DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

The Army has released the names of three soldiers killed in Ghazni Province on Tuesday, November 27 by an IED strike that also wounded three more servicemembers and a U.S. contractor.


The deceased include Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, 29, of Lexington, Virginia; Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, 39, of Brush Prairie, Washington; and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, 25, of Hookstown, Pennsylvania.

“Dylan had an unusual drive to succeed and contribute to the team. He displayed maturity and stoicism beyond his years, and was always level-headed, no matter the situation,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Walsh, commander of the 26th Special Tactics Squadron. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dylan’s family, fiancé, and friends. He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.”

“Andrew and Eric were invaluable members and leaders in 3rd Special Forces Group and the special operations community. Our most heartfelt condolences go out to the families of these brave men,” said Col. Nathan Prussian, commander of 3rd Special Forces Group, in an Army Special Operations Command press release.

The city of Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name, has been heavily contested in the past year as Taliban militants have asserted themselves there. Earlier this year, militants managed to take the city, forcing Afghan security forces and U.S. allies to retake it.

The deaths of these soldiers came only days after the loss of aU.S. Army Ranger, Sgt. Leandro Jasso, likely due to an accidental fratricide incident while working with Afghan personnel in a close-quarters battle. Also this month, Mayor Brent Taylor, a Utah National Guard major, was killed in an apparent attack by a rogue Afghan special forces soldier.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, was killed when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 27, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Approximately 14,000 U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan in support of that country’s security forces. While U.S. and Afghan leaders are quick to point out that Afghan forces are in the lead and are taking the brunt of the casualties in fighting, the country is still reliant on American partners for some capabilities and help in others.

While Afghanistan has set up its own air support, intelligence networks, and even contracted for air ambulance services last year, some of the Afghan-led services have shown shortcomings. District centers have fallen every few weeks or months, though they often are retaken soon after.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, has said that there is no military solution to the stalemate in Afghanistan because the Taliban isn’t currently losing. Instead, he says that Afghan and international leaders should focus on taking the peace process forward while military forces provide them the window.

Articles

Airman to get Silver Star for leading river evacuation under fire

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Silver Star | Public Domain


An airman who braved enemy fire to save fellow troops during a river evacuation in Afghanistan in 2009 will receive a Silver Star for his bravery, a general said.

Airman First Class Benjamin Hutchins, a tactical air control party airman supporting the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was approved for the military’s third-highest valor award in April and will receive the honor during a ceremony Nov. 4 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, an official said.

Also read: Possible Medal of Honor upgrade would be the first based on drone imagery

His heroic actions during a three-day period through Nov. 6, 2009, were recounted during a speech by Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of Air Combat Command, on Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space Cyber Conference near Washington, D.C.

“This is an example of our airmen,” Carlisle said.

Hutchins and a team of soldiers were on the west bank of the Bala Murghab River looking for a supply airdrop, Carlisle said. One of the canisters fell off target into the swift-moving river, and two soldiers swam out to retrieve it.

But Taliban militants on the east side of the river were watching.

The soldiers were swept out by a “strong current they weren’t anticipating,” Carlisle said. “Airman Hutchins jumps into the river after [them] … but the Taliban start[ed] shooting at the last man in the water.”

Hutchins, swimming around the frigid waters for roughly an hour, evaded Taliban fire by skimming the surface “with [only] his nose and mouth” while diving back down to find the troops.

Additional soldiers with the 82nd Airborne soon came to the aid of all three men. But the Taliban began another firefight — with machine guns, sniper fire and rocket-propelled grenades — on the east bank the following day.

“They come out, and start running across an open field and take on the Taliban. They take out the rocket propeller, the machine gun. There’s still dealing with the snipers, but Hutchins, being a TACP, gets on the radio … calls in a [strike] from an MQ-1 Predator in a danger-close situation, but … it takes out the Taliban,” Carlisle said.

The award’s narrative, written by the airman’s former supervisor, Master Sgt. Donald Gansberger, describes the action in even more detail.

“Airman Hutchins moved under heavy and accurate rocket propelled grenade, machine gun and sniper fire across an open field with little to no cover or concealment,” it states. “While continuing to move forward, he managed to direct the sensors of overhead close air support while simultaneously providing accurate supporting fire with his M-4 rifle.”

“He killed one enemy armed with a rocket propelled grenade launcher, at close range, before the enemy could fire and wounded an additional enemy fighter all while providing targeting and controlling information to an overhead unmanned aerial vehicle that destroyed a second enemy fighting position with a Hellfire missile,” the document states.

“Airman Hutchins’ quick, decisive actions, tactical presence and calm demeanor enabled friendly forces to eventually overwhelm the enemy stronghold,” it states. “His actions forced the enemy fighters to break contact and relinquish critical ground to friendly forces which enabled the safety of the recovery efforts for the two missing Soldiers.”

In an ironic twist, Carlisle said, “they did eventually get their container back.”

The Air Force previously said Hutchins had been submitted for the Bronze Star Medal with Valor. However, the service later clarified Hutchins had instead been submitted for two Bronze Star medals for his actions, which instead were combined into one Silver Star award.

Hutchins medically retired from the Air Force in 2014 with injuries sustained as a result of enemy attack during a separate deployment in 2012, Air Combat Command told Military.com.

