Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — For more than four decades, the amphibious assault vehicle has been key to getting Marines ashore and into the fight.


US Marine Corps AAVs are large, tracked vehicles capable of operating in the water and on land that are essential for getting Marines onto the beach in an assault, and Insider recently had the opportunity to climb inside.

i.insider.com

The AAV replaced the older Landing Vehicle, Tracked (LVT) and is expected to eventually be replaced by the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), but for now, the AAV is the go-to vehicle for amphibious assaults.

Over the past month, the Marines at Camp Pendleton in California have been training with their Japanese partners to execute an amphibious assault in the latest iteration of Iron Fist.

“AAVs bring a lot to that fight,” 2nd Lt. Nicholas Pierret, an officer in charge on a live-fire range, told Insider as the gunners practiced putting fire down range.

An AAV is a lightly-armored, fully-tracked amphibious landing vehicle specifically designed to get troops from ship to shore, as well as take troops inland to continue the fight.

Although Marine Corps AAVs are more than 40 years old, these 30-ton tracked vehicles are still the “the number one vehicle” to perform the amphibious assault task, Pierret told Insider.

These heavy “amphibious tractors” are commonly called “amtracs” or “tracks” by Marines.

Each AAV can carry around two dozen Marines and their gear.

The standard operating procedure for these vehicles is three operators — the crew chief, the driver, and the rear crewman — and 21 infantry.

The crew are sometimes referred to as “trackers.”

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Marines drive an AAV into the water during training at Camp Pendleton, California.

Lance Cpl. Alison Dostie/US Marine Corps

It is currently the only operational Marine Corps vehicle capable of operating on land and in the water.

AAVs can run at a maximum speed of around 45 mph on land but only about 8 mph in the water, where they maintain an exceptionally low profile with over 75 percent of this amphibious armored personnel carrier submerged.

The AAV has a V-8 diesel engine that powers two water jets that propel it through water. In combat, it can push through waves up to 10 feet high. The ride can be rough, and there are no seat belts. It’s not uncommon for people to throw up.

AAVs are armed with significantly more firepower than the infantry units they carry ashore.

The amtracs, as the Marine’s call them, are equipped with a Mk 19 40mm grenade launcher and M2HB .50-caliber machine gun, weapons operated by the crew chief.

“Those are heavy firepower assets. Infantry has nothing that compares,” Pierret explained.

AAVs can be outfitted with additional weaponry as needed.

For example, the Marines have AAVs outfitted with Mk 154 Mine Clearing Line Charges (MICLICs) that can fire a rocket-propelled explosive line charge filled with C4 to eliminate mines and improvised explosive devices.

These AAVs can clear an entire lane out to a distance of about 100 yards.

In addition to these assets, the Marines inside all have their service weapons.

Each of the infantrymen riding in the AAV will dismount with their M4 service rifle.

Besides bringing extra firepower to the fight, another thing AAVs are really good for is logistics.

“They can carry supplies, ammo, MREs,” Pierret told Insider, referring to the sealed Meals Ready to Eat that troops eat in the field. “An AAV is also a very good casualty evacuation platform.”

On land, additional gear can be stored externally.

Marines can also live inside an AAV if necessary.

An amphibious assault vehicle is big enough to serve as an armored battle camper when necessary. Some Marines are said to call it a battle RV.

Sgt. Juan Torres Jr., a section leader, told Insider that he once lived out of an AAV for almost a month and a half. “You’re out in the field,” he said, “This is your home.”

Marines can even shower in them.

Theoretically, there is supposed to be air circulating inside the vehicle, but when it’s packed with Marines and the engine is running, it gets really hot, one Marine told Insider.

“A couple days in the field, and we’re smelly,” they said.

AAV crews can shower in their tracks using five gallon jugs filled with water carried onboard or stored in the hull. The AAV can hold up to 171 gallons of any liquid.

It takes a ton of maintenance to keep these old amtracs operational.

A few hours of training can require as much as four times as much prep work and maintenance, Torres told Insider.

