM) warhead, Kristensen notes that most ICBMs will remain the old type. Furthermore, all ICBM warheads travel at hypersonic speeds.
Russia routinely sinks needed cash into “really frivolous exploratory type systems that make no difference in deterring or winning,” according to Kristensen.
One “excellent” example of this, according to Kristensen, is the Poseidon underwater 100 to 200 megaton nuclear torpedo.
This weapon, potentially the biggest nuclear explosive device ever built, just doesn’t make sense.
The weapon would essentially set off tidal waves so large and an explosion so radioactive and punishing that continents, not countries, would pay the price for decades.
The US has not found it useful to respond to these doomsday-type devices.
Russia stores its nuclear warheads mated to missiles and ready to fire. Additionally, it has surrounded Moscow with 68 nuclear-tipped missile interceptors meant to protect the city from a US strike.
5. Israel: Who knows?
“Israel is interesting because it’s a semi-dormant nuclear program, but it’s not dormant,” Kristensen said.
Israel, unlike others on this list, finds itself mainly in conflict with nonnuclear foes. Iran has vowed to destroy Israel, but it has sworn off building nuclear weapons.
Furthermore, Israel’s conventional military, with its top-of-the-line air force and close coordination with the US, easily overpowers its regional foes in traditional fighting.
Instead of reaching for nuclear weapons to threaten a more powerful foe, Israel has a “very relaxed nuclear posture, truly what you could call a last resort posture,” according to Kristensen.
Secrecy surrounding Israel’s nuclear program has made it hard to evaluate, so it gets the middle spot.
Israel’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: estimated 80
Weapons count rank: 8
Truly, nobody knows what weapons Israel has or doesn’t have, and that’s the way they like it.
That said, Israel has fairly advanced weapons systems, including land-based systems that remain unmated from nuclear warheads.
Kristensen said Israel has mobile missiles and aircraft that can launch nuclear bombs.
“Rumor is Israel has a cruise missile for their submarines and there are writings about nuclear land mines and tactical nukes, but they remain in very much in the rumor box,” he said.
Nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard.
4. UK: USA lite
Weapons count: 215 (120 deployed; 95 stored)
Weapons count rank: 5
During the Cold War, the UK labored to create its own nuclear weapons and delivery systems, but since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the UK has withdrawn from that posture and essentially become a client of the US.
The UK operates four nuclear submarines that fire can fire 16 Trident missiles made by the US. That’s it. The UK won’t get an “arsenal” page for this reason. The warheads on these patrols are mated to missiles.
The UK belongs to NATO and draws Russia’s ire sometimes as a loud voice in the West, but doesn’t have a very big or powerful conventional military.
Nor does the UK have any clear-cut enemies. While the recent UK-Russia hostilities may have reminded the island it’s not without opposition, Russia’s horns are mainly locked with the US.
As far as doctrine goes, the UK vows to use nuclear weapons only defensively and has signed the nonproliferation treaty, meaning it has agreed not to spread nuclear technology.
The UK has “very close coordination and nuclear targeting planning with the US,” Kristensen said. “It’s not a standalone nuclear power in the same way that France considers itself to be.”
The UK has determined it doesn’t need a very big nuclear arsenal and didn’t overdo it, giving it high marks on its small force.
A French Dassault Rafale flies above the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.
France has a long history with nuclear weapons, like the UK, but has maintained more independence and control over its stockpile and doctrine.
“The French have a very open ended strategy that looks at potential use against any significant threat against crucial French interests,” Kristensen said. This includes using nuclear weapons against a state that launches a weapons of mass destruction attack on France.
In 2015 after the tragic Paris attacks by ISIS fighters, France sent its aircraft carrier to fight the militants in Iraq and Syria, but they used conventional weapons.
France’s nuclear doctrine allows first use in a broad range of circumstances, and while its weapons are not as aligned with NATO’s posture as the US or the UK’s, “it’s assumed they would pick a side and somewhat contribute to the deterrence posture of NATO,” Kristensen said.
Also, France collaborates less with the US on nuclear issues, though their targeting objectives probably broadly align with the US’s, Kristensen said.
Essentially, France’s strong conventional military allows them to avoid much discussion of using nuclear weapons. Additionally, the French seem more able to stomach paying for nuclear weapons and infrastructure, which the British have often been uneasy about.
France’s participation in the nonproliferation treaty and its relative stability with its nuclear program earns it high marks for such a limited arsenal.
Aircraft mechanics prepare a B-2 Spirit bomber before a morning mission in Guam.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis)
Weapons count: 300 (290 deployed; 10 stored)
Weapons count rank: 3
France mainly breaks with the UK on nuclear weapons in that they have 50 or so aircraft that can launch missiles with a range of about 300 miles that deliver nuclear warheads, according to Kristensen.
Like the UK, France has four nuclear-powered submarines, one of which stays on a constant deterrence patrol ready to fire mated nuclear missiles.
While it’s not a nuclear weapon outright, outside of the US, only France operates a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle.
Aircraft mechanics prepare a B-2 Spirit bomber before a morning mission in Guam.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis)
2. US: the big boy
The US’s nuclear warhead count falls short to only Russia, and like Russia, the US swelled its arsenal to surpass 30,000 weapons during the height of the Cold War.
