US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

The U.S. is beefing up its presence around the Korean Peninsula ahead of next month’s Winter Olympics by deploying stealth bombers, at least one extra aircraft carrier, and a new amphibious assault ship to the region.


Coming after Washington agreed to postpone massive annual military maneuvers with South Korea until after the Games, North Korea says the U.S. is trying to put a chill on its renewed talks with Seoul.

“Such moves are an unpardonable military provocation chilling the atmosphere for improved inter-Korean relations,” the North’s ruling party said in a commentary published over the weekend.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics
A B-2 Spirit bomber taxis on a flightline Oct. 26, 2014, during Exercise Global Thunder 15. The B-2 is one of the key aircraft used to support U.S. Strategic Command’s global strike and bomber assurance and deterrence missions. Its stealth capabilities provide U.S. decision makers the capability to deter strategic attacks and, if necessary, penetrate the most secure defense systems to rapidly deliver its payload. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester)

Representatives of both Koreas held a second round of talks Jan. 15 near the Demilitarized Zone to try to pave the way for a North Korean delegation to join the Pyeongchang Games.

The U.S. has officially welcomed the talks and the moves represent routine training and scheduled upgrades, according to U.S. military officials.

Tensions remain high and the military deployments are significant.

Last week, the Pacific Air Forces announced three B-2 “Spirit” stealth bombers with approximately 200 personnel have been deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to the Pacific island of Guam.

The statement said the deployment is intended to provide leaders with “deterrent options to maintain regional stability.”

But the Guam deployment hits an especially sore nerve and plays on a key vulnerability for Pyongyang, which is probably the message Washington had in mind as it seeks to make sure nothing happens during the Olympics and also let Pyongyang know its decision to postpone the exercises is not a sign of weakness.

Also Read: The North Korean cold war will be paused for the Olympics

Last year, flights by B-1B bombers from Guam to the airspace around Korea were a major flashpoint, prompting a warning from North Korea that it had drawn up a plan to target the waters around the island with a missile strike that it could carry out anytime Kim gave the order.

The B-2 is more threatening.

It’s the most advanced bomber in the Air Force and, unlike the B-1B, can carry nuclear weapons. It’s also the only known aircraft that can drop the Air Force’s biggest bomb, the 14,000-kilogram (30,000-pound) GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator.

The “MOP,” capable of penetrating deep into the ground to destroy reinforced tunnels and bunkers, was explicitly designed with North Korea in mind.

The B-2 deployment came just days after the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier departed for the western Pacific in what the Navy called a regularly scheduled deployment. South Korean media reports say the carrier and its strike group will reach waters near the Korean Peninsula ahead of the start of the Games on Feb. 9.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics
A GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator is prepared for a test. (Photo from DoD)

The USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, whose home port is just south of Tokyo in Yokosuka, is also in the region, and North Korea has accused the U.S. of planning to send another carrier, the USS John Stennis from Bremerton, Washington.

The Marines announced on Jan. 14 the arrival in southern Japan of the USS Wasp, an upgraded amphibious assault ship that can carry troops and launch the corps’ new F-35B stealth fighters. It can carry 30-plus aircraft, including the F-35s, which are designed for vertical takeoffs and landings.

The ships and bombers could figure largely in a U.S. response to any military emergencies during the Games. North Korea may view them as a greater and more imminent threat.

Aircraft carriers, virtually impervious to any attack the North could mount, are floating platforms for sustained air assaults, while the F-35 fighters could be a key part of any potential strike on Kim Jong Un himself.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis’ brother says he has ‘no anger’ about early departure

The phone call Tom Mattis got from Jim Mattis on Dec. 23, 2018 wasn’t a pleasant one, but he said his younger brother was “unruffled” by President Donald Trump’s decision to force him out early, the elder Mattis told The Seattle Times.

“He was very calm about the whole thing. Very matter of fact. No anger,” Tom Mattis told The Seattle Times. “As I have said many times in other circumstances, Jim knows who he is … many more Americans (now) know his character.”

Jim Mattis announced his resignation as defense secretary on Dec. 20, 2018, reportedly prompted in large part by Trump’s decision to withdraw the roughly 2,000 US troops deployed to Syria.


Mattis went to the White House that day in an effort to get Trump to keep US forces in the war-torn country. Mattis “was rebuffed, and told the president that he was resigning as a result,” The New York Times said at the time.

Trump initially reacted to Mattis’ resignation gracefully, tweeting that the defense chief and retired Marine general would be “retiring, with distinction, at the end of February,” echoing Mattis’ resignation letter.

But Trump reportedly bridled at coverage of Mattis and his letter, which was widely interpreted as a rebuke of Trump and of the president’s worldview.