“The four hours of cool stuff we get to do adds up to about 16 hours of hard work and preparation if not more,” he said.

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

Articles

This device makes Navy SEALs swim like actual seals

DARPA wants Navy SEALs to be more seal-like, so they invented PowerSwim.


“Technically it’s called an oscillating foil propulsion device,” DARPA program manager Jay Lowell says, in a video from DARPA TV. “That’s a really fancy way of saying it’s a wing that helps push a diver through the water.”

The typical swimmer fins are no more than 15 percent efficient in their conversion of human exertion. By contrast, PowerSwim helps divers swim 80 percent more efficient. This dramatic improvement in swimming efficiency will enable a subsurface swimmer to move up to two times faster than what’s currently possible, improving performance, safety, and range, according to DARPA.

Watch this video to see PowerSwim in action:

NOW: 19 photos of Navy SEALs doing what they do best

OR: Hilarious robot fails show why you shouldn’t worry about ‘Terminator’ just yet

Articles

White House considering direct military action to counter North Korea

In a dramatic shift from traditional policy, an internal White House review on North Korea strategy revealed that the option to use military force or a regime change to curb the threat of North Korean nuclear weapons was on the table, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.


This review comes at the heels of a report claiming President Donald Trump believed the “greatest immediate threat” to the US was North Korea’s nuclear program.

Also read: Navy fleet commanders warn of potential fight in North Korea

Recent provocations from the Hermit Kingdom, including the ballistic missile launch in the Sea of Japan and the killing of Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother in Malaysia, may have provoked this shift in the policy that have many officials and US allies worried.

“North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!” Trump tweeted in January. Several weeks later, North Korea conducted its missile test.

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

Since then, Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland consulted with other officials to address North Korea’s fresh series of provocations. In the meeting, held about two weeks ago, the officials discussed the possibility of a plan “outside the mainstream,” The Journal reported.

According to The Journal, McFarland requested for all options to overhaul American policy toward North Korea — including for the US to recognize North Korea as a nuclear state and the possibility of a direct military conflict.

Related: Experts say missile defense alone won’t stop growing North Korea nuke threat

The proposals, which are being vetted before Trump’s review, would certainly be met with worry from China, a longtime ally of North Korea that recently responded with an export ban against North Korea’s coal industry. Additionally, many experts fear that a direct military conflict would spark all-out warfare, including artillery barrages directed at Seoul, South Korea’s capital.

Even more worrisome is the possibility for further North Korean provocations, which may influence the recent policy shift, as early as this month. As the US and its ally South Korea conduct “Foal Eagle” and “Key Resolve,” their annual military exercises that involve 17,000 US troops and Terminal High Altitude Air Defense systems, experts say provocations from North Korea will be likely.

Military Life

4 of the best things about being stationed at Camp Pendleton

Twentynine Palms, Camp Lejeune, and Quantico are just a few of the Marine Corps bases that house those who’ve earned the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. Although the various duty stations each offer their own benefits, none compare to the awesomeness that is Camp Pendleton.

In 1942, the government purchased land in Southern California from a private owner for $4,239,062. The property was soon named in honor of Maj. Gen. Joseph H. Pendleton for his outstanding service, thus creating Camp Pendleton. Some might tell you there are downsides to be stationed there, but, in general, it’s considered the best. Here’s why.


Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

The Marine Corps Exchange located on the main side of the base. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, it’s not Marine Corps-quality.

It has everything you need

Shopping, recreation centers, and schools are just a few amenities that make the historic property a full-scale, working city. The Camp has been designed and developed to fulfill the every need of those stationed within the gates.

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

There’re so many activities

The San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and Universal Studios are just a few of the places you can take your family to visit on a sunny afternoon. The drives will take you typically take around an hour or so, depending on traffic, but since you live so close, you don’t have to spend money on a hotel room — which makes sh*t cheaper.

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

Visit Camp Pendleton today and notice there’s not a cloud in f*cking skies!