The Cold War saw the US explore a wide, and sometimes exotic, range of nuclear-weapons delivery options, including cruise missiles and artillery shells.
But since then, US has attempted to sober its nuclear ambitions, and has become the source of many nonproliferation regimes and attempts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons globally.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, it was the US that took on accounting for the loose nukes spread across places like Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The US leads the diplomatic pressure campaign to keep North Korea from getting nuclear weapons.
From 2015 to 2017, the US led an effort to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons.
The US invented nuclear weapons and remains the only country to have ever dropped them in anger, but the US’s conventional-military supremacy curtails any need for nuclear saber rattling.
Today, the US allows for nuclear-first use and has signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
While the US has come a long way from the arms-race madness of the Cold War, it still spends a world-record amount of money on its nuclear arsenal and could stand to lose about a third of its force, according to experts.
Because the US tries to be a transparent, responsible nuclear force, it scores the highest out of any country with greater than a “credible minimum deterrent.”
Today the US’s nuclear arsenal has narrowed down to a triad in constant stages of modernization.
The US operates two nuclear-capable bombers, the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber and the B-52 Stratofortress, originally built in the 1950s and slated to fly for 100 years.
The US operates a fleet of nuclear submarines, which it keeps on constant deterrence patrols.
The US also has nearly 400 intercontinental-range missiles in silos around the country, mostly aimed at Russia’s nuclear weapons for an imagined “mutual destruction” scenario.
Recently, the US has come under intense criticism for President Donald Trump’s proposal to build more smaller or tactical nuclear weapons. Experts say these weapons make nuclear war more likely.
The US has tactical nuclear weapons stored around Europe and Turkey, which, like the bigger strategic weapons, are stored mated.
Type 094 submarine.
1. China: True minimum
In 1957, before China had nuclear weapons, its leader, Chairman Mao, said the following horrifying quote about nuclear war:
“I’m not afraid of nuclear war. There are 2.7 billion people in the world; it doesn’t matter if some are killed. China has a population of 600 million; even if half of them are killed, there are still 300 million people left. I’m not afraid of anyone.”
In 1967, China had tested nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. To prove its systems worked in the face of Western doubts, it fired the only nuclear-armed ballistic missile in history to an unpopulated region within its own borders.
Given China’s early enthusiastic attitude toward nuclear combat, it developed a surprisingly responsible and calm force.
China has just 280 nuclear warheads, and none of them are mated to delivery systems. China flies bombers and sails submarines that it calls nuclear-capable, but none of them have ever actually flown with nuclear weapons.
China’s nuclear doctrine forbids first strikes and centers around the idea that China would survive a nuclear strike, dig its bombs out of deep underground storage, and send a salvo of missiles back in days, months, or years.
This essentially nails the idea of “credible minimum deterrence.” Everyone knows China has nuclear weapons, that they work, and nobody doubts China would use them if it first received a nuclear attack.
Also, China has spent a fraction of the money the US or Russia has spent on weapons while conforming with nonproliferation treaties.
China has continued to build up its missile, submarine, and bomber fleets, but all without the scrutiny afforded to nuclear systems.
Because China’s nuclear warheads don’t sit on missiles, if China attacked another country with ballistic missiles, the attacked country could be fairly sure the missiles were not nuclear armed and resist returning fire with its own nuclear weapons.
China has more big cities than any other country and stands to lose more than anyone in a nuclear exchange, but the incredible restraint shown by the Chinese earns them the top slot in this ranking.
China’s nuclear arsenal
Weapons count: 280 stockpiled
Weapons count rank: 4
China operates three types of ballistic missiles, some of which out-range their US counterparts.
China has nuclear-capable submarines and bombers, but they do not ever travel with nuclear weapons on board.
China relies on a growing and modernizing conventional military to assert its will on other countries and virtually never mentions its nuclear arsenal.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Ray Drowley arrived alone at an American camp on the Solomon Islands with a gaping wound in his chest, a missing eye, and a shredded uniform, a junior officer threatened to court-martial him for abandoning his defense post.
Instead, Drowley was put on the path to history.
On Jan. 30, 1944, Drowley was a rifle squad leader with B Company, 132nd Infantry Regiment, Americal Division, when he displayed the bravery that would earn him the Medal of Honor.
The Americal Division arrived on Bougainville on Dec. 25, 1943, as part of the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns. The division was unique in World War II as it carried a name and not a numerical designation.
It got its name from “American, New Caledonia,” the South Pacific island on which the unit was provisionally formed for defense in May 1942. Though officially known later as the 23rd Infantry Division, the Americal name remained.
A month after the unit’s arrival, Drowley was assigned a defensive role with his company as a neighboring unit launched an attack against Japanese defensive positions.
The staff sergeant witnessed three wounded soldiers from the neighboring company collapse. Intense enemy fire prevented their rescue. That’s when Drowley made a fateful decision.
According to his Medal of Honor citation, Drowley “fearlessly rushed forward to carry the wounded” one-by-one to cover.
