The US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp was recently seen sailing in the South China Sea on its way to the Philippines with an unusually heavy configuration of F-35s.
The Wasp was carrying at least 10 F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters, more than the usual load of six of these hard-hitting fifth-generation jet fighters, The National Interest first reported, adding that the warship may be testing the “light carrier” warfighting concept known as the “Lightning carrier.”
Sailors on the Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
The amphibious assault ship is participating in the Balikatan exercises, during which “US and Philippine forces will conduct amphibious operations, live-fire training, urban operations, aviation operations, and counterterrorism response,” the US Navy said in a statement over the weekend announcing the Wasp’s arrival.
The annual exercises prepare troops for crises in the Indo-Pacific region. 2019’s exercises are focused on maritime security, a growing concern as China strives to achieve dominance over strategic waterways.
It’s the first time the Wasp and its Marine Corps F-35B fighters have participated in the Balikatan exercises.
The ship and its fighters “represent an increase in military capability committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the Navy said, using rhetoric consistent with US military freedom-of-navigation operations and bomber flights in the South China Sea, intended to check China.
The F-35B is the Marine Corps’ variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. The Air Force and Navy are also fielding versions of the fighter, the F-35A and the F-35C, the latter of which is designed to operate on full-size carriers.
The F-35B, which was declared combat-ready in 2015, can perform short takeoffs and vertical landings and is suited for operating on amphibious assault ships.
In addition to at least 10 F-35s, the configuration on the Wasp reportedly included four MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and two MH-60S Seahawk helicopters. Typically, there would be fewer fighters and more rotor aircraft, The War Zone reported.
Deploying with more F-35s than usual could be a first step toward fielding of light carriers, an approach that could theoretically boost not only the size of the carrier force but its firepower.
Marine Corps F-35Bs and MV-22 Ospreys on the flight deck of the Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)
The concept is not without precedent. During the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, amphibious assault ships sailed with up to 20 AV-8B Harriers, becoming “Harrier carriers.”
The concept has been rebranded as the “Lightning carrier,” a reference to the fifth-generation fighters the warships would carry into battle.
The War Zone said an America-class amphibious assault ship — successors to the Wasp class — could carry 16 to 20 F-35s in a light-carrier configuration.
F-35Bs chocked and chained on the flight deck of the Wasp.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin F. Davella III)
Much like a trustworthy chain of command, realism in video games is hard to find. Battlefield comes close, but it’s still got a few too many 360-no-scopes to get us there. That’s where a game like Post Scriptum, a WWII-themed, first-person, simulation shooter, comes in. The game’s slow pace with spikes of high-octane danger make it gripping and tons of fun.
When you think of military first-person shooter games, you probably think of Call of Duty — and if that’s your cup of tea, more power to you. But if you’re on the search for something that’ll get your blood pumping with tension, you might find you enjoy something like Post Scriptum more.
Leaning heavily on realistic scenarios, Periscope Games has created something undeniably cool. Here’s what makes it so realistic:
Smoke and gunfire but no enemy in sight.
One of the running jokes from players is that the enemy will be patched in with downloadable content somewhere down the line.
That’s because even when you’re getting shot at, you often can’t see the enemy. Just like in real life, there are no clear indicators of where the enemy is shooting from. Also, you’re using iron sights, likely to the praise of older veterans, so it’s challenging to engage in combat in open terrain.
Be careful about how you pass over open terrain.
Tactics are a necessity
If you think you can charge at an enemy position and win on your own, think again. Communication, cover and movement, and fire superiority all make the difference when taking ground.
Bushes are a real inconvenience in real-life as well.
(U.S. Air Force)
The environment can slow you down
If you’re sprinting through a field and come across some bushes, your character will slow down as you move through them. It sounds silly — in real-life you could probably charge through them — but you may want to consider crawling through them anyway, so you don’t suddenly become a 7-11 on Free Slurpee Day.
There’s a happy corpsman somewhere…
You have to drink water to regain stamina
Much to the joy of Navy corpsman and medics everywhere, the game forces you to drink water. If you use the “sprint” button, whether you’re standing, crouched, or crawling, you’ll lose stamina. To regain it, you have to pound some of that good ol’ H2O.
Unfortunately, changing your socks has yet to become a feature in video games
Best of luck to those new Lieutenants.
There is no minimap
Most modern first-person shooters feature some sort of minimap in the corner of your screen that highlights objectives — but not Post Scriptum. If you want to know what’s going on, you have to pull the map up. Even then, your squad leader has to mark things down for everyone and actually communicate things.
Check out five reasons why veterans deal with problems better than anybody.
5. We improvise, adapt, and overcome
No mission ever goes as expected. Although we plan for what we think might happen, there’s always a hiccup or two. We pride ourselves on our ability to think on our toes, come up with plans, and solve problems in ways civilians couldn’t fathom.
That’s our thing!
4. We negotiate well under pressure
Many people freeze up when conflict arises. The military trains us to think under pressure and continue to execute until the mission is completed. We tend to carry that impressive trait over to the civilian workforce.
3. We learned to delegate responsibility
In the military, we’re trained to look for our team members’ strengths and positively utilize those traits. Not everyone can be great at everything. Focusing on individual talents builds confidence, which yields the best results when they’re tasked with a crucial mission.
Most civilians stay away from certain responsibilities if they know it’ll lead to a rough journey down the road.
We can tell. (Image via GIPHY)
2. Our experience alone solves issues
Most military personnel travel the world and encounter the problematic events that life throws at us. These experiences give us a worldly knowledge and teach us how we can better work with others outside of our comfort zone.
Although training of the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga is a major part of the operation, the overall narrative has changed; the U.S. is more humble and modest in its approach than a decade ago.