(Photo by Marine Sgt. April L. Price)

That SoCal weather

Do you like doing PT in the pouring rain? Well, if you do, Camp Pendleton isn’t the place for you. According to U.S. Climate data, Camp Pendleton receives an average of 13.3 inches of rain per year. Compare that to the national average of 32.25 inches.

Camp Pendleton is starting to sound pretty impressive, isn’t it?

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

Members of the Western Army Infantry Regiment, Japan Ground Self Defense Force, and Marines with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit play a game of football on the Del Mar Beach at the conclusion of Exercise Iron Fist 2013

(Photo by Sgt. Christopher O’Quin)

It has its own beach

The beach in Del Mar has places where you can camp or rent small cottages for a few days. These private areas can get you close to the ocean enough to hear waves crash onto the shoreline while keeping you near enough to the base to hear the Marines call out their famous and well-rehearsed cadences as they run by.

It’s a perfect location.

MIGHTY TRENDING

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

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

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

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

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

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

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

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

But Trump’s announcement appeared to forestall that trip.

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

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

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Boats full of dead North Koreans are still showing up in Japan

The seemingly endless appearances of “ghost ships” full of dead North Koreans on the shores of Japan is indicative of Kim Jong Un’s weakening grip over his citizens, experts say.


The latest took place, when a capsized boat containing the decayed remains of seven bodies washed ashore in Kanazawa, a city on Japan’s west coast.

A badge portraying former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il was also found nearby.

It was the second such discovery in Japan in January 2018.

The number of ghost ships — vessels discovered with no living crew — reached 104 in 2017, the highest since authorities started collecting data in 2013, Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted the national coast guard as saying.

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches
Sea of Japan / East Sea between North Korea and Japan.

It remains unclear exactly who these people were, or why they showed up in Japan — experts have posited theories including food insecurity in North Korea, annual quotas imposed on fishermen, and a deal for fishing rights between North Korea and China.

A new theory suggested to Business Insider is that the increasing arrivals of these boats indicate Kim Jong Un’s weakening grip over his country and its people.

It came from Professor Hazel Smith, a researcher at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London.

Also read: This is why old boats full of dead North Koreans keep floating to Japan

North Korea, notoriously, tightly controls its borders to prevent defections. Soldiers opened fire on one of their own who was caught in the act of defecting to South Korea in November 2017.

The army also plants landmines on various spots around its border — including the west coast — to prevent citizens from leaving and invaders from entering.

Smith, who lived in North Korea from 1998 to 2001, told Business Insider (BI):

“Security is disintegrating. There was always an incentive for people to get hold of a boat to try to fish and come back and sell it and make some money, but security was always extremely tight on the coasts.

“You had mined beaches, you had surveillance on the coast, so the fact that this is happening is not a surprise economically — people are taking the opportunities while they can — but what it shows also is the disintegration of the state’s ability to stop people going out in boats.”

She added that previously, obtaining boats was seen as a highly risky issue, and that only people with high security clearance could access them.

“Going to sea in any way was seen as first and foremost a political issue, not an economic issue, because individuals were so controlled,” she said.

Related: It looks like the North Koreans uncovered secret plans to assassinate Kim Jong-un

What’s changed now is the fact that North Korea doesn’t have the “capacity” to control its borders as tightly as before due to other, more pressing concerns — such as the country’s nuclear development and continuous, crippling international sanctions, Smith said.

She said: “They’ve only got the capacity to focus on certain aspects of state activity at a time now. They’re focusing on the nuclear issue, and they don’t have the capacity to focus on every aspect of economic activity, and they don’t have the money to feed people, so they have to let people do their own thing.”

Further reading: This is why no one in North Korea is celebrating Kim Jong Un’s birthday

She previously told BI it was “a lot easier” to bypass the country’s security apparatus now than it 20 years ago, because some security officials are willing to turn a blind eye in exchange for profits if someone comes back with a catch.

The sheer number of the boats appearing in recent years also suggests that people were leaving North Korea as part of small enterprises rather than a monolithic state enterprise, another expert observed.

It points to an opening of the North Korean economy, said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, an editor at North Korean Economy Watch.