After moving two of the men to safety amid a hail of gunfire, Drowley discovered an enemy pillbox that American assault tanks had missed. The enemy fighters within were “inflicting heavy casualties upon the attacking force and…a chief obstacle to the success of the advance.”
The dire situation didn’t deter him.
Drowley directed another soldier to complete the rescue of the third wounded soldier. Meanwhile, he darted out across open terrain to one of the American tanks. Drowley climbed the turret and signaled the crew.
He exchanged his weapon for a submachine gun and rode the deck of the tank while firing toward the pillbox with tracer fire.
As the tank ambled closer to the enemy position, Drowley received a severe wound to the chest. He refused to leave his position for medical treatment, instead continuing to direct the tank’s driver to the pillbox.
He was shot again — losing his left eye — and knocked to the ground.
But Drowley remained undaunted. Despite his injuries, he continued to walk alongside the tank until it was able to open fire on the enemy pillbox and destroy it. In the process, American forces discovered another pillbox behind the first and destroyed it as well.
With his mission finally completed, Drowley returned to camp for medical treatment.
When he reached the safety of the American outpost, his platoon leader admonished him for leaving his post. But the reason he left was quickly learned, and he was eventually recommended for the nation’s highest military honor.
After receiving the accolade, he was offered a commission and a chance to speak at war rallies, but Drowley declined and eventually left the service. He lived a quiet life for the rest of his years.
In 1991, he told The Spokesman Review of Spokane, Washington, that he shied away from the title of hero.
‘What Did You Do?’
“People say, ‘What did you do to get the Medal of Honor?’ You were only doing your job,” Drowley said. “You’re fearless, all right. You’re so damned scared you’re past fearless. But you’re going to get killed if you don’t do anything.”
Along with the Medal of Honor, Drowley was also awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters and two Bronze Stars.
He was the first Americal soldier to be awarded the medal and the division’s lone recipient for action in World War II.
While recovering from his wounds at a hospital in Spokane, he met his future wife, Kathleen McAvoy. He returned to Washington after the war from his native St. Charles, Michigan. He operated a service station before working as a civilian employee at Fairchild Air Force Base. He retired in 1980.
Drowley died May 20, 1996. He was 76. He was buried at Fairmount Memorial Park in Spokane.
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on, exhausted parents are trying to juggle work, joblessness, rambunctious children, the emotional needs of spouses, the safety of aging parents, and fear of infection from a virus that can ravage the lungs, leaving its victims sick for weeks at a time. While the war metaphor is often tossed about carelessly — a virus is not a living lifeform, let alone an “enemy” — to parallel the mental impact of this time to soldiers at war is useful.
The sense of fear and stress many are experiencing now is familiar for many families of military service members, as well as those who help them through crises. Faced with separation, dangerous deployments, and untimely deaths, parents and children can cope by practicing a resilient mindset. “We serve families who experience a loss, and put on resilience retreats for children, siblings, spouses, and others who have lost a service member. We are helping them learn to stay health in the face of grief and loss, ” says Mia Bartoletti, the clinical psychologist for the Navy SEAL Foundation and an expert on helping families navigate crises. Bartoletti acknowledges that the same process can help families navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Bartoletti frames it, resilience is a practice of acknowledging “normal reactions to extraordinary circumstances.” This means working to strengthen the attributes that make one “resilient” including hardiness, personal competence, tolerance of negative affect, acceptance of change, personal control, and spirituality, according to a review in PTSD Research Quarterly, a publication by the National Center for PTSD. These traits are “like a muscle,” says Mary Alvord, psychologist and the founder of Resilience Across Borders, a nonprofit program that teaches resilience to children, adolescents, and young adults in schools. “You just keep working it out and you can build it.”
Whether you’re a healthcare worker on the frontlines or a stay-at-home parent, having a strong reaction to the pandemic is to be expected. Bartoletti divides these reactions into three categories: Intrusive reactions, avoidance and withdrawal reactions, and physical arousal reactions. Intrusive reactions involve memories, dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks that take you back to the psychologically traumatizing situation after the fact. Avoidance and withdrawal can happen during and after a distressing event, causing you to repress emotions and even avoid people and places. Physical arousal reactions involve changes in the body itself, including trouble sleeping, irritable outbursts, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance.
All of these reactions are normal, as long as they remain acute. Are you dreaming about Genghis Khan stealing your wallet, or breaking into a co-workers house to steal their toilet paper? Those vivid, COVID dreams are an acute intrusive reaction. Are you finding the need to shut yourself in a room and cry? That’s acute withdrawal. Do you find the news about COVID-19 in your area rockets up your heartbeat and blood pressure? That’s an acute physiological reaction. “I think that anyone can be experiencing these things, depending on your own reaction to this pandemic situation, these are common reactions,” says Bartoletti. “We expect to see more of these in this time frame.”
What is not normal is when the acute reaction morphs into a long-term psychological problems.
If these symptoms persist, acute stress in the moment can morph into post-traumatic stress after the fact. That can mean intense physiological feelings of stress, avoidance and withdrawal behavior, or intrusive flashbacks that impede normal social and emotional functioning for days, weeks, or months even after the pandemic subsides.