The tactical assembly area for U.S. forces south of Mosul is as nondescript as could possibly be. In a nearby field the M109 Paladin howitzers, mobile artillery that drives around on tank treads, nestle amid earthen berms. Their supply vehicles are dug in behind them.
The field is full of mud, odd for northern Iraq, but it had been raining a lot in late March.
Lt. Micah Thompson, a platoon leader, says “We have the capability to address all targets; the point of the Paladin is a mobile artillery system. The fight that we bring is the precision munition capability. We are able to program and set those fuses and provide those rounds downrange in rapid time in order to accomplish [our task].”
He’s one of the recent generation of U.S. Army soldiers serving in Iraq, and he’s enthusiastic about providing fire support to the Iraqi security personnel who are slowly clearing Mosul of Islamic State fighters.
Behind the muddy field, the rest of the quiet U.S. Army base goes about its business in close proximity with the Iraqi Federal Police and Emergency Response Division, two Iraqi units leading the battle for Mosul.
This is the tip of America’s spear in the battle against ISIS, but in contrast to previous U.S. campaigns in Iraq, the Americans are letting the Iraqis set the tempo. Lt.-Col. John Hawbaker, a commander in the 73rd Cavalry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division, joined the army in 1998 and served in Iraq in 2005-2006.
He says ISIS represents the “same barbarism, evil and cruelty” that the U.S. faced back then, but is “a much larger and conventional threat. We were doing counter-insurgency with U.S. leadership, the difference now is the Iraqi Security Forces conduct a fight not as a counter-insurgency but against a conventional force.”
In those days the U.S. Army was dealing with a “comprehensive civilian and military effort taken to simultaneously defeat and contain insurgency and address its root causes,” as the FM 3-24 Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies manual of May 2014 described it.
H.R McMaster, now the national security adviser, but then a colonel, trained his regiment to deal with manning checkpoints and treating Iraqi civilians with dignity, to prepare to fight in Tal Afar, northwest of Mosul. George Packer in a 2006 piece in The New Yorker described not only how McMaster led Iraqis in rooting out insurgents, but how “Americans are not just training an Iraqi Army, they are trying to build an institution of national unity.”
Ten years later, the U.S. has given up some of these grandiose pretensions, with a much smaller footprint on the ground and a reduced visible presence. U.S. Army vehicles I saw don’t fly the U.S. flag and the only way you know they are U.S. vehicles, according to one local Iraqi, was that they use old MRAPs (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicles).
“We have multiple ways we assist,” says Hawbaker. “You saw the artillery in direct fire, mortars, and we also help coordinate air strikes, and we also help coordinate intelligence sharing, so we give them a lot of info on disposition and what he [ISIS] is doing and what he [ISIS] is thinking and intelligence for them to better array their operations.”
Everything is focused on aiding the Iraqis, not leading them. The Iraqi Army sets the tempo and the goals, and the U.S. advises. For instance, on April 12, the Department of Defense noted that the U.S. carried out eight air strikes in Iraq, hitting vehicles, mortars, snipers, and bomb factories.
Although training of the Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga is a major part of the operation, the overall narrative has changed; the U.S. is more humble and modest in its approach than a decade ago.
Instead of trying to rebuild the Iraqi Army as an institution — which the U.S. was struggling with in the wake of the 2003 invasion when the army was disbanded and competent, but Ba’athist officers were sent packing — the U.S. continually stresses that it “supports” the Iraqi Army.
This has allowed Iraq to take ownership of the war, and to make the mistakes and climb the learning curve that inevitably results in their soldiers improving.
This strategy has been effective at fighting ISIS over the last two years, but it has also been slow. The battle for Mosul has taken six months, and will likely take more, even as question marks are raised about what comes next in ISIS-held Tal Afar, Hawija, and parts of Sinjar and Anbar.
The political ideologies of China’s presidents have usually been added to the country’s constitution, but only Mao and Xi have been named in the title of those theories.
The amendment, called “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era,” was approved by all 2,300 delegates attending the congress. Xi is now considered the most important party leader alive — above former presidents and his eventual successor.
This departure from tradition indicates immense party support for Xi and his strict leadership style; that support could be crucial as Xi eyes a potential third term as president, which would also break with the two-term tradition. The biggest indicator for Xi’s 2022 plans could emerge Wednesday, when the party’s new senior leadership is announced.
If Xi does not give a nod to a young and experienced successor under 60 years of age, or ignores unofficial retirement-age rules, it may indicate the Chinese president will seek a third term in the next five years.
The Chinese constitution stipulates that a president can serve only two five-year terms. Xi, however, could rally party support to stay for a third term or continue leading from his other role of party secretary-general — which actually outranks the president. Both options are more likely with Xi’s strong party support. Another option is to revive the title of party chairman, a label that has not been used since Mao held it.
During the congress’ closing session, party leaders referred to Xi as the country’s “core” leader, a term first used to describe Mao.
WATM’s Ryan Curtis hits the streets with stunt driver Jim Wilkey, a Vietnam War vet whose Hollywood credits include “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” “Rush Hour,” “Inception,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and “The Dark Knight Trilogy.’ Jim’s experience in the Navy working with a wide range of equipment gave him the knowledge to get started as a stuntman and stunt driver.
Now, watch as Jim takes our man Ryan for a ride through the obstacle course.
Don’t worry, destroying North Korea will wait long enough for you to take a bathroom and memes break. Here are 13 of the funniest military memes floating around, here just in time to help you relieve yourself before the Super Bowl of war:
In future combat, Army units may deploy a large unmanned aerial system that can serve as a mothership capable of unleashing swarms of autonomous aircraft for various missions.
With near-peer competitors advancing their anti-access and area-denial capabilities, the Army requires innovative ways, such as this one, to penetrate through enemy defenses, said Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville.