He told BI: “It may tell us something about the extent to which economic activity has been liberalised, but also put under pressure.

“In other words, companies run with relative freedom by individuals may have increased space to operate, but in some cases, they may also receive quotas to fill by the state or other government entities.

“In the case of the ghost ships, while their circumstances aren’t fully known, the pressure to meet quotas could explain why they need to venture further out into the ocean searching for their catch, perhaps not with adequate fuel resources on board.”

Smith added: “It looks like state priorities over vessels have either broken down or been allowed to lapse in order to permit people to go out and find ways to engage in trade to make a bit of money, which is a change.

“It might not be a major change, but it is a change in the way that the government approaches economic activity. It’s less security-focused.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Soldiers remember the harrowing Battle of Hue

The ferocity of the Tet Offensive, which began 51 years ago, surprised most Americans, including service members manning the television station in Hue, Vietnam.

Detachment 5 of the American Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN) was located in a villa about a mile outside the main U.S. compound in Hue, in a neighborhood considered relatively safe from attack.

After the AFVN crew had signed off the air that night and settled into their billets, they heard an explosion down the street. Some of them were already asleep, but a few were still up watching fireworks through their window, since it was the first night of Tet, the Vietnamese lunar New Year.


“Then the real fireworks started,” said Harry Ettmueller, a specialist five and broadcast engineer at the time.

Mortars and rockets began to blast the city landscape and tracer rounds could be seen in the distance.

“It was quite a light show,” said former Spc. 4 John Bagwell, a broadcaster who jumped out of bed once he heard the noise.

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

Spc. 4 John Bagwell broadcasts for the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam before he was transferred to AFVN Det. 5 in Hue during January 1968.

(U.S. Army photo)

One mortar round hit the maintenance shed next to their TV station, which was located behind the house where the AFVN team of eight slept.

The team then pulled out their weapons: World War II carbines along with a shotgun, three M14 rifles, and an M60 machine gun that jammed after two shots.

They took up positions in doorways and windows to stop possible entry. They even handed a carbine to a visiting NBC engineer, Courtney Niles, who happened to be an Army veteran.

Battle for Hue

Station commander, Marine 1st Lt. James DiBernardo, called the Military Assistance Command-Vietnam, or MAC-V office in Hue, and was told to keep his crew in place. A division-sized force of the North Vietnamese army, along with Viet Cong guerrillas, was attacking locations all across the city.

They had even captured part of the citadel that once housed Vietnam’s imperial family and later became the headquarters of a South Vietnamese division.

The NVA attack on Hue was one of the strongest and most successful of the Tet Offensive. Even though more than 100 towns and cities across the country were attacked during Tet, the five-week battle for Hue was the only one where communist forces held a significant portion of the city for more than a few days.

On the second day of Tet, the power-generating station in Hue was taken out and the telephone lines to the AFVN compound were cut. The crew became isolated.

Station background

AFVN had begun augmenting its radio broadcasting with television in Saigon in early 1967. Then TV went to Da Nang and up to Hue.

The U.S. State Department decided to help the Vietnamese set up a station for local nationals in what had been the consulate’s quarters in Hue. AFVN set up their equipment in a van just outside the same villa and began broadcasting to troops in May.

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

Following the Tet Offensive, not much remained of the house where members of AFVN Det. 5 held off the North Vietnamese in a 16-hour firefight.

Hundreds of TVs were brought up from Saigon and distributed to troops. Ettmueller said he was often flown by Air America to units near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) to distribute them.

In January 1968, with the 1st Cavalry Division and elements of the 101st Airborne Div. moving up to the northern I Corps area of operations, AFVN decided to add radio broadcasting to the TV station in Hue.

Broadcasters Bagwell and Spc. 5 Steven Stroub were sent from 1st Cavalry to help set up the radio operation. They arrived a day and a half before Tet erupted.

16-hour assault

For the next five days, sporadic fire was directed at the AFVN billets, Ettmueller said. The staff members remained in defensive positions at doors and windows.