How does one prevent this all from going down? As with so many things, it starts with communicating those reactions, grappling with them and forming them into verbal thoughts. “If you don’t acknowledge your emotional state, that’s a risk and puts you in jeopardy for adverse lasting consequences,” says Bartolleti. “If you engage in narrative sharing open and effective communication with kids and other selective resilience skills — these are mechanisms of resilience. We can strategically set these mechanisms in motion to enhance individual and family resilient adjustment during this time.”
In many ways, parents and children can practice resilience in similar ways—through dialogue, social connection, and focusing on self-care and controlling what they can and letting go of what they can’t. Of course, parents also act as aids and models for their children, helping their kids let go of negative thoughts, providing warmth and support, and helping them connect with friends while getting outside enough. Under non-pandemic circumstances, Alvord and her colleagues have found that the presence of a caring adult in a child’s life can really help that child overcome stressful or traumatic circumstances. In a pandemic, which affects everyone, parents need to remember to take care of themselves, too.
To foster resilience in kids, the first step is talking it out. “Dialogue is really healthy for kids and teens for actual brain development,” Bartoletti says. “Having conversations about workplace safety and hazards is a healthy thing.” It’s good to gauge what your children are thinking and experiencing, as well as explaining to them your role in this situation. You can set the record straight on anything they have misunderstood. You can offer calm and reassurance while explaining the actionable steps you are taking to cope with the situation. You can model a problem-solving mindset to help your children as they figure out how to manage their emotions.
For both children and parents, social connection will be crucial for staying emotionally healthy through this time, says Alvord. While we may be physically distant, we should still be socially connected. For parents of children old enough to have friends and social groups, this will mean helping those children connect with their friends via phone or video chat. If your children are older, it may mean encouraging and allowing time and space for your teen to spend time with their friends online. For parents, make time to stay connected to your normal group of friends and family. And if you don’t have a parent support group already, it’s a good idea to seek one out so you can share tips and tricks and commiserate about parenting in lockdown. And of course, take the time to connect as a family and make the most of being stuck together.
Self-care really is essential to overall well-being. Alvord recommends trying to get plenty of sleep and taking a break to be by yourself, even if that means getting in your car to get away from everyone in the house. Physical activity and getting outside helps too, says Alvord. Bartoletti cautions that you can overdo it on the exercise, however, and that becomes its own form of avoidance. Being resilient, “really means getting in tune with your own internal landscape,” she says.
Finally, Alvord says resilience means letting go of the things you can’t control and focusing on the things that you can. Taking initiative in one’s life is one of the primary characteristics of resilience, Alvord wrote in a 2005 study published in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. “Depression is hopelessness and helplessness and so resilience is the opposite,” she says. “No, you’re not helpless, you do have control over many aspects of your life.” For example, Alvord’s neighbors recently went out and bought a cheap pool for their backyard. If pools can’t open this summer, they have their own to keep their five children occupied. Recognizing you have agency in this situation — that’s resilience. “It’s action-oriented, as opposed to sitting back and letting things happen,” she says.
“Our mindset in this timeframe matters in terms of brain health and how we react in this experience,” says Bartoletti. Our bodies are primed with hormones to react to stressful situations. “We need to practice a mindset of challenging that at times,” she says.
Research shows it is possible to come out of a traumatic experience even stronger than before. And Bartoletti’s research in military families shows that these coping skills, taken together, can help families “become more cohesive and supportive and more resilient in the face of adversity.” Some days are still going to be challenging, and there will certainly be moments of grief and stress. But if parents and kids alike start to stretch and work that resilience muscle, they can get through this together.
The US military is developing a new, longer-range air-to-air missile amid growing concerns that China’s advanced missiles outrange those carried by US fighters.
The AIM-260 air-to-air missile, also known as the Joint Air Tactical Missile (JATM), is intended to replace the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) currently carried by US fighters, which has been a go-to weapon for aerial engagements. It “is meant to be the next air-to-air air dominance weapon for our air-to-air fighters,” Brig. Gen. Anthony Genatempo, Air Force Weapons Program Executive Officer, told Air Force Magazine.
“It has a range greater than AMRAAM,” he further explained, adding that the missile has “different capabilities onboard to go after that specific [next-generation air-dominance] threat set.”
Russia and China are developing their own fifth-generation fighters, the Su-57 and J-20 respectively, to compete against the US F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, and these two powerful rivals are also developing new, long-range air-to-air missiles.
The Sukhoi Su-57.
In particular, the US military is deeply concerned about the Chinese PL-15, an active radar-guided very long range air-to-air missile (VLRAAM) with a suspected range of about 200 km. The Chinese military is also developing another weapon known as the PL-21, which is believed to have a range in excess of 300 km, or about 125 miles.
The PL-15, which has a greater range than the AIM-120D AMRAAM, entered service in 2016, and last year, Chinese J-20 stealth fighters did a air show flyover, during which they showed off their weapons bays loaded with suspected PL-15 missiles.
J-20 stealth fighters of PLA Air Force.
Genatempo told reporters that the PL-15 was the motivation for the development of the JATM.