On Dece. 23, 2018, Trump abruptly announced that Mattis would leave office two months early, sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to tell Mattis of the change. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will take over the top civilian job at the Pentagon in an acting capacity.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

Trump’s sudden move to push Mattis out was reportedly a retaliatory measure, but Mattis evinced no ire over it when he told his older brother on Dec. 23, 2018.

The Mattises are natives of Richland, Washington. Tom, who was also a Marine, still lives there, as does their 96-year-old mother, Lucille.

Tom said his brother was faithful to the Constitution and would always speak truth to power “regardless of the consequences.”

“No one should assume that his service to his country will end. And the manner of his departure is yet another service to the nation. It is the very definition of patriotism and integrity,” Tom Mattis added.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Jim Mattis — who checks in with their mother almost daily, Tom Mattis said — had no plans to return home from Christmas, according to the elder Mattis, hoping instead to visit troops in the Middle East.

But Trump’s announcement appeared to forestall that trip.

On Dec. 19, 2018, a day before his resignation, Mattis released a holiday message to US service members, telling them “thanks for keeping the faith.”

On Dec. 24, 2018, Mattis signed an order withdrawing US troops from Syria, the Defense Department said, though a timeline and specific details are still being worked on. On Christmas Day, Mattis was reportedly in his office at the Pentagon.

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

Articles

The US shuts down Syrian army claims

The U.S.-led coalition fighting against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria has rejected a claim by the Syrian army that a coalition air strike hit poison gas supplies and killed hundreds of people.


A Syrian army statement shown on Syrian state TV on April 13 said that a strike late on April 12 in the eastern Deir al- Zor Province hit supplies belonging to IS, releasing a toxic substance that killed “hundreds including many civilians.”

“The Syrian claim is incorrect and likely intentional misinformation,” U.S. Air Force Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the coalition, said in a statement. He said the coalition had carried out no air strikes in that area at that time.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on April 13 that it had no information on fatalities in a coalition air strike in Deir al-Zor and was sending drones to the area to monitor the situation.

The claim comes after more than 80 people were killed in Syria’s northwestern Idlib Province on April 4 in what the United States and other governments say was a poison gas attack carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The United States responded on April 7 by firing dozens of missiles at the air base where it says the attack originated.

The Syrian government and Russia, its ally, have said they believe the gas was released when Syrian government air strikes hit a rebel chemical weapons facility.

Russia says and its ally Russia deny Damascus carried out any such chemical attack. Moscow has said the poison gas in that incident last week in Idlib Province belonged to rebels.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa

MIGHTY TRENDING

Massive carrier demonstration seem aimed at Russia and China

The US Navy carried out two high-profile aircraft-carrier training events in key waters that send messages to China and Russia, the US’s two main competitors and the only countries close to matching the US’s military might.

The US Navy’s Ronald Regan Carrier Strike Group joined Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Escort Flotilla 4 Battle Group to conduct joint military exercises in the hotly contested South China Sea on Aug. 31, 2018, the Navy said.

Japan sent the Kaga, a small aircraft carrier technically classified as a destroyer, along with guided-missile destroyers to train with the US’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, the Reagan.


The training advanced the US and Japan’s vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” a key part of US strategy to prevent Beijing from tightening its grip on the region by further militarizing the South China Sea.

But beyond just teaching US and Japanese carriers how to fight together, Washington sent Beijing a message that it won’t be pushed out of the South China Sea and that if a fight comes, it won’t stand alone.

China, which illegally annexed about 90% of the South China Sea and has sought to unilaterally dictate who can use the resource-rich waterway that sees trillions of dollars in annual trade, has struggled to make allies in the region. The US has moved to counter China’s attempts at hegemony by deepening ties with Australia, Japan, and India.

On top of that, the US just showed for the first time ever that it can update its supercarriers with a stealth aircraft perfect for taking out island fortresses like Beijing’s South China Sea holdings: the F-35C.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

An F-35C conducting a catapult takeoff from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.

(Lockheed Martin photo by Andrew McMurtrie)

Russia checked by the 2nd Fleet

Half a world away, the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Harry S. Truman carriers did joint training including the F-35C for the first time. But the exercise most likely had an additional audience in mind: Russia.

The US recently decided to bring back the Second Fleet, a Navy command that countered the threat from the Soviet Union and was stood down in 2011 when it seemed as if the Russia threat had waned.

As Russia’s navy increasingly menaces the US and looks to assert itself as a powerful navy in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, the US has again found the need to defend its home waters of the near Atlantic.

Russia, which has only one inactive, shoddy aircraft carrier, cannot hope to compete with the US’s multiple carriers and advanced aircraft.