“Quite frankly, if you’re going to some type of integrated air defense environment, I would prefer to have unmanned aircraft leading the way,” he said.
McConville, an aviator who has piloted several Army helicopters, spoke April 16, 2019, at a conference hosted by the Army Aviation Association of America, or Quad A.
“We want industry to be listening,” he said about the conference, “because we are telling them where we think we’re going and what we want them to develop.”
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville speaks at a conference hosted by the Army Aviation Association of America, or Quad A, in Nashville, April 16, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
Senior leaders expect the future battlefield to have dispersed units operating in densely-populated areas, where they will be contested in multiple domains, such as the air.
To be successful, they say, soldiers need to be able to present several dilemmas to the enemy, which is why the Army developed its new concept of multi-domain operations.
“We must penetrate enemy anti-access and area-denial systems in order to allow follow-on forces to disintegrate,” McConville said, “and find freedom of operational and tactical maneuver to exploit enemy forces.”
The Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team has started to rapidly develop two aircraft — the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft and Future Long Range Attack Aircraft, which aim to replace some AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, respectively.
For the FARA program, the team expects to award two vendors next year to create competitive prototypes that will perform a government-sponsored fly-off in 2023, Brig. Gen. Walter Rugen, the team’s director, said in March 2019.
Earlier this month, a request for information, or RFI, for the joint FLRAA program was released in an effort to further refine requirements for the Army, Special Operations Command and Marine Corps.
Both programs are set to achieve initial fielding by 2028-2030, McConville said, adding no decisions have yet been made on how many will be procured.
The general, though, did say that air cavalry squadrons may receive FARA, while there would still be room for Apache helicopters.
“So for the old cavalry folks, you can dust off your Stetsons and shine up your spurs,” he said. “We see the Apache helicopter remaining in the attack battalions and being incrementally improved for some time into the future.”
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville speaks at a conference hosted by the Army Aviation Association of America, or Quad A, in Nashville, April 16, 2019.
(Photo by Sean Kimmons)
FLRAA, he added, will likely be fielded first to units with forced- or early-entry missions like the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 82nd Airborne Division, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), and some National Guard units.
“We will acquire these aircraft with competitive prototyping processes to ensure the capability is there before we buy,” he said. “We want to fly, we want to try, before we actually buy and we’re looking for innovation from industry as we go forward.”
Under development is also a new aviation engine through the Improved Turbine Engine Program as well as a 20 mm gun, he said.
Future aircraft will also require a Modular Open System Architecture. The general envisioned it to have something similar to how smartphones can easily receive and complete updates every few weeks.
“We think this is absolutely critical because we want to be able to field new capabilities very quickly into our aircraft of the future,” he said.
As a former OH-58 Kiowa pilot, McConville said it took too long to make updates on the reconnaissance helicopter.
“You would have to rewrite the entire code and flight test it,” he said. “It was a big deal just to change a screen thing, which we should be able to do in seconds.”
While modernization efforts may affect other programs, the general said that change is necessary.
If senior leaders in the 1970s and 1980s failed to modernize the force, he said, soldiers would still be flying AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters instead of Apaches and UH-1 Huey utility helicopters instead of Black Hawks.
“We must modernize the Army,” he said. “We’re at that critical time right now and we feel that with the modernization priorities, the National Defense Strategy, where we see the world evolving, we must do that.”
The most powerful missile in the United States nuclear arsenal is about to get a new warhead. A $65 million low-yield nuclear weapon design touted by the Trump Administration since 2018 just went into production in the home of American weapons: Texas.
New designs were tasked by the administration after the 2018 nuclear posture review found that the National Nuclear Security Agency could not update or maintain its stock of nuclear weapons with the budget it had. The $65 million design was appropriated from the Department of Energy, the parent agency of the National Nuclear Security Agency. It will be based on the current design of the Navy’s W76-1 warhead, which is currently on the Trident II D5 nuclear missile and is intended to be fired via submarine.
“NNSA is on track to complete the W76-2 Initial Operational Capability warhead quantity and deliver the units to the Navy by the end of Fiscal Year 2019,” an agency spokesman said.
Two factors allow for the warhead’s quick production time: first, it’s based on the current warhead for the Trident II D5 and second, the nuclear weapon is smaller than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which would be today considered a yield nuclear weapon. The two had a yield of 15 and 20 kilotons, respectively. By today’s standard, a low-yield nuke could be upwards of 50-100 kilotons.
The result of a “low-yield” nuclear weapon.
The U.S. military has roughly 1,000 low-yield nukes in its 4,400-plus nuclear arsenal. Activists worry that an increase in new, low-yield weapons will only increase the likelihood of one of them being used in a tactical move, as some consider the weapons a “less powerful nuclear option.”
A big issue with having two levels of nuclear force is that the target of the potentially low-yield nuclear strike doesn’t know if the attack is low-yield or high-yield until it’s too late – and will likely just respond in kind. Trident II D5 missiles are the most powerful in the nuclear triad and also the most reliable weapon system ever built. More than that, it can deliver multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, which means any Trident launch will likely be seen as an all-out attack on multiple targets, prompting an all-out nuclear response.
Which your mom might be able to teach you to survive.
Pat Sheehan, a 32 year-old attending physician in New Orleans, Louisiana, is no stranger to the fast-paced environment of the emergency room.
“The ERs are always the frontlines,” he told We Are The Mighty. “We treat every patient that comes through the doors 24/7/365, whether it’s a gunshot wound or a stubbed toe, great insurance or no insurance, any race, religion, [or] creed.”
When cases of the novel coronavirus began popping up around the country, Sheehan admits that his response was likely similar to many other medical professionals.