The AIM-260, a US Air Force project being carried out in coordination with the Army, the Navy, and Lockheed Martin, will initially be fielded on F-22 Raptors and F/A-18 Hornets and will later arm the F-35. Flight tests will begin in 2021, and the weapon is expected to achieve operational capability the following year.
The US military will stop buying AMRAAMs in 2026, phasing out the weapon that first entered service in the early 1990s for firepower with “longer legs,” the general explained.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Women have been serving in the military in one capacity or another since the Revolutionary War; Molly Pitcher cooled down canons during that time. However, it wasn’t until World War II that women gained recognition as full-fledged members of the military. WWII was a turning point for women in military service. This was the time when we saw the Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASPs), Women’s Army Corps, and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.
WWII saw nearly half a million women in uniform in both theaters of conflict during that time. The valuable role women played during the war, along with President Truman’s determination to make changes within the military, led to the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. With this act, for the first time, women were recognized as full members of the Armed Services. This meant they could finally claim the same benefits as their male counterparts. This also made it so those women who chose to do so, could make a career in the Army or Navy.
During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, there were tens of thousands of women who volunteered for service. Many of them were nurses. However, they also made great strides among all of the military branches, donning both Marine and Air Force uniforms to serve alongside those already serving in the Army and Navy.
During the 1960s in Post-Vietnam America, great social changes were made throughout the nation. Many of those changes were driven and led by women. The Women’s Rights Movement not only fought for equality in the workplace, carved out places for women in the political arena, and opened up new opportunities in higher education, but it also led to changes for women in the military. One of the biggest changes in the treatment of women in the military during this time was giving them the opportunity to attend the service academies. Opening these academies to women was pivotal for the treatment of women in the military because, for the first time, they were allowed to obtain officer status in the ranks. This then placed them in positions of leadership and authority throughout all the branches.
The 1990s began with the Gulf War. During this time, female military members distinguished themselves. For the first time, women won the right to serve as combat pilots during the war. By the end of the decade, women were serving on combat ships and flying warplanes from carrier ships. However, in 1994, these female service members did suffer a bit of a setback when the Secretary of Defense refused to allow them to serve in units whose primary mission was ground combat.
With the 21st century, women saw even greater strides in their opportunities in service. Colonel Linda McTague became the first female commander of a fighter squadron, and women in the Army and Marines began to edge closer to being able to serve in full combat duty. In 2013 the ban on women in combat was finally lifted, and the branches were given two years to comply with full integration. By 2015 two women completed Army Ranger school, which led to the decree that all combat duties should be open to women as well.
The past few years have seen women gaining advancement to some of the highest levels of authority in the military. They have also been given the opportunity to complete elite training courses, along with Ranger school, women have been allowed to enter the ever difficult Navy SEAL officer training courses. One thing is for certain, women in the military have come a long way since World War II, and it is definite that they will continue to be seen and heard in their ever growing-roles in all of the branches of the U.S. military.
This week, airmen all over the world are finally able to don their super cool, super high-speed OCPs. Meanwhile, the Army has just one more year of ACUs before they have to be completely switched to the same pattern. Airmen are loving it, but soldiers have been reacting with a near-unanimous “are you f*cking kidding me?”
The airmen love it because they’re no longer in those ridiculous, tiger-stripe uniform. Soldiers hate it because, well, they’re cramping our style. If the Air Force starts claiming they were a part of the Army during the Pinks & Greens era to get in on that perfect getup (instead of that flight attendant costume), then we might have a problem.
What were we talking about again? Oh, yeah. Enjoy these memes.
Several soldiers and a Navy SEAL testified Oct. 25 about the risky, all-out efforts to find Bowe Bergdahl after the soldier’s 2009 disappearance in Afghanistan. Troops and commanders went without sleep. Shirts and socks disintegrated on soldiers during weeks-long patrols. And several service members were seriously wounded — including the Navy commando whose career was ended by AK-47 fire.
The testimony came at a sentencing hearing for Bergdahl, who walked away from a remote post in Afghanistan and was held by Taliban allies for five years. He pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy last week and faces a maximum of life in prison.
The wounded SEAL, retired Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch, said his team’s helicopters came under fire as they landed in an area near the Pakistan border where they had information on Bergdahl’s possible whereabouts. He said the mission in the days after Bergdahl disappeared was hastily planned, and their only objective was the Bergdahl search.
A military dog leading them through a field located two enemy fighters that the team had seen at a distance. Hatch said the fighters sprayed AK-47 bullets at them, killing the dog. He was hit in the leg.
“I screamed a lot. It hurt really bad … I thought I was dead,” said Hatch, who entered the courtroom with a limp and a service dog.
Hatch said he believes he would have died if a comrade hadn’t quickly applied a tourniquet. Hatch has subsequently had 18 surgeries.
He was largely stoic and spoke in measured tones except for several times when he talked about the slain military dog, Remco. Hatch said the dog helped protect his team by locating enemy fighters after the SEALs lost sight of them.
As the hearing got underway, the Army judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance, said he was still considering a motion by the defense to dismiss the case. The defense has argued that President Donald Trump’s comments about Bergdahl prevent him from having a fair sentencing hearing.