The US has recently reshuffled its schedule of aircraft-carrier deployments to have more ships present to keep the pressure on Russia and China. New US national defense and strategy documents from President Donald Trump’s administration outline a decided shift in US focus from a post-Cold War mentality — when the US’s enemies were small, lightly armed cells of terrorists hidden in hills — to a full-on competition among world powers, as it was in the world wars.

Russia and China have taken notice, with Russian ships exercising in the Mediterranean — waters they wouldn’t have normally reached before Russia’s incursion into Syria in 2015 — and Chinese ships challenging the right of US ships and planes to pass through international spaces.

Also in 2015, the US suspended “freedom of navigation” patrols, its main way of checking Chinese ambition in the South China Sea.

But now the Navy is taking those challenges seriously.

“We are the best Navy in the world, and given the complex and competitive environment we are in, we can’t take anything for granted or settle for the status quo,” Rear Adm. John Wade, the commander of the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group, said in a Navy press release.

With a renewed mission and the world’s first carrier-launched stealth aircraft, the US has sent a clear signal to its main military rivals that US Navy power is back and on the move.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis wants more data on women in combat arms

With so few women in combat arms right now, the services and Defense Department officials really can’t judge how successful the effort has been, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told cadets at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, Sept. 25, 2018.

“It’s a very, very tough issue because it goes from some people’s perspective of what kind of society do we want,” the secretary said. “In the event of trouble, you’re sleeping at night in your family home and you are the dad, mom, whatever. And you hear glass break downstairs. Who grabs a baseball bat and gets between the kids’ door and whoever broke in, and who reaches for the phone to call 911? In other words, it goes to the most almost primitive needs of a society to look out for its most vulnerable.”


At heart, this is the issue DoD faces, Mattis told the cadet who asked him what results he had seen. The question for the department comes down to whether it is a strength or a weakness to have women in the close-quarter infantry fight, Mattis said.

Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opened the door by removing the ban on women in combat jobs in 2013. In 2015, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter directed the services to open all military occupational specialties to women. Currently, 356 women are combat arms soldiers, and 17 women have graduated from the Army’s Ranger School. The Marine Corps has 113 enlisted women and 29 officers in previously restricted specialties. Specifically in infantry, the Marine Corps has 26 enlisted Marines and one officer who are women.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

The secretary said he cannot make a determination about the situation because “so few women have signed up along these lines.”

“We don’t even have data at this time that I can answer your question,” he added.

Unit culture

Part of what drives the question is the culture of close-combat units, the retired Marine Corps general said. “I was never under any illusions at what level of respect my Marines would have for me if I couldn’t run with the fastest of them and look like it didn’t bother me [or] if I couldn’t do as many pullups as the strongest of them,” Mattis said. “It was the unfairness of the infantry. How did the infantry get its name? Infant soldier. Young soldier. Very young soldier. They’re cocky, they’re rambunctious, they’re necessarily macho, and it’s the most primitive — I would say even evil — environment. You can’t even explain it.”

The close-combat fight is war at its most basic, and Mattis cited an Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. quote when talking to his fellow Civil War veterans: “We have shared the incommunicable experience of war.”

The nation needs to discuss this issue, the secretary said. “The military has got to have officers who look at this with a great deal of objectivity and at the same time remember our natural inclination to have this open to all,” he said. “But we cannot do something that militarily doesn’t make sense.”

The Army chief of staff and Marine Corps commandant are looking at the issue. “This is a policy that I inherited, and so far the cadre is so small we have no data on it,” he said. “We’re hoping to get data soon. There are a few stalwart young ladies who are charging into this, but they are too few. Clearly the jury is out on it, but what we’re trying to do is give it every opportunity to succeed if it can.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

This is why a US Army brigade just blasted 1 million rounds of ammo in Europe

Fort Carson soldiers have put up a series of startling statistics during six months of heavy training in Europe.


In the 180 days deployed, the soldiers have put in 153 days of training with allies and community engagements across a swath of the continent from the Baltic to the Black Sea. To supply the brigade’s more than 4,000 troops, the unit’s truckers have logged more than 100,000 highway miles.

After taking part in the biggest European training exercise for US troops since the Cold War, which wrapped up in Germany last week, the brigade’s troops had fired more than 1 million rounds from their pistols, rifles, machine guns, tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and artillery pieces.

“It has been absolutely tremendous,” said the brigade’s boss, Col. Christopher Norrie.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics
Col. Christopher Norrie (right) US Army photo by Sgt. William Tanner

The colonel spoke to The Gazette by phone last week as his soldiers packed up their gear for yet another mock war, this time in Hungary. His soldiers had just fought mock battles alongside a full team of American allies, including the usual suspects from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and newer partners including Ukrainian tankers and Albanian infantry.