The Defense Department is reviewing more than 1,100 post-9/11 valor citations to determine if they warrant a higher award such as the Medal of Honor, officials announced in January.

In 2014, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a review of all decorations and awards programs “to ensure that after 13 years of combat the awards system appropriately recognizes the service, sacrifices and action of our service members,” officials told USA Today at the time.

The latest review is due to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter by Sept. 30, 2017.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marine dog is honored for combat valor

Bass, a Belgian Malinois, served more than six years in Marine Corps special operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. During his time in Iraq, Bass conducted more than 350 explosive detections with his handler, Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell.

On Nov. 14, 2019, Bass was awarded the Medal of Bravery on Capitol Hill for his work with the Marines. The award, the first of its kind, was issued by Angels Without Wings, a nonprofit aiming to formally acknowledge valor of working animals at home and abroad. The Medal of Bravery was inspired by the Dickin Medal, a British award introduced in WWII to honor brave animals who served in combat.


The efforts of dogs in the military has received greater attention in recent weeks since Conan, another Belgian Malinois, helped hunt down Islamic State leader Abū Bakr al-Baghdadi — the most wanted terrorist in the world. But Bass and Conan are two of many military working dogs who sniff out bombs, track down bad guys and assist troops on a wide range of missions overseas. Dogs and other animals have always supported troops in combat.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell, with Bass on patrol in Somalia.

(Courtesy photo)

Bass was joined Thursday by Bucca, a dog that served with the New York City Fire Department. Bucca also received the Medal of Bravery and six posthumous medals were awarded to Cher Ami, a pigeon [WWI]; Chips, a dog, and GI Joe, a pigeon [WWII]; Sgt. Reckless, a horse [Korean War]; Stormy, a dog [Vietnam War], and Lucca, a dog [Iraq and Afghanistan wars].

In Somalia, Bass was involved in at least a dozen operations for high-value targets. Special operations units relied heavily on Bass to detect explosives. In Afghanistan, Bass was used to conduct 34 raids for high-profile individuals and lead troops during dangerous building clearings. Through Bass’ four deployments across three countries, there were no Marine fatalities on his missions, according to the dog’s award citation.

When special operators clear a building, the dog can be the first one through the door to attack and make it safer for troops to enter quickly to kill or detain enemies.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Staff Sgt. Alex Schnell kneels next to Bass, after the dog was awarded the Medal of Bravery for valor in combat.

(Steve Beynon/Stars and Stripes)

“The dog is often used like a flashbang,” Schnell said. “The dog will enter first because a lot of times it’ll distract the enemy. Especially if it’s dark, it’s hard for them [the enemy] to pick up on the dog. It gives you those seconds that are really valuable in that dangerous situation.”

Beyond attacking terrorists, Bass has also routed out enemy fighters from hiding spots.

“His nose isn’t just for finding stuff [explosives, drugs], it’s for finding personnel,” Schnell said. “They [enemies] have hiding holes and tunnels in these buildings. It’s an awesome capability.”

Bass retired from active duty in October 2019 and was adopted by Schnell. However, bringing a military working dog home isn’t for everyone, and Belgian Malinois is a tough high energy breed that Schnell doesn’t recommend as a family pet.

“They are definitely not chihuahuas,” he said. “They are not for your average homeowners, especially for those that don’t know anything about dog training. If you’re going to buy one of these animals definitely research fully trained ones and that you know a bit about dog training yourself, or these dogs will control your whole life and possibly lead you to euthanize or get rid of them. That isn’t good for anyone or the dog.”

Here are some of the efforts of the military animals who received awards other than dogs:

  • During World War I, hundreds of American troops were trapped behind enemy lines without food or ammunition and were beginning to receive friendly fire from artillery units that didn’t know their location. A pigeon named Cher Ami was able to carry a message to stop the artillery despite being shot by German troops. The bird was blinded in one eye and lost a leg.
  • During World War II, another pigeon known as GI Joe carried a message that prevented a potentially devastating friendly fire tragedy. Allied forces planned a bombing campaign on an Italian town. However, it was occupied by British troops. GI Joe flew 20 miles in about 20 minutes to rely the message friendly forces occupied the town just before bombing planes took off.
  • Staff Sgt. Reckless, a pack horse for Marines during the Korean War, quickly became as well treated as the troops. She roamed freely around camp and would even sleep in tents with Marines on cold nights. In one battle, the horse made 51 solo trips, covering more than 30 miles, to resupply front-line units with ammunition. Reckless was wounded twice by shrapnel.

This article originally appeared on Stars and Stripes. Follow @starsandstripes on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

1917′ cinematographer had to ‘literally stand around for hours waiting for a cloud’

Roger Deakins has dazzled moviegoers for decades with visuals that have gone on to become the most memorable in modern film history.

The frigid vistas in “Fargo,” the dreamy Western plains in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” the gritty underground world of drug cartels in “Sicario,” and the washed out future in “Blade Runner 2049” (which finally earned him his first-ever Oscar), all came from Deakins.

It’s hard to imagine he could do anything that would top this legendary body of work.

But he has with “1917.”