Other soldiers who testified described an exhausting and dangerous around-the-clock effort to find the soldier in the weeks after his disappearance.
Army Col. Clinton Baker, who commanded Bergdahl’s battalion at the time, said one unit on patrol for nearly 40 days straight had their clothing start to disintegrate on their bodies.
“We had to fly socks and T-shirts to them because they had literally just rotted off them,” he said. “We were all doing the best we could.”
Evan Buetow, who served as a sergeant in Bergdahl’s platoon, said he was among three soldiers who were left behind for 10 days to guard the outpost that Bergdahl walked away from near the Afghan town of Mest. The rest of the platoon embarked on a frantic search in the nearby areas.
Sitting in a fortified bunker, Buetow and another soldier suffered stomach flu-like symptoms while trying to stay awake and be vigilant.
“Every single day I think about it,” he said of the heat and ever-present dung beetles. “It was miserable.”
Buetow, who rejoined his platoon on subsequent search missions, broke down in tears when a prosecutor asked him why the guard duty and searches were important.
“I mean, my guy was gone,” he said before reaching for a tissue.
Several more days of testimony are expected.
Prosecutors made no deal to cap Bergdahl’s punishment, so the judge has wide leeway to consider their words in deciding Bergdahl’s sentence.
The 31-year-old soldier from Hailey, Idaho, has said he was caged by his captors, kept in darkness, and beaten, and tried to escape more than a dozen times before President Barack Obama brought Bergdahl home in 2014 in a swap for five Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
Nance said Oct. 23 that he would be fair and hasn’t been influenced by Trump, but that he does have concerns that the president’s comments are affecting public perceptions.
While campaigning for president, Trump repeatedly called Bergdahl a traitor and suggested that he be shot or thrown from a plane without a parachute. Nance ruled in February that those comments didn’t constitute unlawful command influence, noting that Trump was a civilian candidate for president at the time. The defense argued that Trump revived his campaign comments the day of Bergdahl’s plea hearing, by saying at a news conference that he thinks people are aware of what he said before.
Also Oct. 25, the defense said they plan to present evidence that Bergdahl’s mental health should be a mitigating factor in his sentence. He washed out of the Coast Guard after panic attack-like symptoms before enlisting in 2008 in the Army. In July 2015, after his return from captivity, Army evaluators concluded that Bergdahl suffered from schizotypal personality disorder when he left his post in Afghanistan.
A special operations airman from the Kentucky Air National Guard will receive the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.
Gen. David L. Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, will present the Air Force Cross to Tech. Sgt Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, in a ceremony Ept. 13, 2019. The award — second only to the Medal of Honor — is given to members of the armed forces who display extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States.
Keller earned the Air Force Cross on Aug. 16, 2017, while assigned as a joint terminal attack controller for Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan during Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Keller was on a clearance mission in Nangarhar Province against 350 Islamic state fighters, according to the award citation. After 15 hours of sustained contact, the assault force struck an improvised explosive device, killing four personnel and wounding 31. Injured and struggling to his feet, Keller executed air-to-ground engagements while returning fire, repulsing an enemy assault less than 150 meters away.
Staff Sgt. Daniel P. Keller, a combat controller in the Kentucky Air Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, receives the Air Force Cross, the nation’s second-highest medal for combat valor for his actions on an Afghanistan battlefield.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Vicky Spesard)
Keller then helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone “under a hail of enemy fire,” the citation said. “When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading causalities.”
As U.S. forces departed, Keller fought off a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire and passing enemy positions on to another joint terminal attack controller.
“His courage, quick actions and tactical expertise … under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action,” the citation concluded.
A Silver Star medal for the same operation was presented at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 6, 2019, to Air Force Staff Sgt. Pete Dinich, an active-duty pararescueman assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing.
Special Tactics is the Air Force and Air National Guard’s special operations cadre, leading personnel recovery, global access, precision-strike missions and battlefield medical care.
This article originally appeared on National Guard. Follow @USNationalGuard on Twitter.
United States Army Air Forces airman Henry Eugene “Red” Erwin, Sr., who was presented the Medal of Honor for his actions in World War II. (Courtesy of Erwin family)
Red Erwin was in such bad shape, suffering from burns all the way to the bone, that then-Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay put one of his legendary bull rushes on the regulations to get him the Medal of Honor before he died.
The medal was awarded and presented to Erwin within a week of his near-fatal injuries; it’s still believed to be the fastest approval on record of the nation’s highest award for valor.
Staff Sgt. Henry E. “Red” Erwin, the radio operator on a B-29 Superfortress over Japan in April 1945, beat long odds to survive and go home to Alabama, where he was welcomed at the hospital with a kiss from his wife Betty on the only part of his face that wasn’t scalded.
The doctors didn’t think he would see again, but he did. They thought he would lose his right arm, but he didn’t. Following more than 40 surgeries, Erwin would work for 37 years counseling burn patients and advising on benefits for the then-Veterans Administration in Birmingham, Alabama.
He and Betty would have four children. Following his death in 2002, son Henry Erwin Jr., who had become a state senator in Alabama, said his father “embodied all the ideals of the Medal of Honor. He wore them like a well-pressed suit.”