“We fired 7,000 rounds of artillery,” Norrie said of the 10-day exercise. The unit also drilled with allied Air Forces and coordinated with a French command team.

“I think the dynamic here that was most interesting was the international environment.”

With tensions on the rise across Europe fueled by an increasingly aggressive Russia led by president Vladimir Putin, the training has sent a clear message: Don’t mess with the US or its friends.

The brigade headed to the continent from Colorado Springs in January, bringing more than 2,000 tanks, trucks, and artillery pieces across the Atlantic by ship. The goal was to demonstrate how quickly a US-based unit could be ready to fight overseas.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics
Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke

After gathering in Poland, the unit spread out from Estonia to Bulgaria.

Moving the unit across the vast expanse of Europe showed how quickly its soldiers could show up for battle. The training exercises that followed have shown how they can win the fight, Norrie said.

“We view deterrence as presence plus lethality,” Norrie said.

At a German training area, the brigade’s M-1 tanks proved dominant in a simulated war that included traditional combat and modern-day threats including a cyber attack.

“We seized seven objectives in 48 hours,” Norrie said.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics
An M1A2 Abrams Tank belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division prepares to fire during tank gunnery qualification at Presidential Range in Swietoszow, Poland, January 27, 2017. The arrival of 3rd ABCT, 4th Inf. Div., marks the start of back-to-back rotations of armored brigades in Europe as part of Atlantic Resolve. This rotation will enhance deterrence capabilities in the region, improve the U.S. ability to respond to potential crises and defend allies and partners in the European community. U.S. forces will focus on strengthening capabilities and sustaining readiness through bilateral and multinational training and exercises. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke)

Large-scale tank training has been a rarity for the Army and 3rd Brigade in recent years. Since 2001, the unit has served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, but its tanks and other heavily-armored rigs were parked as its soldiers fought as infantry against insurgent groups.

Now, the Army is focused on its ability to take on “near-peer” enemies, like Russia and China.

That explains the abundance of training rounds fired by the brigade — numbers unheard of in recent years as the Pentagon tightened its belt to deal with budget cuts.

Having the unit overseas also allowed 3rd brigade to practice working with allies.

“There are things we need to improve, things our allies need to improve, and things we are very good at,” he said.

Norrie said his unit was successful in bridging language and cultural barriers thanks to liaison teams. The unit put its troops in the headquarters of allied forces and the other nations reciprocated, creating an instant solution for problems as they arose.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics
Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke

He said cooperation was also fueled by having a clear common goal.

“That shared interest of expressing the will of the alliance, it’s a very powerful motivator,” he said.

The training for the brigade is also proceeding at a pace unseen outside wartime.

After wrapping up the training in Germany, tank crews were busy washing mud off their tracks and heading out for training in Hungary.

The brigade, which will head back to Fort Carson in about three months, has become expert at shipping gear across the continent.

“We have done 180 different rail movements throughout Europe,” Norrie said.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics
Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke

The pounding pace of the unit’s work would be enough to grind down even the most veteran of soldiers.

But Norrie said it has actually had the opposite effect.

Instead of dragging, 3rd Brigade soldiers are walking taller, he said. The platoons, companies, and battalions have become close knit families during weeks of intense work.

Mechanics have set records for the number of vehicles available for war despite their heavy use. Gunnery scores have gone sky-high as soldiers hone their skills, he said.

Norrie said the brigade has the swagger of an undefeated team.

“If you see our soldiers they are so proud of what they have done,” he said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

See the stealth fighters and bombers patrolling the Pacific

The US Air Force has two of its most elite aircraft — the B-2 Spirit bomber and the F-22 Raptor — training together in the Pacific, reassuring America’s allies and sending a warning to strategic competitors and adversaries about the sheer power the US brings to the table.

These stunning photos show the powerful aircraft tearing across the Pacific, where the US has increasingly found itself facing challenges from a rising China.


US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, after completing interoperability training, Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)

Three B-2 bombers and 200 airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri deployed to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Jan. 10, 2019, to support US Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force mission.

Source: Pacific Air Forces

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and two F-22 Raptors from the 199th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, fly in formation near Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii, during an interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)

While B-2 bombers regularly rotate throughout the Pacific, having previously been deployed to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, the most recent deployment marks only the second time these powerful stealth aircraft have been sent to Hawaii to drill alongside the F-22s.

Source: US sends stealth B-2s to the Pacific, warning regional rivals that America’s bombers are ‘on watch’ 24/7

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, and F-22 Raptors from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 154th Wing fly near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The stealth bombers were deployed to the Pacific to send a message to allies and adversaries alike, specifically that “the B-2 is on watch 24 hours a day, seven days a week ready to protect our country and its allies.”