Marking Deakins’ latest collaboration with Sam Mendes (the two worked together on “Jarhead,” “Revolutionary Road,” and “Skyfall”), the story follows two British soldiers during World War I who have to travel behind enemy lines to deliver a message that will stop 1,600 of their allies from walking into a trap. And in telling that story, Deakins makes it feel like the entire movie is done in one continuous shot.

The hugely ambitious idea paid off. The movie, currently in theaters, has found critical acclaim, box-office glory, and award-season praise as it won three Golden Globes (including best director for Mendes and best drama) followed by 10 Oscar nominations.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

“Blade Runner 2049” is the only movie for which Roger Deakins has won an Oscar.

(Warner Bros.)

Among them was Deakins for best cinematography, the 15th time he’s been nominated.

If you were looking for a sure bet this Oscars, it’s that Deakins will take home his second Oscar when the awards are handed out on February 9. But don’t count on the man himself to get too excited.

The 70-year-old Englishman has been the frontrunner too many times before, only to leave empty-handed, to listen to any Oscars handicapping. In fact, he’s so modest it’s hard to get many details out of him on how he actually pulled off the ambitious shooting technique that has become the biggest draw of the movie.

“We had a lot of prep and we could just work through all the problems,” he said in a laid-back tone to Business Insider hours after the Oscar nominations were announced on Monday.

But finally he let out something that did scare him. It was something that even a legend like himself, who has come across seemingly every scenario behind the camera, could not control: the weather.

“That was a bit tricky,” he said, with just the hint of dry English humor.

Most of “1917,” which takes place over two days, is shot over grey skies. The gloom adds to the despair of the story’s war-torn surroundings. But Deakins said it was also a choice he kept pushing for early on in preproduction.

“Just practically we had to shoot in cloud,” he said, looking back. “Either you shoot it in real time, at the right time of day, which you never do unless you have months and months of time. Or you shoot in cloud and time it to look that way.”

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

“1917.”

(Universal)

Knowing most of the filming would be done at Shepperton Studios in Scotland, the movie’s production office looked up what the weather was in the area the year before at the time they were going to shoot. Deakins was disappointed in the answer: “Apparently it was gorgeous.”

But the movie moved forward, which included Deakins and his team rehearsing the shots constantly with the small, light-weight cameras made especially for the movie from Arri Alexa.

Everyone was ready when the first day of shooting came in April of last year, but there was one problem.

“There wasn’t a cloud in the sky,” Deakins said. “It certainly made me anxious.”

While producers were on the phone explaining to the studio, Universal, and financiers why they couldn’t begin production because the weather was too nice, Mendes, Deakins, and the rest of the actors and crew were back to rehearsing in the trenches made for the movie.

Thankfully, the second day was a cloudy one and production was able to get back on track as they also made up the previous day’s shooting. Deakins said that’s how it was for most of production. If clouds weren’t in the forecast, everyone waited around until the day came when there was — and then everyone doubled their efforts to stay on schedule.

“We would literally stand around for hours waiting for a cloud to come by,” Deakins said. “I had five different weather apps on my iPhone. Every radar I could get. You look at them and try to find the one that will tell you what you want.”

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Shooting a scene from ‘1917.’

(Francois Duhamel / Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures)

Then the day came when he wanted some sun. At the end of the movie, for a shot where the movie’s lead, Schofield (George MacKay), is sitting by a tree, Deakins said he wanted the shot to show some rays of sunlight in the sky.

“There was this little cloud coming over the sun so before we shot that section we called everyone over and said, ‘Let’s shoot it, we might get lucky,’ and sure enough when it got to the end of the take the sun came out,” he said.

“That was the first take,” Deakins continued, with a certain pride he didn’t show earlier in our conversation. “We shot it another fifteen or twenty times, but Sam liked that first one. And it was the only one where the sun came out. We never got that again.”

Looking back on the experience, Deakins said he would be up for shooting a movie again like this — though he wonders if anyone would want to.

“I don’t think many directors would want to tell the story in that way,” he said. “But it doesn’t scare me off at all. It would be quite fascinating to do it on something else.”

It’s good to see that even a legend has dreams for what the future could hold.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 heroes who earned a Medal of Honor in Hue City

At the end of January in 1968, the Viet Cong launched an offensive that turned the tide of the Vietnam War.

The Tet Offensive began on January 30 as the North Vietnamese occupied the city of Hue. US Marines spent nearly a month fighting a brutal urban battle to retake the city — which was 80% destroyed by the battle’s end, according to H.D.S. Greenway, a photographer embedded with the Marines during the war.

An estimated 1,800 Americans lost their lives during the battle.


But in the midst of the chaos, five men who faced harrowing circumstances risked their lives to save those of their comrades — and earned the nation’s highest award for courage in combat, the Medal of Honor.

During one of the ceremonies honoring these heroes, President Richard Nixon remarked on the incredible risks they took.

“They are men who faced death, and instead of losing courage they gave courage to the men around them,” he said.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense inducts U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) John L. Canley into the Hall of Heroes during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18, 2018, after being awarded the Medal of Honor by the President.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley received his award over 50 years after carrying wounded Marines to safety.