“He was honest, thrifty and patriotic,” the son told the Pentagon, “[and] treated everyone with courtesy and respect.”
There was never any doubt that what Erwin did on April 12, 1945, deserved the Medal of Honor — not among the other 11 crew members whose lives he saved and definitely not for LeMay, then-commander of the bombing campaign against Japan.
As the radio operator, Erwin was also in charge of dropping white phosphorus charges down a chute to signal rallying points for other bombers in the formation to proceed to targets.
On that day, something went terribly wrong with the “willy peter” charge. It either jammed in the chute or went off prematurely, bouncing back up and hitting Erwin in the face. He was blinded, part of his nose was burned off and his clothes were on fire. Flames were spreading through the aircraft.
Despite his injuries, Erwin picked up the white phosphorus charge, still burning at more than 1,300 degrees Celsius, or 2,372 degrees Fahrenheit. He groped and crawled his way to the cockpit, where he somehow unhinged a small desk blocking his way to a window. He heaved the charge out the window and then collapsed.
On Guam on April 19, 1945, Erwin’s entire body was covered in bandages when Maj. Gen. Willis H. Hale, commander of Army Air Forces Pacific Area, presented him with the Medal of Honor. It had been approved by the newly sworn-in President Harry Truman.
LeMay would later tell him: “Your effort to save the lives of your fellow Airmen is the most extraordinary kind of heroism I know.”
Erwin’s story has become part of Air Force lore, but the effort to honor his legacy and preserve it for new generations has taken on a new form to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.
WWII Hero’s Incredible Medal of Honor Story Now to Be a Movie
His grandson, Jon Erwin, in collaboration with author William Doyle, has written a book, to be published Tuesday, on Red Erwin’s astonishing sacrifice, his life after the war, and the strong Christian faith that saw him through hardship: “Beyond Valor: A World War II Story of Extraordinary Heroism, Sacrificial Love, and a Race against Time.”
In a 1999 History Channel documentary with other Medal of Honor recipients, Erwin said, “I called on the Lord to help me, and He has never let me down.”
Jon Erwin and his brother, Andrew, the director-producer team in a string of successful inspirational movies such as “Woodlawn” and “I Can Only Imagine,” also are at work on a movie about their grandfather.
For Jon Erwin, the book and movie are a way of coming to grips with the meaning of his grandfather’s legacy, which he may not have fully appreciated in his youth.
In a phone interview, he recalled being about six years old when his grandfather took him to the basement and retrieved the Medal of Honor from its display case.
“He let me hold the Medal of Honor in the basement,” but initially said nothing as the young boy tried to grasp what his grandfather was telling him, Jon Erwin said.
Then, Erwin leaned over his shoulder and said only, “Freedom isn’t free.”
The message was lost on him as a boy, Jon Erwin said, and he feels that he never truly comprehended through his teenage years his grandfather’s passion for duty and service.
“I think my generation doesn’t look back enough on the heroism that built this country,” typified by the World War II generation, he said. “I didn’t either. That’s my one lasting regret — that I didn’t take the time to listen.”
Jon Erwin said there is new material in the book, including a stash of letters that his grandparents wrote to each other during the war, interviews with Erwin’s crew members, and a quote from LeMay on his determination to get the Medal of Honor to Erwin quickly.
“I want to pin the Medal of Honor on that kid’s neck before he dies,” LeMay said.
Jon Erwin said his grandmother shared her husband’s general reluctance to dwell on what had happened during the war.
“He didn’t talk about it; that was my husband,” he recalled Betty saying.
‘He Cradled It Like a Football’
Red Erwin was born in Docena, Alabama, on May 8, 1921. His father, a coal miner, died when he was 10. He quit school to join the Civilian Conservation Corps, one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “alphabet soup” agencies meant to ease the devastating effects of the Depression.
Erwin joined the Army Reserve in July 1942 and was called to active duty as an aviation cadet in the Army Air Forces in February 1943, training as a pilot in Ocala, Florida. He didn’t make it through flight school and later was trained as a radio operator and radio mechanic.
He was assigned to the 52nd Bombardment Squadron, 29th Bombardment Group, 20th Air Force, which left for the Pacific in early 1945.
From Feb. 25 to April 1 of that year, his unit participated in 10 missions against Japanese cities. On April 12, his B-29, called the “City of Los Angeles,” was the lead bomber in a formation on a low-level mission to attack a chemical plant at Koriyama, 120 miles north of Tokyo.
The following account of the mission is based on Air Force historical records, which included interviews with other crew members, Erwin’s medal citation and the interview with his grandson Jon.
Erwin’s job dropping the white phosphorus charge down the chute on the signal of Capt. George Simeral, the B-29’s flight commander, was crucial to the success of the mission. The bombers flew individually to Japan and would await the phosphorus signal to form up on Simeral’s aircraft.
Over the Japanese volcanic island of Aogashima, Simeral barked the order to Erwin, “Now.”
Erwin pulled the pin on the charge, which contained 20 pounds of white phosphorus, and dropped it down the chute.