Source: Pacific Air Forces

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

The B-2 Spirit bomber is reportedly a crucial part of most war plans to fight China.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

When the B-2s were first deployed to Hawaii October 2018, the US military stressed that the deployment highlighted the bomber’s completely unmatched “strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world.”

Source: Air Force

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, conducts aerial refueling near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The multi-role B-2 Spirit bomber has the ability to break through tough defenses, bringing a significant amount of firepower, both conventional and nuclear, to bear on enemy targets.

Source: Air Force

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

A close-up of the B-2 Spirit bomber refueling.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

Despite its large size, the B-2’s low-observable or stealth characteristics make it almost invisible to enemy radars, allowing it to slip past enemy defenses and put valuable targets at risk.

Source: Pacific Air Forces

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

An F-22 Raptor from the Hawaii Air National Guard’s 199th Fighter Squadron, conducts an aerial refueling with a KC-135 Stratotanker.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

The F-22 Raptor, an elite air-superiority fighter, which the Air Force asserts “cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft,” is an extremely lethal aircraft capable of performing air-to-air and air-to-ground combat missions.

Source: Air Force

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit bomber flies near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, during a interoperability training mission Jan. 15, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

A B-2 Spirit bomber deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, conducts aerial refueling.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Russ Scalf)

Together, a B-2 accompanied by a pair of F-22s could kick in an enemy’s door, let loose a firestorm of devastation, and get out before the enemy figures out what happened.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

A Marine vet made a daring beer run to Vietnam for his buddies

There’s not a lot a veteran won’t do for his buddies, especially if they’re still in the service and the veteran is out. This is particularly helpful for troops who are deployed because their buddy back home knows exactly what they need. And you know what people fighting a war could use more than anything else? A beer.

John “Chickie” Donohue set out to get a few beers to his best Army buddies — while they were fighting in Vietnam. That’s one hell of a beer run.


In 1967, the war in Vietnam was heating up. Unbeknownst to the U.S., the Tet Offensive was still to come, but that didn’t mean the fighting was inconsequential. More than 11,000 American troops would die in the fighting that year. The largest airborne operation since World War II happened in February, 1967, the 1st Marine Division was engaged with the Army of North Vietnam, and the U.S. Army was chasing down Viet Cong south of the DMZ — in short, it was a busy year.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

M113 armored vehicles advance in Vietnam during Operation Junction City, 1967.

(U.S. Army)

Donohue had already served four years in the Marine Corps and was working as a sandhog — a kind of miner — for the city of New York. He was a native of Inwood, a Manhattan neighborhood at the very northern tip of the island. As 1967 progressed, he saw many, many funerals of Inwood natives who were killed in Vietnam. Meanwhile, he grew sick of antiwar protestors who criticized troops who were sent there.

One day, Chickie Donohue was at his local watering hole when the bartender remarked that troops over in Vietnam deserved a pat on the back and a cold beer. Donohue agreed. He agreed so much that he took a gig as a merchant seaman on a ship taking supplies and ammunition to Vietnam. He packed a bag and a supply of beer and set sail.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

Chickie Donohue worked as an oiler aboard the Drake Victory steamer.

(Chick Donohue)

The trip took two months and Donohue actually drank all the beer he brought along. But he grabbed more upon arrival and set out to find a half dozen of his old friends who were stationed in country. His first stop was actually where his ship docked, Qui Nhon harbor, where his friend Tom Collins was deployed with the 127th Military Police Company.

“I said, ‘Chickie Donohue, what the hell are you doing here?'” Collins told the New York Times. “He said, ‘I came to bring you a beer.'”

That wasn’t his last stop. He journeyed throughout the country to bring cold ones to his old friends fighting a war that Americans back home were increasingly hostile toward. His friends, who sometimes just happened to bump into Donohue on his trek to see them, were amazed.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

Beer run recipients in Quang Tri Province, 1968.

(Rick Duggan)

Donohue even took fire from the enemy a few times.

For his friends, Chickie was a sight for sore eyes. A New York Times reporter documented their reactions to the retelling of Donohue’s story when they were interviewed for the book about Chickie’s biggest beer run. It even helped some of them get through the war and work on their post-traumatic stress.

“Seeing Chick gave me a lot of encouragement that I was going to make it back,” said Bob Pappas, who was a communications NCO in Long Binh. Pappas was demoralized after hearing about the deaths of longtime Inwood friends. Donohue’s cold one gave him a little hope.

But even local residents of Inwood who knew Chickie Donohue his whole life couldn’t believe the story of his beer run. For decades after, New Yorkers and fellow sandhogs alike told him he was full of it. But in March, 2017, he released his book about the trip, “The Greatest Beer Run Ever: A True Story of Friendship Stronger Than War,” and held a book signing with recipients of the beers present.