Gunnery Sgt. John Canley, suffering from shrapnel wounds, led his men in the destruction of enemy-occupied buildings in Hue City.

When his men were injured, he leapt over a wall in plain sight — twice — to carry them to safe positions.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor in October 2018, over 50 years after he risked his life for his men.

Read the award citation here.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Medal of Honor recipient Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson shakes hands with President Richard Nixon after receiving his award in May 1969.

(Richard Nixon Library/YouTube)

Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson flew his helicopter through a barrage of anti-aircraft fire to rescue wounded comrades.

Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson ignored numerous calls to avoid the airspace surrounding Hue City during the early days of the battle.

He flew his helicopter through enemy fire, guiding the damaged aircraft so he could rescue wounded comrades and fly them back to safety.

His bravery saved the lives of five wounded soldiers.

Read the award citation here.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

A photo shows Sgt. Alfredo Gonzalez with Gunnery Sgt. John Canley during the Vietnam War. Both have earned the Medal of Honor for actions taken during the brutal Battle of Hue City.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tessa Watts)

Sergeant Alfredo Gonzalez

Sgt. Gonzalez and his unit were among the first to deploy into the Viet Cong-occupied Hue City.

Through five days of fighting, Gonzalez repeatedly exposed himself to direct enemy fire, leading his men despite his personal wounds.

Although he died during the battle, his actions ensured his comrades’ survival.

Read the award citation here.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Medal of Honor recipient Joe Hooper listens as his citation is read during the award ceremony in March 1969.

(National Archives/YouTube)

Sergeant Joe Hooper is described as the most decorated soldier of the Vietnam War.

Sgt. Hooper earned the Medal of Honor on the same day as company mate Staff Sgt. Sims.

Hooper suffered extraordinary wounds as he fought during the Battle of Hue City, during which he destroyed numerous enemy bunkers and raced across open fields under intense fire to save a wounded comrade.

Read his full award citation here.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Mary Sims accepts the Medal of Honor on behalf of her husband, Staff Sergeant Clifford Sims, who died during the Battle of Hue City.

(National Archives)

Staff Sergeant Clifford Sims, once an orphan, flung himself on top of an explosive device to save his platoon.

During an intense search-and-rescue mission, Staff Sgt. Sims heard the click of a booby trap as his platoon approached a bunker.

Shouting for his team to stay back, Sims jumped on top of the device to absorb the explosion.

Read the full award citation here.

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

Articles

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

Just one day after Nate Boyer entered the Guinness World Record book for the longest football long snap, former Texas Longhorn, Seattle Seahawk, and U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer embarks on a mission to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with disabled veteran Blake Watson to help 10,000 people gain access to clean water.


DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Nate Boyer

The charity is called Waterboys. It was started by Chris Long, a former defensive end for the Rams who rallied NFL players to digging clean water wells in Tanzania,” Boyer says. “His initial goal was to find thirty-two players from thirty-two teams and to have thirty-two wells dug.”

The effort now has 21 NFL players involved, including the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, the Steelers’ Lawrence Timmons, and the Eagles’ Sam Bradford, who currently has raised the most money for the campaign.

“Chris went out there a couple years ago and did Kilimanjaro himself,” Boyer recalls. “But he was leaving and he felt like he wanted to do more for those people. They walk five miles a day for clean water for their villages; they can cook and drink water and try to live healthy.”

Tanzania is currently suffering from a devastating water crisis. In a country where one-third of the land is semi-arid, access to clean, sanitary water is a daily struggle. Many of the country’s current wells are dug near toxic drainage systems and are contaminated by runoff. Water-borne illnesses, such as malaria and cholera, account for over half of the diseases affecting the population.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Aid agencies struggle to build clean water wells like this UN-built well in Tanzania. (UN photo)

“Long went out there last year and dedicated the first clean water well” says Boyer. “It’s pretty cool because the people, they come out of the woodwork for this thing. It’s a huge deal to them.”

That’s what brings Boyer to Kilimanjaro. When Long recruited him for the charity, Boyer was at the gym, working a stair climber machine, on the “Kilimanjaro” setting. Boyer spoke with Dave Vobora, who runs Dallas, Texas’ Performance Vault Inc., a sports performance training center for elite athletes and U.S. Special Forces.

“I told him I’m doing this climb and asked if he had anybody in mind that would be a good counterpart,” Boyer said. “I wanted to go with a guy who was going to spend the next four months working towards this goal and grinding. He’s like, ‘I got just the guy.'”

Vobora linked Boyer up with Marine veteran Blake Watson, a single leg amputee. During Watson’s first deployment he accidentally knelt down onto an IED. Watson lost his leg and his pulse rate went to zero on the helicopter during the flight to the hospital, but the medics were able to resuscitate him.

“I approached Blake and started explaining what we were doing, what I wanted to do with him and why,” Boyer remembers. “I talked about the clean water wells and before I could even finish my pitch he was like, ‘I’m in, dude. I’m in.’ He was excited about was not only the challenge and the climb and all that but what we would be doing for those people.”

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Watson training for Kilimanjaro

Blake struggled for three years with dependency, depression, and thoughts of suicide. With the help of others and his Marine mindset, he pulled himself out of a rut, started training again, and got back in shape. Got involved at this gym called Adaptive Training Foundation in Dallas, also run by Vobora. A gym for adaptive athletes, many of them amputees. They all have a goal they’re pursuing.