“I think I responded how most ER docs did, thinking that this is probably like all of the previous viruses that we were told could become a public health crisis – SARS, MERS, ebola, etc. – and never came to be,” Sheehan said. “I’ll be the first to admit that as an ER doc, I am not a public health expert. We are great at treating the critically ill and/or dying patients within our own emergency department, but we certainly defer to public health officials regarding crises like this. When we started to see things unfold in Seattle [and] NYC, we immediately buckled down and tried to prepare.”
Sheehan works at the second busiest emergency department in the entire state of Louisiana.
“[We see] about 85,000 patients per year, so luckily we have significant resources at our disposal,” he shared. “Our hospital was one of the first to implement an action plan and we actually built an entirely separate triage/waiting room area to siphon off all potential COVID patients from others presenting to the ER. We created several dedicated ‘COVID Shifts’ so that certain doctors and staff members would be treating all of the COVID patients rather than exposing everyone. I’ve certainly been lucky to work at a hospital where administration took the threat seriously and gave us all of the resources we needed.”
While Sheehan takes a ‘head down and treat the patients as they come in’ approach, the weight of the situation is omnipresent.
“Seeing patients dying, not being able to have their family with them at the end, because of a sad, but necessary, no visitor policy,” Sheehan said when asked about a low point of the pandemic.
Even outside the emergency room, he admits coronavirus remains top-of-mind.
“The hardest part is probably worrying about bringing it home to my family,” he shared. “We have a newborn at home, so obviously that’s constantly on my mind. We’re being as careful as we can be, I strip off my scrubs on the front porch and go straight to the shower when I get home. I take my temperature twice a day. Washing my hands constantly. Wearing PPE all the time at work. It’s impossible to be perfect though, so there is always a chance of me getting my loved ones sick.”
Through the crisis, Sheehan has documented his experience on Instagram, creating posts and videos with easy to understand information, terminology simplification and even explanations of how equipment, like ventilators, work.
“More than anything I would just want people to understand how hard ERs work across the country work to treat the sick and dying every day, not just during COVID-19,” Sheehan said. “If you have to wait a few hours or somebody forgets to get you that blanket you asked for, just remember that it might be because in the room next to you staff is trying to revive an unresponsive infant, performing CPR on an overdose, or comforting family of a patient that didn’t make it. We’ll do our best to help you and make you comfortable, but sometimes we just need a little understanding.”
What does it take for a human to trust a robot? That is what Army researchers are uncovering in a new study into how humans and robots work together.
Research into human-agent teaming, or HAT, has examined how the transparency of agents — such as robots, unmanned vehicles or software agents — influences human trust, task performance, workload and perceptions of the agent. Agent transparency refers to its ability to convey to humans its intent, reasoning process and future plans.
New Army-led research finds that human confidence in robots decreases after the robot makes a mistake, even when it is transparent with its reasoning process. The paper, “Agent Transparency and Reliability in Human — Robot Interaction: The Influence on User Confidence and Perceived Reliability,” has been published in the August issue of IEEE-Transactions on Human-Machine Systems.
To date, research has largely focused on HAT with perfectly reliable intelligent agents — meaning the agents do not make mistakes — but this is one of the few studies that has explored how agent transparency interacts with agent reliability. In this latest study, humans witnessed a robot making a mistake, and researchers focused on whether the humans perceived the robot to be less reliable, even when the human was provided insight into the robot’s reasoning process.
ASM experimental interface: The left-side monitor displays the lead soldier’s point of view of the task environment.
(U.S. Army illustration)
“Understanding how the robot’s behavior influences their human teammates is crucial to the development of effective human-robot teams, as well as the design of interfaces and communication methods between team members,” said Dr. Julia Wright, principal investigator for this project and researcher at U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, also known as ARL. “This research contributes to the Army’s Multi-Domain Operations efforts to ensure overmatch in artificial intelligence-enabled capabilities. But it is also interdisciplinary, as its findings will inform the work of psychologists, roboticists, engineers, and system designers who are working toward facilitating better understanding between humans and autonomous agents in the effort to make autonomous teammates rather than simply tools.
This research was a joint effort between ARL and the University of Central Florida Institute for Simulations and Training, and is the third and final study in the Autonomous Squad Member project, sponsored by the Office of Secretary of Defense’s Autonomy Research Pilot Initiative. The ASM is a small ground robot that interacts with and communicates with an infantry squad.
Prior ASM studies investigated how a robot would communicate with a human teammate. Using the situation awareness-based Agent Transparency model as a guide, various visualization methods to convey the agent’s goals, intents, reasoning, constraints, and projected outcomes were explored and tested. An at-a-glance iconographic module was developed based on these early study findings, and then was used in subsequent studies to explore the efficacy of agent transparency in HAT.
Researchers conducted this study in a simulated environment, in which participants observed a human-agent soldier team, which included the ASM, traversing a training course. The participants’ task was to monitor the team and evaluate the robot. The soldier-robot team encountered various events along the course and responded accordingly. While the soldiers always responded correctly to the event, occasionally the robot misunderstood the situation, leading to incorrect actions. The amount of information the robot shared varied between trials. While the robot always explained its actions, the reasons behind its actions and the expected outcome of its actions, in some trials the robot also shared the reasoning behind its decisions, its underlying logic. Participants viewed multiple soldier-robot teams, and their assessments of the robots were compared.
The study found that regardless of the robot’s transparency in explaining its reasoning, the robot’s reliability was the ultimate determining factor in influencing the participants’ projections of the robot’s future reliability, trust in the robot and perceptions of the robot. That is, after participants witnessed an error, they continued to rate the robot’s reliability lower, even when the robot did not make any subsequent errors. While these evaluations slowly improved over time as long as the robot committed no further errors, participants’ confidence in their own assessments of the robot’s reliability remained lowered throughout the remainder of the trials, when compared to participants who never saw an error. Furthermore, participants who witnessed a robot error reported lower trust in the robot, when compared to those who never witnessed a robot error.