“For half a century, I’ve been told I was full of it, to the point where I stopped even telling this story,” he said. But still “I didn’t have to buy a beer for a long time in Inwood.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia may be abandoning the world’s worst dictator in Venezuela

Nicolas Maduro is the world’s worst dictator in the world’s worst dictatorship. To be clear, he’s not the worst in that he’s particularly repressive to his citizens or running concentration camps. He’s the worst in terms of how he came to power and how he holds on to it. He rose in power thanks to Hugo Chavez’ cult of personality while he and his party managed the rapid decline of what was one of South America’s most vibrant economies.

For a while, it looked like the Kremlin might have been propping up his regime, but now it looks like Moscow might be abandoning him.


US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

Maduro maintains a tenuous grip on power solely because the street thugs – colectivos – and military generals who protect him have more to lose than he does if they lose control of Venezuela. For the Russians, their biggest gain in propping up Maduro is annoying the United States in its own backyard. Unfortunately for Maduro, Russian support may be all he has left, and he may be losing that.

In March 2019, Russia sent military planes, materiel, and advisors to Venezuela, confidently showing the world the Kremlin had Maduro’s back and that any intervention in Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis would be met with Russian interference as well. But the Venezuelan President’s luck might be running out.

US deploys ships and bombers toward Korea ahead of Olympics

Don’t give anyone any ideas.

On June 2, 2019, Russia withdrew its contractors and defense advisors in the country and the private Russian firm paid by Venezuela to train its military just cut its Russian staff by half. This latest development may be showing that the millions the Maduro regime owes the Russians may not be enough for Russia to keep Maduro’s government from collapsing on itself. The biggest reason for the pullout, according to the Wall Street Journal, is that Maduro can’t actually pay the Russians anymore.

American sanctions against Venezuela and the long-term decline of the country’s oil production infrastructure has led to a huge decline in the country’s coffers. The United States and Russia showcase Venezuela’s struggle in their own struggle for worldwide supremacy. But even so, it may not be enough for the Russians to keep Maduro’s barely-functional regime afloat.

Articles

One of the Soviet Union’s top Cold War spymasters just died

Yuri Drozdov, the Soviet spymaster who oversaw a sprawling network of KGB agents abroad, died on June 21. He was 91.


The Foreign Intelligence Service, a KGB successor agency known under its Russian acronym SVR, didn’t give the cause of Drozdov’s death or any other specifics in a terse statement.

Drozdov, a World War II veteran, joined the KGB in 1956 and was dispatched as a liaison officer with the East German secret police, the Stasi. In 1962, he took part in the exchange of Soviet undercover agent Rudolf Abel, convicted in the US, for downed American spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers.

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Photo of the former chief of KGB Directorate “S” general Yuri Drozdov and a former soviet NOC Sergey Zhirnov at the office of consulting firm Namakon in Moscow. (Photo via of Wikimedia Commons)

The story was made into Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster “Bridge of Spies” in 2015 as well as the Soviet movie “The Shield and the Sword,” a 1968 classic that Russian President Vladimir Putin once said inspired him to join the KGB.

On June 21st, Putin himself offered condolences to Drozdov’s wife and two sons in a message published on the Kremlin’s website. Drozdov was “a legendary spy and an outstanding professional” who was also “an incredible person and true patriot,” Putin said.

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Photo courtesy of Russian State Media

Working under diplomatic cover, Drozdov served as the KGB resident in China in 1964-1968, and in the United States in 1975-1979.

In 1979, he came to head a KGB department overseeing a network of undercover agents abroad, the job he held until resigning in 1991. The agents who lived abroad under false identity were called “illegals” and were considered the elite of Soviet intelligence.

In December 1979, Drozdov led an operation to storm the palace of Afghan President Hafizullah Amin that paved the way for the Soviet invasion.

Drozdov also founded the KGB’s Vympel special forces unit intended for covert operations abroad.

The SVR praised Drozdov as a “real Russian officer, a warm-hearted person and a wise leader.”

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This pilot of a stricken F-16 was saved from ISIS by a quick-thinking tanker crew

An F-16 pilot flying over ISIS-held territory in 2015 suffered a malfunction of his fuel system and would have been forced to bail out if it weren’t for a KC-135 Stratotanker crew that offered to escort the jet home, the Air Force said in a press release.


The KC-135 was tasked with refueling a flight of A-10s supporting ground pounders when an F-16 came for gas and declared an emergency.

“We were in the area of responsibility and were already mated with some A-10 Thunderbolt IIs that were tasked with observing and providing close-air-support for our allies on the ground,” said Capt. Nathanial Beer, 384th Air Refueling Squadron pilot. “The lead F-16 came up first and then had a pressure disconnect after about 500 pounds of fuel. We were expecting to offload about 2,500 pounds.”