“It’s not just, ‘I want to work out. I want to get in shape,'” Boyer says. “It’s like, ‘I want to go climb Kilimanjaro,’ or ‘I want to be on the Paralympic bobsled team.’

Those wounded warriors led Boyer to another goal. The clean water initiative is important, but for Nate Boyer and Blake Watson, it’s also about inspiring veterans and current service members who might be struggling back home.

“We’re people of service. Whether we joined because we had no other options or because we wanted to serve our country, at the end of the day, we became men and women of service. If we don’t have that element in our life moving forward, working towards a mission, something bigger than us, then it’s really easy to get lost and feel like you’re never going to do anything as important as what you did when you served. That’s the impetus behind this whole thing.”

To help Boyer and Watson raise money and awareness for the people of Tanzania and American wounded warriors donate here. Donations will go toward digging more clean water wells for the people of an important U.S. friend and ally.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best Halloween memes that describe 2020

This year has undoubtedly been a doozie. One we don’t wish to repeat any time soon. However, as the calendar dates continue to drone on, we can look into the next few months and realize that soon, we’re starting a New Year. (We can only hope 2021 can be much kinder.)

Until then, we can endure whatever the world continues to throw at us. Sit back and enjoy some of the most relatable memes that we can link back to how this year has gone.


DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan
DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan
DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan
DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan
DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan
DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan
DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan


MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Joshua T. asks: What were all those metal things you see on the beaches in pictures of the Omaha landing?

The Normandy Invasions represented one of the single largest military maneuvers in history. Beginning on June 6, 1944, the invasion was the largest amphibious assault of all time and involved what basically amounted to the collective might of a large percentage of the nations in the industrialized world working in tandem to defeat the Nazi war machine. One of the most iconic images of the invasion was that of a French beach covered in oppressive-looking metal crosses. As it turns out, those crosses were merely a small part of an expansive network of sophisticated defences the Allies managed to somehow circumvent in mere hours.


Dubbed “the Atlantic Wall” and constructed under the direct orders of Adolf Hitler himself in his Directive 40, the formidable defences stretched and astounding 2000 miles of the European coast. Intended to ward off an Allied invasion, the Atlantic Wall consisted of endless batteries of guns, an estimated five million mines (of both the sea and land variety) and many thousands of soldiers who occupied heavily fortified bunkers and fortresses along its length.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

German soldiers placing landing craft obstructions.

The wall has been described as a “three-tier system of fortifications” where the most valuable and vulnerable locations were the most heavily fortified while positions of lesser importance became known as “resistance points” that were more lightly defended but would still pose an imposing obstacle to any invasion force.

In the rush to create defences, gun batteries were haphazardly thrown together, consisting of basically whatever the Nazis could get their hands on. As a result, everything from heavy machine guns to massive cannons cut from captured French warships were utilized in the construction of fortresses and bunkers. Though they looked threatening, this “confusing mixture of sizes and calibres” proved to be an issue for the Nazis when they couldn’t scrape together the ammunition to arm them all. Still, the guns, in combination with the several other layers of defences, were believed to make the coast of Europe “impregnable”.

The largest of these guns represented the first line of defence of the Atlantic Wall and the Germans spent countless hours practise shelling “designated killing zones” experts predicted Allied ships would most likely use to invade. After this were expansive submarine nets and magnetic mines chained to the ocean floor to deter submarines and ships. In shallower water, the Nazis attached mines to sticks and buried large logs deep in the sand pointed outwards towards the ocean — the idea being boats would either be taken out by the mines or have their bows broken against the poles.

After this was a defensive emplacement known as the Belgian gate which were large heavy fences attached to steel rollers which could be positioned in the shallows. Following this were millions of mines lying just beneath the sands waiting for soldiers who managed to make it ashore.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Czech hedgehogs.

Along with all of this, there were also those metal cross thingies — or to give them their proper name, Czech hedgehogs.

As the name suggests, the Czech hedgehog was invented in Czechoslovakia and was mostly designed to serve as a deterrent for tanks and other armoured vehicles, as well as in this particular case if the tide was right, approaching ships attempting to land on shore.

Originally designed to sit along the Czechoslovakia-Germany border as part of a massive fortification effort conducted in the 1930s, the hedgehogs never ended up serving their original purpose when the region was annexed by Germany in 1938.

It’s reported that the Czechs originally wanted to build a large wall between the two countries, but a cheaper solution was found in the form of these hedgehogs, which could be mass-produced by simply bolting together beams of steel.

So what purpose did they serve? Put simply, if a tank or other such vehicle tried to drive over one, the result was inevitably it becoming stuck on the thing, and even in some cases having the bottom of the tank pieced by the hedgehog. When used on a beach like this, as previously alluded to, they also had the potential to pierce the hulls of ships approaching the shores if the tide was high at the time.

On top of that, particularly the anchored variety of hedgehogs proved difficult to move quickly as even massive explosions didn’t really do much of anything to them.