There was supposed to be an eight-second delay on the charge, giving it ample time to clear the aircraft, but it either went off prematurely or caught in the chute. Erwin was kneeling over the chute when the charge shot back up and hit him in the face.
Erwin said later that he immediately sensed something was wrong as he lit the charge. “I knew that sucker was coming back. I was completely aflame.”
Thick white smoke spread through the aircraft. The charge, burning at 1,300 degrees Celsius, was eating its way through the metal bulkhead.
The navigator’s table blocked Erwin’s path to a window. He clutched the white-hot charge between his right arm and his chest — “he cradled it like a football,” other crew members said — and reached out with his left hand to unlock the table.
Erwin “stumbled into the cockpit, threw the bomb out the window, and collapsed between the pilots’ seats,” an Air Force report said.
“After Red threw that bomb out the co-pilot’s window, the smoke cleared out, and I could see the instruments. And, at that point, we were at 300 feet,” Simeral said. “If he hadn’t gotten it out of there, well then, why we probably would have gone on in.”
Simeral aborted the mission and headed back to Iwo Jima, the closest place where Erwin could be treated. The crew used a fire extinguisher to put out the flames on Erwin’s clothes, but the white phosphorus embedded in him continued to smolder.
Erwin was in agony but never lost consciousness. He kept asking, “Is everybody else all right?”
On Guam on May 7, LeMay asked Erwin what else could be done for him. He asked for his brother Howard, who was on Saipan with the 7th Marine Division.
Screen idol Tyrone Power, star of swashbuckler hits and a Marine Corps cargo pilot in the Pacific during World War II, flew Howard to visit him in the hospital on Guam.
“And so my brother was there the next morning,” Erwin said. “He stayed with me for 24 hours. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there and that was a great comfort.”
Erwin received a disability discharge from the Army in October 1947 as a master sergeant.
In a 1986 oral history for the Air Force, he said, “I love the military. Even though I was severely burned, if they had retained me, I would have stayed in.”
Reflecting on World War II, Erwin said, “We had the leaders, we had the logistics, and we had the brave men at the right place at the right time.”
In the business of movie-making, Jon Erwin said that he and his brother try to tell stories that “have the power to uplift and inspire people,” adding that their grandfather’s story is the best example.
“The lessons of Red Erwin inspire us with the ideals of endurance and perseverance,” which can mean the difference between success and failure, he said. “And I’ve found that the people who are successful are the people who can go above and beyond. I learned that from my grandfather.”
Two U.S. Air Force generals are being considered to become the military’s next top general with the anticipated retirement of Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford in 2019, according to a new Wall Street Journal report.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen David Goldfein and U.S. Strategic Command’s Air Force Gen. John Hyten are among those being considered by the White House to be next chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Journal reported Aug. 19, 2018.
Goldfein, Hyten and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley are also under consideration to become the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Journal said, citing U.S. officials. The position is currently held by Air Force Gen. Paul Selva.
A White House spokesperson declined to comment to Military.com about the reported moves on Aug. 20, 2018. A Defense Department spokesman declined to confirm the moves, but noted that the military routinely makes senior command changes.
The reported proposal to elevate Hyten comes at a time when the Defense Department is focused heavily on expanding its space and nuclear enterprise. As the STRATCOM chief, Hyten has emphasized the need for nuclear modernization as well as the growing demand for bulked-up defenses in space as adversaries like Russia and China continue to exhibit hostile behavior in the domain.
While Hyten in recent months has not publicly commented on President Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force, the general has made clear that space is becoming a more contested arena.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford
“We have to treat space like a warfighting domain,” Hyten recently told audiences at the 2018 Space Missile Defense Symposium, reiterating previous comments he has made. “It’s about speed, about dealing with the adversary,” he said, as reported by Space News.
Goldfein has also made efforts to make his service more competitive and collaborative. As Air Force Chief of Staff, Goldfein has stressed the importance of partnerships with allies and joint services, as well as the imperative to develop a more streamlined approach to carry out the military’s global operations.
For example, with the Air Force’s ‘Light Attack’ experiment, Goldfein has said the importance of procuring new planes isn’t solely about adding new aircraft, but also about developing ways to work with more coalition members to counter extremism in the Middle East.
“Is this a way to get more coalition partners into a network to counter violence?” he told Military.com in a 2017 interview. “[This] isn’t an incentive for us not to lead,” he said. “It’s the incentive for us to grow … to have more partners in this fight.”
Trump is looking to nominate new leaders across various combatant commands as rotations for current leaders come to an end, Wall Street Journal reported.
Among the reported moves:
Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, Jr., director of the Joint Staff, to command U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East. McKenzie, who was often seen briefing alongside Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White, would replace Army Gen. Joseph Votel.
Army Lt. Gen. Richard Clarke to lead U.S. Special Operations Command. Clarke is currently the director for Strategic Plans and Policy on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. He would replace Army Gen. Tony Thomas in the job, which oversees all special operations in the U.S. Armed Forces. Thomas is anticipated to retire next year.
Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, current U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa commander, to become the commander of U.S. European Command and NATO supreme allied commander-Europe. Wolters would replace Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who has overseen the steady buildup of forces on the European continent following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.