After the pilot completed his checklist, it became apparent that 80 percent of his fuel supply was trapped in the tanks and couldn’t get to the engine. The pilots would have to bail out over ISIS territory or try to make it back to allied airspace.

500 pounds of fuel is very little in an F-16, so the KC-135 flew home with the fighter and topped off its gas every 15 minutes.

“The first thought I had from reading the note from the deployed location was extreme pride for the crew in how they handled the emergency,” said Lt. Col. Eric Hallberg, 384th Air Refueling Squadron commander.

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The crew of the KC-135 poses for a photo in front of their aircraft. Photo: US Air Force courtesy photo

“Knowing the risks to their own safety, they put the life of the F-16 pilot first and made what could’ve been an international tragedy, a feel-good news story. I’m sure they think it was not a big deal, however, that’s because they never want the glory or fame.”

The KC-135 crew returned to their planned operation once the F-16 was safely home and were able to complete all of their scheduled missions despite the detour.

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Turkey struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria

Turkish warplanes struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria on April 25, drawing condemnation from Baghdad and criticism from the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, which is allied with Kurdish factions in both countries.


Syrian activists said the attack killed at least 18 members of the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which is a close U.S. ally against IS but is seen by Ankara as a terrorist group because of its ties to Turkey’s Kurdish rebels.

The airstrikes also killed five members of the Iraqi Kurdish militia known as the peshmerga, which is also battling the extremist group with help from the U.S.-led coalition.

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Kurdish Peshmerga near the Syrian border (photo by Enno Lenze)

The YPG said the strikes hit a media center, a local radio station, a communication headquarters and some military posts, killing an undetermined number of fighters in the town of Karachok, in Syria’s northeastern Hassakeh province.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group which monitors all sides of the conflict, said the strikes killed 18 YPG fighters.

The YPG is among the most effective ground forces battling IS, but Turkey says it is an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and that PKK fighters are finding sanctuaries in neighboring Iraq and Syria.

A Turkish military statement said the pre-dawn strikes hit targets on Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq and a mountainous region in Syria. It said the operations were conducted to prevent infiltration of Kurdish rebels, weapons, ammunition and explosives from those areas into Turkey.

The military said in a later statement that the air strikes hit shelters, ammunition depots and key control centers, adding that some 40 militants in Sinjar and some 30 others in northern Syria were “neutralized.”

In an emailed statement to The Associated Press, the U.S.-led coalition said Iraq’s neighbors need to respect Iraqi sovereignty.

“We encourage all forces to … concentrate their efforts on ISIS and not toward objectives that may cause the Coalition to divert energy and resources away from the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria,” it said, using another acronym for IS.

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry denounced the strikes as a “violation” of its sovereignty and called on the international community to put an end to such “interference” by Turkey.

“Any operation that is carried out by the Turkish government without any coordination with the Iraqi government is totally rejected,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal told The Associated Press.

He cautioned against a broader Turkish military operation, saying it would “complicate the issue and destabilize northern Iraq.”

Although Turkey regularly carries out airstrikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq, this was the first time it has struck the Sinjar region. Turkey has long claimed that the area was becoming a hotbed for PKK rebels.

Sinjar Mayor Mahma Khalil said the strikes started at around 2:30 a.m., killing five members of the peshmerga and wounding nine. Khalil said he was not aware of any casualties among PKK rebels.

The peshmerga command called on the PKK to withdraw from the Sinjar region, saying the ” PKK must stop destabilizing and escalating tensions in the area.”

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Kurdish Peshmerga forces shelling ISIS positions near Mount Sinjar.

The PKK has led an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984, and is considered a terror organization by Turkey and its allies.

Last year, Turkey sent troops into Syria to back Syrian opposition fighters in the battle against IS and curb the expansion of the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces.

The Syrian Kurdish forces denounced the April 25 strikes on their positions as “treacherous,” accusing Turkey of undermining the anti-terrorism fight. The Syrian Kurds have driven IS from large parts of Syria and are currently closing in on Raqqa, the de facto capital of the extremists’ self-styled caliphate.

“By this attack, Turkey is trying to undermine Raqqa operation, give (IS) time to reorganize and put [thousands of lives in danger],” the YPG said on its Twitter account.

In Damascus, meanwhile, officials denounced new U.S. sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on 271 people linked to the Syrian agency said to be responsible for producing non-conventional weapons. The move was part of an ongoing U.S. crackdown in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Khaled Abboud, a member of parliament, said the center is “purely a research center, mostly for agricultural studies.”

“The sanctions are new attempts by the U.S. administration to put pressure on the Syrian state,” he told The Associated Press, adding that the center is a “peaceful research center.”