Speaking of anchored hedgehogs, it isn’t strictly necessary for the hedgehogs to be anchored to anything normally. It turns out that tanks trying to drive over the unanchored ones had a good chance of getting themselves stuck just the same. In these cases what would usually happen was the hedgehog would roll slightly as the tank tried to power its way over, with then the weight of the tank often causing the steel I-beams to pierce the bottom of the tank, completely immobilizing it. In fact, in testing, unanchored hedgehogs proved slightly more effective than their anchored variety against heavy vehicles.

Czech Hedgehog (World War II Tech)

www.youtube.com

However, because of the tide issue in this case, to keep the hedgehogs in place, those closest to the water did have thick concrete bases anchoring them in the sand.

Using about a million tons of steel and about 17 million cubic meters of concrete, the broken wall these Czech Hedghogs created was a much more viable option than trying to create a solid wall over such a span, while also not giving the enemy forces too much cover, as a more solid wall would have done.

That said, while initially a deterrent, the hedgehogs ended up helping the Allies after the beaches were secured, as they proved to be a valuable source of steel and concrete that was repurposed for the war effort. For example, almost immediately some of the steel beams were welded to tanks, turning them into very effective mobile battering rams.

Yes you read that correctly — the Allies cut up dedicated anti-tank fortifications and welded them to their tanks to make them even more badass of weapons.

The Soviets also made extensive use of Czech hedgehogs, often using the concrete to literally cement them in place in cities and along bridges to halt German armored divisions in their tracks. As you can imagine, just one of these in a narrow street proved to be an extremely effective barrier that also left the enemy trying to get rid of it open to weapon fire.

While some Czech hedgehogs were constructed to specific factory specifications, which stipulated exact measurements (usually 1.4 meters in height) and materials (anything sturdy enough to survive around 500 tonnes of force), most were made of scavenged materials.

In the end, the hedgehogs along with the countless other fortifications proved to be a formidable, but not impassable obstacle for the Allies. In fact, thanks to a massive, concerted bombardment effort from the naval and air-based forces of the Allies, strategic commando strikes, and the bravery of the hundreds of thousands of troops who physically stormed the beaches all those years ago, all of the defences were bypassed in a matter of hours, though at the cost of several thousand lives on D-Day alone.

Bonus Facts:

  • The beaches of Normandy were shelled so heavily and so thoroughly mined that to this day it’s estimated that 4% of the beach still consists of shrapnel.
  • Czech hedgehogs are near identical in design (save for their massive size) to caltrops — a tiny metal device designed to always land with a jagged spike pointed straight into the air used extensively throughout history to hinder advancing enemy, particularly effective against horses, camels, and elephants, but also foot soldiers.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The Canadian military okayed beards and it’s about time the US discussed it

As reported by CBC, the Canadian Armed Forces will now authorize their troops to grow a beard — within certain limits, of course. Canadian service members’ beards must not exceed two centimeters (roughly 3/4th of an inch) in length, must be kept off the neck and cheekbones, and may not be in any non-traditional, trendy style.

This puts our brothers to the north in league with the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and most of our other NATO allies in realizing that beards aren’t as detrimental to troops as once believed. This leaves the United States and Turkey as the last two beardless, major US powers — but the Turkish Armed Forces haven’t yet taken the debate off the agenda.

With the Global War on Terrorism winding down and garrison life becoming an ever-growing aspect of a troop’s career, it’s about time the Pentagon at least entertains the idea of allowing conventional troops some leeway on facial hair grooming standards.


DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Even a tiny bit of stubble will stop a gas mask from completely sealing and let all that nastiness inside.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton)

The current policy that requires U.S. troops to be clean-shaven comes from the need to properly seal a gas mask in the event of a chemical attack. In World War I and II, such a policy made absolute sense. Chemical weapons were used extensively against Allied troops and anyone fighting in areas where the enemy was known to use them kept their mask close by.

Today, the use of chemical weapons against US troops is not a complete impossibility. After all, Saddam Hussein used nerve gas against Iranian troops and the Kurds in 1987, sarin gas was used in 2013 during the Syrian Civil War, and many terrorist organization — including ISIS, Aum Shinrikyo, and Al-Qaeda — have been known to use chemical weapons in their attacks.

While a chemical weapons attack against U.S. service members could happen, today aren’t taking gas masks with them on patrol. Ounces make pounds and any additional weight slows troops down — especially when the odds of needing a mask are so slight. So, most troops opt to leave their mask back at the tent, unless mission dictated.

But even if the worst should happen, the Canadian military developed a gas mask that fits over the entire face and chin and is designed specifically with beards in mind. In the absence of such a mask, troops can just slather a bunch of Vaseline on their beard before putting the mask on — believe it or not, that does the trick, too.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Shaving while deployed also runs into the issue of wasting a valuable resource — water — on an arbitrary task.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Rosalie Chang)

The next argument against beards is that they’re not in line with a “professional appearance.” The problem here is that there’s no real, defined standard as to what’s considered “professional.” That being said, we all know there’s a fine line between having a well-kept beard and looking like a bum.

On the same side of the coin, certain Special Operations Command units have turned a blind eye toward facial hair standards. You’d have to be very firm in your convictions if you’re going to call out a Green Beret, a quiet professional, for being unprofessional.