Increasing agent transparency was found to improve participants’ trust in the robot, but only when the robot was collecting or filtering information. This could indicate that sharing in-depth information may mitigate some of the effects of unreliable automation for specific tasks, Wright said. Additionally, participants rated the unreliable robot as less animate, likable, intelligent, and safe than the reliable robot.
“Earlier studies suggest that context matters in determining the usefulness of transparency information,” Wright said. “We need to better understand which tasks require more in-depth understanding of the agent’s reasoning, and how to discern what that depth would entail. Future research should explore ways to deliver transparency information based on the tasking requirements.”
While getting divorced in modern times in most nations isn’t exactly a walk in the park, options at least do exist in much of the world, even in cases where one spouse would rather stay together. But this is a relatively modern phenomenon. Classically, getting divorced was almost impossible. So much so that at one point about the only way a woman could manage to get a legal divorce from her husband was to prove in court he couldn’t finish the deed in bed by, if necessary, even attempting to have sex with him with court representatives standing by to observe.
Perhaps not coincidentally around the same time these impotence trials were going on throughout parts of Europe, a rather different means of divorcing one’s spouse popped up in Britain — putting a halter around your wife, leading her like an animal to a local market, loudly extolling her virtues as you would a farm animal, including occasionally listing her weight, and then opening up bidding for anyone who wanted to buy her. On top of this, it wasn’t uncommon for children to be thrown in as a package deal…
While you might think surely something like this must have only occurred in the extremely distant past, this is actually a practice that continued into the early 20th century. So how did this all start and why was it seen as an perfectly legal way for a couple to divorce?
Well, it turns out that nobody is exactly sure how the practice of auctioning a wife got started. There is a mention of it going back all the way to at least 1302 where an individual deeded his wife to another man, but the next known instances didn’t start popping up until the late 17th century, with one of the earliest occurring in 1692 when one John Whitehouse sold his wife to a “Mr. Bracegirdle”.
However, noteworthy here was that four years later, when a man by the name of George Fuller sold his wife to Thomas Heath Maultster, Thomas was nonetheless later fined and ordered to perform a penance for living with his purchased wife. This was despite that all parties involved were in agreement over the sale, seemingly indicating this practice was not yet widely accepted at this point as it would come to be.
On that note, the rise in popularity of this method of divorce came about after the passage of the Marriage Act of 1753 which, among other things, required a clergyman to perform a marriage to make it legally binding. Before that, while that certainly was a common option, in Britain two people could also just agree that they were married and then they were, without registering that fact officially. Thus, without an official registration anywhere, it was also easier to more or less undo the act and hitch up with someone else without officials being any the wiser if neither the husband nor wife complained about the separation to authorities.
As a fun brief aside, the fact that members of the clergy and other officials at this point were often unaware of things like the current marital status of two people is more or less how the whole “If anyone can show just cause why this couple cannot lawfully be joined together in matrimony, let them speak now or forever hold their peace,” thing started. Not at this point a meaningless part of the marriage ceremony, at the time the minister was really asking if anyone knew, for instance, if one or both of the couple he was marrying might already be married or there might be any other legal reason why he shouldn’t marry the couple.
In any event, after the passage of the Marriage Act of 1753 and up to about the mid-19th century, selling your wife at auction seems to have become more and more popular among commoners particularly, who otherwise had no practical means of legally separating. The funny thing about all this is, however, that it wasn’t actually a legal way to get a divorce. But as the commoners seemed to have widely believed it was, clergy and government officials for a time mostly turned a blind eye to the whole thing, with some exceptions.
Illustrating both sides of this, in 1818 an Ashbourne, Derby magistrate sent the police out to break up a wife auction. This was documented by one Rene Martin Pillett who witnessed the event and subsequently wrote about it in his book, Views of England. In it, he states:
In regard to the sale at Ashburn, I will remark that the magistrate, being informed that it would take place, wished to prevent it. Constables were dispatched to drive off the seller, purchaser, and the woman for sale, when they should make their appearance in the market place to perform the ceremony, but the populace covered the constables with mud, and dispersed them with stones. I was acquainted with the magistrate, and I desired to obtain some information in regard to the opposition he had endeavored to make to the performance of the ceremony, and the right which he assumed at that conjuncture. I could obtain no other than this: “Although the real object of my sending the constables, was to prevent the scandalous sale, the apparent motive was that of keeping the peace, which people coming to the market in a sort of tumult, would have a tendency to disturb. As to the act of selling itself, I do not think I have a right to prevent it, or even to oppose any obstacle to it, because it rests upon a custom preserved by the people, of which perhaps it would be dangerous to deprive them by any law for that purpose.”
Pillett goes on, “I shall not undertake to determine. I shall only observe that this infamous custom has been kept up without interruption, that it is continually practised; that if any county magistrates, being informed of a proposed sale, have tried to interrupt it, by sending constables, or other officers to the place of sale, the populace have always dispersed them, and maintained what they consider their right, in the same manner as I have seen it done at Ashburn.”
That said, the press, in general, seemed to have almost universally condemned the practice from the way they talked about it. For example, as noted in a July of 1797 edition of The Times: “On Friday a butcher exposed his wife to Sale in Smithfield Market, near the Ram Inn, with a halter about her neck, and one about her waist, which tied her to a railing, when a hog-driver was the happy purchaser, who gave the husband three guineas and a crown for his departed rib. Pity it is, there is no stop put to such depraved conduct in the lower order of people.”
Nevertheless, particularly in an age when marriage was often more about practical matters than actually putting together two people for the purposes of being happy with one another, there were a lot of unhappy couples around and if both people agreed they’d be better off splitting, a means was needed to do so. The British commoners, having almost no other feasible way to do this, simply got inventive about it.