The U.S. has blamed Assad for a chemical weapons attack earlier this month that killed more than 80 civilians in the rebel-held northern Idlib province. Syrian officials strongly deny the charges.

An airstrike in Idlib on April 25 killed at least 12 people, including civilians, the Observatory said. The area is controlled by hard-line rebel factions, some associated with al-Qaida. The Observatory said it suspected a Russian jet was behind the strike.

Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb and Philip Issa in Beirut, Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad and Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, contributed to this report.

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Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Former Army Ranger and West Point grad Matthew ‘Griff’ Griffin isn’t your average vet entrepreneur. He came up with the notion of building something of value when he was serving in Afghanistan during the early phases of the war, way before there was much of a logistics footprint in place. He saw that the Afghan people were in need of more than protection from the Taliban. They needed basic goods and services.


“I saw Afghanistan as a place to leverage the power of small business owners making a difference,” Griff said.  “The region could benefit from more micro loans and fewer armored vehicles.”

When Griff left active duty he returned to Kabul doing some clinic work, but beyond that he wanted to find a way to assist with the country’s stability by creating a manufacturing base, starting with a single factory he stumbled across on the east side of the capital. The factory had the infrastructure; it was just a matter of what to manufacture.

As he was leaving the factory he found a flip flop on the floor — it was unique and a little funky, the kind of design Griff thought might resonate with fashion-minded millennials. He held it up and asked the factory manager if he could make them, and the Afghan local said sure. Combat Flip Flops was born.

Griff and his brother procured the materials from a far eastern supplier and got everything set up, but they’d no sooner returned to the U.S. than they were informed that the factory was shutting down — a casualty of the volatile socio-economic climate of Afghanistan. But the brothers were undeterred, plus they had a lot of money wrapped up in the materials sitting in the factory in Kabul.

Without any U.S. military assistance — the most effective way to operate, according to Griff — they went back in on a private spec ops mission of sorts, one designed to salvage what they could from their investment and work that had been accomplished already.

“We rented a ‘Bongo’ truck and packed the inventory of flip flops into bags designed to hold opium,” Griff said. “We were riding around the streets of Kabul trying to look inconspicuous, two white guys sitting on a pile of opium bags.”

They stored the 2,000-some pairs of flip flops in a warehouse on the outskirts of Kabul, and as they did a closer inspection of their wares they realized that the quality was such that they couldn’t be sold. They wound up giving all of them away to needy Afghans, which was better than nothing but not up to the standards of Griff’s vision.

They found another factory, and once again secured a supplier (and paid for it using Griff’s credit card), and this time failure came even faster and the factory closed down before any materials for the order of 4,000 pairs had been shipped. It was time for a more dramatic pivot in the business plan.

“We wound up taking the guerrilla manufacturing route and assembling the sandals in my garage in Washington state,” Griff said.

The company’s potential big break came in the form of a phone call from one of the producers at ABC’s “Shark Tank” TV show. Griff and a couple of his co-workers will appear on the episode scheduled to air on February 5. (Check your local listings.)

“We’re stoked to bring the Combat Flip Flops mission to the tank,” Griff’ said. “Every Shark has the ability to expand the mission, inspire new recruits to join the Unarmed Forces, and manufacture peace through trade. Over the past few years, we’ve survived deadly encounters to create an opportunity like this. Attack Dogs. Raging Bulls. If we need to jump in the water with Sharks, then it’s time to grab the mask and fins.”

“We’ve all seen and heard Shark Tank success stories,” Donald Lee, Combat Flip Flops’ CMO and co-founder, added. “We set our minds to getting on the show and in true Ranger fashion, we accomplished the objective. We hope this is the catalyst our company needs to provide large scale, peaceful, sustainable change in areas of conflict.”

In 2015, Combat Flip Flops’ sales increased 150 percent over the previous year. In keeping with Griff’s original corporate vision, the company donated funds for schools to educate Afghan girls and cleared 1,533 square meters of land mines in Laos, which keeps the local population — especially children — safer.

Griff has leveraged his service academy pedigree and military experience in incredibly productive ways. His entrepreneurial sense and — even more importantly — his worldview defies most veteran stereotypes and associated bogus narratives. His outlook and drive are distinctly that of the Post 9-11 warfighter — “the next greatest generation.”

Combat Flip Flop’s mission statement captures it:

To create peaceful, forward-thinking opportunities for self-determined entrepreneurs affected by conflict. Our willingness to take bold risks, community connection, and distinct designs communicate, “Business, Not Bullets”– flipping the view on how wars are won. Through persistence, respect, and creativity, we empower the mindful consumer to manufacture peace through trade.

Watch Griff’s presentation at TED Talks Tacoma:

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