Bagwell said they were hopeful MACV would send a rescue mission for them, but by the fifth day, they were running out of food and water.

As night fell Feb. 4, the North Vietnamese launched a company-sized assault against the AFVN compound. Dozens of Vietnamese rushed the house and the Americans kept up a steady fire through the windows.

Each time the WWII carbines were fired, though, the magazines fell out and had to be reinserted, Ettmueller said. But he had an M14 and put it on full automatic.

During the assault, a young boy appeared in the window where Bagwell was on guard. The boy was trembling as he pointed his weapon at Bagwell, who hesitated.

“He shot and one bullet came close to my ear and I could hear it whiz by,” Bagwell said. “The next bullet he shot came close to the other ear. I realized if I didn’t kill him, he’d kill me.”

He pulled the trigger on his M14 and the boy fell backward.

North Vietnamese rushed the house repeatedly during the night. Sgt. 1st Class John Anderson, the station’s NCOIC, was awarded a Silver Star for manning the living room door with a shotgun to turn back assault after assault.

“He personally was responsible for inflicting deadly fire on the attacking enemy force,” reads the citation, adding that Anderson held his post despite being severely wounded by enemy grenades.

At one point, a Vietnamese soldier came running toward the door with a satchel of explosives strapped around him. Ettmueller said when one of their bullets hit the soldier’s satchel, it exploded, taking him out and a couple of others near him.

During the course of the night, at least three rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the house and a B40 rocket went right through the front window and hit the back wall. The wall collapsed on Ettmueller and Marine Sgt. Tom Young, forcing both men to crawl out from underneath the debris.

“They pretty much… leveled the house,” Bagwell said.

Breakout and capture

By morning, the house was on fire and the AFVN crew was beginning to run low on ammunition.

They decided their best chance was to try and make a run for the MACV compound. NBC engineer Niles said he knew the layout of the city the best, so he volunteered to be the first one out the door. Bagwell was close behind him.

The plan called for both men to cross the road into a ditch so they could lay down covering fire for the rest of the team. However, Niles was fatally shot. Bagwell applied a quick tourniquet, but said it did not help much.

Anderson and others in the house saw the direction of the gunfire. After a brief pause, the seven of them ran out the door and turned in the opposite direction. They made it through a hole in the fence line and sneaked around a North Vietnamese team manning a machine gun on the second floor of a building under construction.

They made it through another hole in a fence into a small rice paddy, when they came up to the U.S. Information Services library next to a concrete wall topped with barbed wire.

There, the North Vietnamese caught up to them.

Young stepped out to lay down covering fire and was killed by automatic gunfire from the machine-gun position.

Ettmueller described the chaotic situation: “There we were, trapped. More rounds coming in; more grenades being thrown. Chickens running all over the place, jumping up in the air and flying. More rounds coming in.”

Stroub was shot in the left arm and had an open fracture. He passed out, Ettmueller said. Anderson was shot with a bullet that penetrated his flak jacket and grazed his diaphragm. He began to hiccup.

As the AFVN team began to run out of ammo, the North Vietnamese closed in and captured them.

The prisoners were bound with wire and had their boots removed, and then ordered to march forward. Ettmueller helped Stroub up, but it was not long before he stumbled and fell. An NVA soldier opened fire from above with the machine gun and executed him.

Sole escape

Meanwhile, Bagwell was left alone outside the station after Niles was fatally shot. The North Vietnamese had taken off in pursuit of the rest of the AFVN team.

Bagwell, who had been in Hue only a few days, had no idea which way to go and he was out of ammunition.

He wandered the streets, not sure what to do. “I was quite amazed with all the fighting going around that I hadn’t been shot.”

Then he looked down at his boot and spotted a hole. With his adrenaline pumping, he had not felt anything, but “the next thing I knew I was in pain.”

Bagwell looked up and saw a Catholic church. He knocked on the door and pleaded with a priest to help him. About 100 Vietnamese civilians were already hiding in the church.

The priest insisted Bagwell change his clothes. They buried his uniform and M14 in the courtyard. Then the priest wrapped Bagwell’s face in bandages.