This might all have you wondering what rationale was used to justify this exact method of divorcing and why people just didn’t split and forget about what authorities thought. As to the latter question, people did do that in droves, but there was legal risk to it to all involved.
You see, at this point a wife was in a lot of ways more or less considered property of her husband. As noted by judge Sir William Blackstonein in 1753, “the very being… of the woman, is suspended during the marriage, or at least is consolidated and incorporated into that of her husband…”
In turn, the husband was also expected to do his part to take care of his wife no matter what and was responsible for any debts she incurred, etc. Just as importantly, while a man having a mistress wasn’t really that uncommon, should a wife find her own action on the side, perhaps with someone she actually liked, this was by societal standards of the day completely unacceptable. This didn’t stop women from doing this, of course, even occasionally leaving their husbands completely and living with a new man. But this also opened up a problem for the new man in that he had, in effect, just stolen another man’s property.
Thus, the dual problem existed that the husband still was legally obligated to be responsible for any debts his wife incurred and to maintain her. He could also be prosecuted for neglecting his duty there, whether his wife had shacked up with another man or not. As for the new suitor, he could at any point also be subjected to criminal proceedings, including potentially having to pay a large fine to the husband for, in essence, stealing his property, as well as potential jail time and the like.
Thus, the commoners of England decided leading a wife as if she was cattle to the market and auctioning her off was a legal way to get around these problems. After all, if the wife was more or less property, why couldn’t a husband sell her and his obligations to her in the same way he sold a pig at market?
While you might think no woman would ever agree to this, in most of the several hundred documented cases, the wife seemingly went along happily with the whole thing. You see, according to the tradition, while the wife technically had no choice about being auctioned off in this way, she did have the right to refuse to be sold should the winning bidder not be to her liking, at which point the auction seems to have continued until a suitable buyer was found. For example, in one case in Manchester in 1824, it was reported that, “after several biddings she [the wife] was knocked down for 5s; but not liking the purchaser, she was put up again for 3s and a quart of ale.”
Further, there are a few known instances of the wife buying herself, such as in 1822 in Plymouth where a woman paid £3 for herself, though in this instance apparently she had a man she’d been having an affair with that was supposed to purchase her, but he didn’t show up… Ouch…
On that note, it turns out in most of the documented instances, the buyer was also usually chosen long before the actual auction took place, generally the woman’s lover or otherwise the man she wanted to be with more than her former husband. And, as she had the right to refuse to be sold, there was little point in anyone else bidding. In fact, accounts exist of the after party sometimes seeing the husband who sold the wife taking the new couple out for drinks to celebrate.
Owing to many involved in such divorces being poor and the suitor often being chosen before hand, the price was usually quite low, generally under 5 shillings, even in some reported cases a mere penny — just a symbolic sum to make the whole thing seem more official. For example, as reported in February 18, 1814,
A postillion, named Samuel Wallis, led his wife to the market place, having tied a halter around her neck, and fastened her to the posts which are used for that purpose for cattle. She was then offered by him at public auction. Another postillion, according to a previous agreement between them, presented himself, and bought the wife thus exposed for sale, for a gallon of beer and a shilling, in presence of a large number of spectators. The seller had been married six months to this woman, who is only nineteen years old.
Not always cheap, however, sometimes honor had to be served when the more affluent were involved. For example, in July of 1815 a whopping 50 guineas and a horse (one of the highest prices we could personally find any wife went for), was paid for a wife in Smithfield. In her case, she was not brought to market via a halter either, like the less affluent, instead arriving by coach. It was then reported that after the transaction was complete, “the lady, with her new lord and master, mounted a handsome curricle which was in waiting for them, and drove off, seemingly nothing loath to go.”
Perhaps the most famous case of someone among the wealthy purchasing an eventual wife from another involved Henry Brydges, the Duke of Chandos. It is not clear how much he paid nor when exactly the transaction took place, but while traveling to London sometime in the 1730s, the Duke stopped at an Inn called the Pelican in Newbury. It was later reported in an August of 1870 edition of Notes and Queries,
After dinner there was a stir and a bustle in the Inn Yard. The explanation came that “A man is going to sell his wife and they are leading her up the yard with a halter round her neck”. “We will go and see the sale,” said the Duke. On entering the yard, however, he was so smitten with the woman’s beauty and the patient way she waited to be set free from her ill‑conditioned husband, the Inn’s ostler, that he bought her himself.
He did not, however, initially take her as his wife, as his own wife was still alive at the time. However, he did have the woman, former chambermaid Anne Wells, educated and took her as his mistress. When both his own wife and Anne’s former husband died within a few years of each other not long after, he married Anne himself in 1744. Their marriage was apparently a happy one until her own death in 1759. An 1832 edition of the The Gentleman’s Magazine concludes the story:
On her death-bed, she had her whole household assembled, told them her history, and drew from it a touching moral of reliance on Providence; as from the most wretched situation, she had been suddenly raised to one of the greatest prosperity…
Not always a completely happy ordeal, however, there are known cases where the sale followed a husband finding out his wife was cheating on him, and then the man she was having an affair with simply offering to buy her to avoid the whole thing becoming extremely unpleasant for all involved or needing to involve the courts.
It has been suggested this may be why elements of the spectacle were rather humiliating to the women. Perhaps early on when the tradition was being set some husbands who had wives that had been cheating on them or otherwise just making their lives miserable took the opportunity to get a last jab at her before parting ways.