The two loudest voices on the matter are that of Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who opposes beards as he believes it would loosen discipline standards in the ranks, and the Command Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey, who is in favor of beards as long as they are kept to a strict standard. And Dailey supports a caveat that would revoke beard privileges in environments with a high risk of chemical attacks.

There are pros and cons on either sides of the facial hair debate but, as it stands now, the need for a clean-shaven face simply isn’t as dire as it once was. And, as shown in an informal study done by Military Times, a vast majority of troops and veterans are in favor of loosening the grip on facial hair standards now that troops are spending more and more time in-garrison.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how the French special forces hostage rescue operation unfolded

Two French commandos were killed during a night operation to rescue two hostages in the west African country of Burkina Faso on May 10, 2019.

The two petty officers, Cédric de Pierrepont, 32, and Alain Bertoncello, 27, were confirmed to have died in the operation, according to the French Navy.

Here’s how the operation unfolded.


Two Frenchmen, one American, and one South Korean were abducted and taken to Burkina Faso, in West Africa.

French citizens Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas, both of them tourists, were visiting a wildlife preserve in Benin when they were abducted on May 1, 2019.

Their tour guide was fatally shot and their car was burned.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

The location where French citizens Patrick Picque and Laurent Lassimouillas were abducted.

(Google Maps)

The South Korean and American hostages, both of them women, were held for 28 days. The US State Department did not release the American hostage’s name due to privacy concerns but said she was in her 60s.

The French Foreign Ministry previously issued a travel guidance in the region.

Source: NPR, Vox, NBC News

It was unclear who the captors were, but terror organizations, like the Islamic State, have operated in the area.

The captors were believed to be handing the hostages off to an al-Qaeda group in Mali. The French Gen. François Lecointre told reporters it would have been “absolutely impossible” to successfully conduct a rescue operation under those circumstances.

Around 4,500 French troops are deployed to the region after the country set out to eliminate ISIS activity in Mali in 2013. Twenty-six French troops have been killed since the conflict.

Source: Reuters, The New York Times, France 24

The raid relied on intelligence from the US and France.

The original objective was to rescue the two French hostages.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly said that neither South Korea nor the US were “necessarily aware” of the abduction of their citizens, according to Reuters.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Operators of the National Gendarmes Intervention Group (GIGN), an elite French force, during a demonstration in June 2018.

French officials, who were tracking the kidnappers, decided to strike after they set up a temporary camp.

“France’s message is clear. It’s a message addressed to terorists,” Parly said after the raid, according to Reuters. “Those who want to target France, French citizens know that we will find track them, we will find them, and we will neutralize them.”

Source: Vox

French commandos launched their raid on Thursday night.

The mission was personally approved by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The commandos in the mission were part of Task Force Sabre, a contingent of troops based in Burkina Faso. It was unclear how many troops took part in the raid.

During the onset of the mission, a lookout was killed after he spotted the approaching commandos roughly 30 feet away. The French commandos then hit the nearby shelters after heard the sounds of weapons being loaded.

Four of the kidnappers were killed and two reportedly escaped.

Source: The Guardian, Fox News, The New York Times

Two French commandos, Cedric de Pierrepont, 33, and Alain Bertoncello, 28, were killed.

Petty officers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello joined the French Navy in 2004 and 2011, respectively.

“France has lost two of its sons, we lose two of our brothers,” France Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. François Lecointre said.

Bertoncello wanted to join the French Navy after graduating highschool, Jean-Luc, Bertoncello’s father, said to RTL.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

The two French special forces soldiers Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello who were killed in a night-time rescue of four foreign hostages including two French citizens in Burkina Fasso are seen in an undated photo released by French Army, May 10, 2019.

“What he loved was the esprit de corps … he was doing what he wanted and he always told us not to worry … he was well prepared,” Jean-Luc reportedly said. “They did what they had to do. For him it ended badly, for the others, it was a successful mission.”

Source: The Guardian

Three of the hostages were taken to France.

The French hostages said they regretted traveling to the area, even after officials warned that it could be dangerous.

They also expressed their “sincere condolences” for Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello.

“All our thoughts go out to the families of the soldiers and to the soldiers who lost their lives to free us from this hell,” Laurent Lassimouillas said.

France pays tribute to Petty Officers Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello.

A ceremony was held for Cédric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello at the Invalides, in Paris on May 14, 2019.

French President Emmanuel Macron described the mission as “necessary” and spoke to family members of de Pierrepont and Bertoncello.

“France is a nation that never abandons its children, no matter what, even if they are on the other side of the world,” Macron said in a speech. “Those who attack a French citizen should know that our country never gives in, that they will always find our army, its elite units and our allies on their path.”

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

Articles

2 American special operators killed in latest Afghan clash

Two U.S. special operators were killed during a joint raid Wednesday with Afghan forces in the Achin District of Nangarhar province, according to the Pentagon.


Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said the purpose of the raid was an anti-Islamic State operation in the Achin District, which is ISIS’ main base of operations in Afghanistan.

During the raid, an extra soldier suffered injuries, but made it out alive, reports ABC News. The wounds are not life-threatening.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Rangers provide security during an operation in the Khugyani district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elliott N. Banks)

No further information is available at this time.