Not always just humiliating via being treated as an animal in front of the whole town, sometimes verbal insults were added. For example, consider the case of Joseph Tomson. It was reported his little sales pitch for her was as follows:
Gentlemen, I have to offer to your notice my wife, Mary Anne Thomson, otherwise Williams, whom I mean to sell to the highest and fairest bidder. Gentlemen it is her wish as well as mine to part for ever. She has been to me only a born serpent. I took her for my comfort, and the good of my home; but she became my tormentor, a domestic curse, a night invasion, and a fairly devil. Gentlemen, I speak truth from my heart when I say may God deliver us from troublesome wives and frolicsome women! Avoid them as you would a mad dog, a roaring lion, a loaded pistol, cholera morbus, Mount Etna or any other pestilential thing in nature. Now I have shewn you the dark side of my wife, and told you her faults and failings, I will introduce the bright and sunny side of her, and explain her qualifications and goodness. She can read novels and milk cows; she can laugh and weep with the same ease that you could take a glass of ale when thirsty. Indeed gentlemen she reminds me of what the poet says of women in general: “Heaven gave to women the peculiar grace, To laugh, to weep, to cheat the human race.” She can make butter and scold the maid; she can sing Moore’s melodies, and plait her frills and caps; she cannot make rum, gin, or whisky, but she is a good judge of the quality from long experience in tasting them. I therefore offer her with all her perfections and imperfections, for the sum of fifty shillings.
Not exactly an effective sales pitch, nobody bid for about an hour, which perhaps was further humiliating motivation for such a pitch. Whatever the case, he then dropped the price and eventually got 20 shillings and a dog from one Henry Mears. Apparently Mears and his new wife parted in, to quote, “perfect good temper” as did Thomson.
All this said, while many known accounts seem to be of people where both the husband and wife were in agreement about the separation and use of the auction as the method of divorce, this wasn’t always the case on both sides. For instance, we have the 1830 case in Wenlock Market where it was reported that the woman’s husband “turned shy, and tried to get out of the business, but Mattie mad’ un stick to it. ‘Er flipt her apern in ‘er gude man’s face, and said, ‘Let be yer rogue. I wull be sold. I wants a change’.” She was subsequently sold for 2 shillings and 2d.
In another case, one drunk individual in 1766 in Southwark decided to sell his wife, only to regret the decision later and when his wife wouldn’t come back to him, he killed himself… In a bit more of a happy ending type story, in 1790 a man from Ninfield was at an inn when he decided to sell his wife for a half a pint of gin. However, he would later regret the loss, so paid some undisclosed price to reacquire her, an arrangement she would have had to agree to for it to be completed.
On the other side, there do seem to be some cases where the woman was seemingly auctioned against her will. However, for whatever it’s worth, again, in these cases by tradition she did always have the option to refuse a sale, though of course not exactly a great option in some cases if it meant going back to a husband who was eager to be rid of her. Nonetheless, this may in part explain why there are so few known accounts of women not seeming to be happy about the whole thing. While it might be going to an uncertain future if a man hadn’t already been prearranged, at least it was going to someone who actually wanted her, and willing to outbid other bachelor’s around town (in these cases being a legitimate auction).
Going back to the legality of it all, at least in the minds of the general public, it would seem people considered it important that the whole thing needed to be extremely public, sometimes even announcing it in a local paper and/or having a town crier employed to walk through town announcing the auction and later sale. This made sure everyone around knew that the husband in question was no longer responsible for his wife, nor her debts or other obligations, and announced that the husband had also agreed to dissolve any former rights he had to his wife, ensuring, again at least in the minds of the general public, that the new suitor could not be criminal prosecuted for taking the wife of another man.
For further legal protection, at least in their minds, some would even go so far as to have a contract drawn up, such as this one from Oct. 24, 1766:
It is this day agreed on between John Parsons, of the parish of Midsummer Norton, in the county of Somerset, clothworker, and John Tooker, of the same place, gentleman, that the said John Parsons, for and in consideration of the sum of six pounds and six shillings in hand paid to the said John Parsons, doth sell, assign, and set over unto the said John Tooker, Ann Parsons, wife of the said John Parsons; with all right, property, claim, services, and demands whatsoever, that he, the said John Parsons, shall have in or to the said Ann Parsons, for and during the term of the natural life of her, the said Ann Parsons. In witness whereof I, the said John Parsons, have set my hand the day and year first above written. JOHN PARSONS. ‘Witness: WILLIAM CHIVERS.’
While none of this was legally binding in the slightest, for whatever it’s worth, there is at least one case where a representative of the state, a Poor Law Commissioner, actually forced a sale of a wife. In this case, they forced one Henry Cook to sell his wife and child to avoid the Effingham workhouse having to also take in his family. The woman was ultimately sold for a shilling. The parish did, at the least, pay for a wedding dinner after the fact… So only 99.9% heartless in kicking a man while he was down.
In any event, there were also known court cases where the courts upheld such a divorce, though seemingly always jury trials. For example, in 1784 a husband tried to claim his former wife as his own again, only to have a jury side with the new couple, despite that there was literally no law on the books that supported this position.
On the flipside there were many more cases where the courts went the other way, such as the case of an 1835 woman who was auctioned off by her husband and sold for fifteen pounds, with the amount of the transaction indicating this person was likely reasonably well off. However, upon the death of her former husband, she went ahead and claimed a portion of his estate as his wife. The courts agreed, despite the objections of his family who pointed out the previous auction and that she had taken up a new husband.
Now, as you can imagine, literally leading your wife by a halter around her neck, waist, or arm to market and putting her up on an auction block, even if seemingly generally a mutually desired thing, from the outside looking in seemed incredibly uncivilized and brutish. As such, foreign entities, particularly in France, frequently mocked their hated neighbors in England for this practice.