Nangarhar has seen a lot of action lately. It’s the same province where the U.S. military dropped the MOAB on ISIS, killing 94 militants in the process and cracking buildings in neighboring Pakistan.

It’s also the same province where in early April, Army Staff Sgt. Mark De Alencar, a Green Beret, died from small arms fire after conducting an operation against ISIS forces.

Army Gen. John Nicholson, top commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, has pledged to eliminate ISIS in Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Navy tried to prevent accidents 60 years ago

For a long time, the Navy has been trying to reduce the frequency of accidents — and it’s easy to see why. The recent collisions involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) and USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) left 17 sailors dead, many others hurt, and both destroyers out of action for months. Other safety mishaps have been less costly, but each accident takes time and effort to clean up — ultimately taking time and effort away from other, more important things, like fighting the enemy.

For years, the Navy put forth the Friday Funnies, which used humor (most of the time) to push sailors to be careful, often using the sailors involved in accidents and mishaps as the butt of the joke pour encourager les autres — to help others learn from their mistakes. If you didn’t want to be made fun of in the bulletin, well, you knew what not to do.


One area in which things can quickly turn fatal is within aviation. When things go wrong on a plane or when somebody messes up, crashes can happen, and those tend to be deadly. So, not surprisingly, the Navy created safety bulletins that focused on the flight line. The messages were clear and designed to prevent simple (but costly) mistakes, like forgetting to put the landing gear down, which happened to both a C-17 crew in 2009 and an A-4 Skyhawk flown by a contractor in 2015.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

The 1966 fire on USS Oriskany (CV 34) was started when a flare accidentally ignited.

(US Navy)

But accidents don’t just happen in the air. The ground (or the carrier) is also a high-risk environment. There were huge fires on the carriers USS Oriskany (CV 34), USS Forrestal (CV 59), and USS Enterprise (CVN 65) during the Vietnam War that collectively claimed the lives of 206 sailors.

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Some accidents are through error – like a C-17 crew forgetting to make sure the landing gear is down.

(USAF)

Even if nobody gets hurt, accidents can lead to damaging valuable combat planes. These days, when an F-35 costs about 0 million, nobody wants that to happen.

See how the Navy taught sailors to avoid accidents 60 years ago in the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyuJ8rUefc8

www.youtube.com

popular

How to earn a free certificate in piracy using your GI Bill benefits

Avast! America is suffering from two major trends that could adversely affect its future for years to come: an obesity epidemic and a lack of skilled trades. While the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) may not have intended for one of its certificate programs to tackle both issues, it’s likely that its piracy certificate offering could do the trick. 

For veterans, this also means that they can earn this certificate for free, using the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits they earned during their service, along with any other veterans benefits offered by the school. 

MIT, the esteemed Cambridge, Massachusetts institute that brought the world such notable alumni as Kofi Annan, Buzz Aldrin and Dolph Lundren, along with 95 Nobel Prize winners and other notables, wanted to offer its student body a little something extra for those students’ bodies. 

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Who says a serious school can’t have a serious sense of humor? (MIT Physical Education & Wellness Office, Facebook)

In 2011, the school instituted a new physical fitness regimen for the fall semester designed to encourage more physical activities in student schedules. It may have been the first direct assault on the “Freshman 15” in modern academic history. 

Any student at MIT who completes all four specified courses in archery, fencing, pistol/rifle shooting, and sailing will be rewarded with a pirate certificate from the school.  They physical education department holds regular “pirate induction days” with undergraduate and graduate students who often dress up for the occasion.

The MIT pirate certificate isn’t just another piece of paper to be mounted on a wall and forgotten about. True to the romanticism of old-time pirate lore, the certificate of piracy is presented on a piece of faux-parchment paper, and reads:

“This document certifies that the below-mentioned salty dog has fulfilled the Physical Education General Institute Requirement by completing Archery, Fencing, Pistol and Sailing [and] therefore is no longer a lily-livered landlubber. And so, MIT Physical Education Confers upon [STUDENT’S NAME] The Pirate Certificate, with all its privileges and obligations. Given at the swashbucklin’ Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ahoy, Avast and finally, Arrrrrr!”

DoD releases names of 3 soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Huzzah! Nothing like some archery to combat the stress of midterms. (MIT Physical Education & Wellness Office, Facebook)

The “pirate’s license,” according to one former MIT student, began as a goof between some members of the student body, but was soon embraced officially by the school after numerous requests from students to do so. 

Aside from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Nobel laureate alumni, the department of piracy can now boast actor Matt Damon as one of its notable alums. He was awarded the certificate as a commencement speaker in 2016. 

Veterans who want to attend MIT can do that by applying and enrolling like any other student, but the school will help guide you through the process of applying for veterans benefits like the Post-9/11 GI Bill and military tuition assistance, for those still on active duty.

Since the piracy certificate is open and available to graduate students and undergraduate students alike, those seeking a Master’s-level education can also get help from MIT in applying for benefits. 

MIT’s graduate programs are a partner in the Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program, in which the school volunteers to contribute up to 50% of student expenses as the VA matches the same amount. It’s free, it’s fun and there’s plenty of plunder for the plucky pirate in today’s global economy, so there’s no reason not to enroll now.

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