From this, and the general distaste for the whole thing among the more affluent even in Britain, the practice of auctioning wives off began to be something the authorities did start to crack down on starting around the mid-19th century. As noted by a Justice of the Peace in 1869, “publicly selling or buying a wife is clearly an indictable offence … And many prosecutions against husbands for selling, and others for buying, have recently been sustained, and imprisonment for six months inflicted…”
In another example, in 1844 a man who had auctioned off his former wife was being tried for getting married again as he was, in the eyes of the state, still considered to be married to his original wife. The seemingly extremely sympathetic judge, Sir William Henry Maule, admonished him for this fact, while also very clearly outlining why many of the less affluent were forced to use this method for divorce, even in cases where the wife had left and taken up with another man:
I will tell you what you ought to have done; … You ought to have instructed your attorney to bring an action against the seducer of your wife for criminal conversation. That would have cost you about a hundred pounds. When you had obtained judgment for (though not necessarily actually recovered) substantial damages against him, you should have instructed your proctor to sue in the Ecclesiastical courts for a divorce a mensa et thoro. That would have cost you two hundred or three hundred pounds more. When you had obtained a divorce a mensa et thoro, you should have appeared by counsel before the House of Lords in order to obtain a private Act of Parliament for a divorce a vinculo matrimonii which would have rendered you free and legally competent to marry the person whom you have taken on yourself to marry with no such sanction. The Bill might possibly have been opposed in all its stages in both Houses of Parliament, and together you would have had to spend about a thousand or twelve hundred pounds. You will probably tell me that you have never had a thousand farthings of your own in the world; but, prisoner, that makes no difference. Sitting here as an English Judge, it is my duty to tell you that this is not a country in which there is one law for the rich and one for the poor. You will be imprisoned for one day. Since you have been in custody since the commencement of the Assizes you are free to leave.
In the end, thanks to the masses having to resort to such extreme measures as simply abandoning a spouse and never legally separating, auctioning the wife off as if she was an animal, and the aforementioned impotence trials, divorce law was eventually revamped in Britain with the passage of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1857, finally allowing at least some affordable means of divorce for commoners, particularly in cases of abandonment or adultery. This, combined with the courts cracking down on wife auctions, saw the practice more or less completely die off by the end of the 19th century, though there were a few more known cases that continued in Britain all the way up to 1926 where one Horace Clayton bought a woman he then called his wife for £10 from her previous husband.
In case anyone’s wondering, while there are only a handful of known cases of it happening, there were a few husbands sold as well, though as part of the point of the whole thing was for the husband to publicly declare he was no longer obligated to his wife and for the woman in question to agree to be wed to another man, with rights to her transferring to him, the auction of a husband didn’t really make a lot of sense from a practical standpoint. Nevertheless, it did happen. For example, consider this case reported a March 18, 1814 edition of the Statesmen:
On Saturday evening an affair of rather an extraordinary nature was brought before his Lordship the Mayor of Drogheda. One Margaret Collins presented a complaint against her husband, who had left her to live with another woman. In his defense, the husband declared that his wife was of a very violent disposition, which her conduct before the magistrate fully proved; that in her anger she had offered to sell him for two pence to her in whose keeping he then was; that she had sold and delivered him for three halfpence; that on payment of the sum, he had been led off by the purchaser; that several times, his wife, the seller, in her fits of anger had cruelly bitten him; that he still bore terrible marks of it (which he showed) although it was several months since he belonged to her. The woman who purchased, having been sent for to give her evidence, corroborated every fact, confirmed the bargain, and declared that she every day grew more and more satisfied with the acquisition; that she did not believe there was any law which could command him to separate from her, because the right of a wife to sell a husband with whom she was dissatisfied, to another woman who was willing to take up with him ought to be equal to the husband’s right, whose power of selling was acknowledged, especially when there was a mutual agreement, as in the present instance. This plea, full of good sense and justice, so exasperated the plaintiff, that, without paying any regard to his lordship, she flew at the faces of her antagonists, and would have mangled them with her teeth and nails, if they had not been separated…
It’s also worth noting that at least some English settlers to America carried on the tradition there, such as this account reported in the Boston Evening-Post on March 15, 1736:
The beginning of last Week a pretty odd and uncommon Adventure happened in this Town, between 2 Men about a certain woman, each one claiming her as his Wife, but so it was, that one of them had actually disposed of his Right in her to the other for Fifteen Shillings this Currency, who had only paid ten of it in part, and refus’d to pay the other Five, inclining rather to quit the Woman and lose his Earnest; but two Gentlemen happening to be present, who were Friends to Peace, charitably gave him half a Crown a piece, to enable him to fulfill his Agreement, which the Creditor readily took, and gave the Woman a modest Salute, wishing her well, and his Brother Sterling much Joy of his Bargain.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
A Russian Mig-29K assigned to the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier splashed down in the Mediterranean Ocean soon after takeoff during a planned mission to Syria. The pilot ejected and was recovered by a helicopter.
According to U.S. officials who spoke to Fox News, three Russian fighters took off from the ramp of the Kuznetsov to conduct missions in Syria, but one of them turned around. It attempted to land but crashed in the ocean instead.
But the Russian product display in the Mediterranean is filled with old gear and compromises. The MiG-29K is the carrier variant of the Fulcrum and is generally considered to be a capable but lackluster aircraft.
Those short takeoff and in-flight refueling capabilities are vital for Russian carrier-based fighters, since the only Russian carrier is the Kuznetsov which has no catapults. Planes have to take off under their own power with a limited load of fuel and ordnance.
This limits the planes’ range, forcing Russia to keep the carrier close to Syria’s shores for its pilots to have a chance at hitting anything.
This stands in stark contrast to Russia’s big, flashy military display of 2015. Their navy fired 26 Kalibr cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea at targets in Syria and sent the footage around the world. Even that display wasn’t perfect. Four missiles fell short and crashed into Iran, killing cows.