“His idea was to make me look as much like a Vietnamese as possible,” Bagwell said.

Not long afterward, North Vietnamese soldiers burst into the church looking for Americans.

“They came by and started pointing their rifles right at my face,” he said. “I just closed my eyes and thought, ‘there’s no way they’re not going to know I’m not Vietnamese.'”

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

Broadcast Engineer Staff Sgt. Donat Gouin sits behind the television van for Detachment 5 of the American Forces Vietnam Network in Hue.

(U.S. Army photo)

But the North Vietnamese walked on past him. Bagwell was then taken by the priest up into the bell tower of the church to hide.

Other American forces, however, had been told that NVA fighters were hiding in the church, Bagwell said. So, they began to shell the church and hit the bell tower.

Part of the tower collapsed. “I just crawled out of all the mess and crawled back downstairs,” Bagwell said.

The priest then rushed up to him and said, “You know, you’re kind of bad luck. We need to get you out of here.” He pointed across rice paddies to a light in the distance and said he thought that was an American unit.

As he crawled through the rice paddies, Bagwell said a U.S. helicopter began circling him and shining its search light down, thinking he was Vietnamese, since he had no uniform.

“Actually, during that time, I counted about 12 times that I should have been shot and killed,” Bagwell said. “Six by the North Vietnamese and six by the Americans.”

When the sun came up, Bagwell was near a U.S. signal unit. He took off his white shirt and put it on a stick, yelling “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! I’m an American!”

They held a gun to him and asked if he was really an American.

“You can’t tell with this Okie accent?” Bagwell replied.

“Well, what were you doing out there?” a soldier asked.

“I was with the TV and radio station,” Bagwell said.

“No, I don’t think so; they’re all dead or prisoner,” the soldier insisted. “The only body we haven’t found is Bagwell.”

Aftermath

The North Vietnamese executed an estimated 3,000 South Vietnamese civilians in Hue during Tet for sympathizing with American forces. Bagwell said he learned that a Catholic priest was executed for hiding a U.S. soldier in a church, and he knew that soldier had to be him.

The prisoners of war from AFVN Det. 5 — Ettmueller, DiBernardo and Anderson, along with Marine Cpl. John Deering and Army broadcast engineer Staff Sgt. Donat Gouin — were forced to walk 400 miles barefoot through the jungle over the next 55 days.

For five years, they were tortured, interrogated and moved from one POW camp to another, until released from the infamous Hanoi Hilton in the 1973 prisoner exchange.

Bagwell and Ettmueller were inducted into the Army Public Affairs Hall of Fame in 2008. The Army Broadcast Journalist of the Year Award is named in Anderson’s honor.

Editor’s note: Bagwell and Ettmueller were interviewed this month by phone. Retired Master Sgt. Anderson was interviewed in 1983 when he was a civilian public affairs officer at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

Ken Burns’ epic ‘Vietnam’ documentary tackles war that ‘drove a stake into the heart of America’

When filmmaker Ken Burns and his collaborators previously tackled sprawling documentaries about the Civil War and World War II, their first obligation, he said, was to strip away the “barnacles of sentimentality” attached to both events.


That was never a problem with his latest military epic, “The Vietnam War.”

“No such sentimentality attaches itself to Vietnam,” Burns says. “So there’s a through line to the tragedy and the the essential horror and cruelty of war that is manifested everywhere.”

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches
A Viet Cong prisoner is interrogated at the A-109 Special Forces Detachment in Thuong Duc, 25 km west of Da Nang, 1967. Photo under Public Domain,

Covering 18 hours over 10 installments, the film recalls one of the most tragic chapters in American history — a conflict so divisive that, in the words of a soldier quoted in the film, it “drove a stake right into the heart of America.”

Ten years in the making, “The Vietnam War” (Sept. 17, 8pm, PBS) might be Burns’ greatest achievement yet in a career that dates back to 1981. It’s certainly his most complicated and challenging. To get to the heart of it all, he and co-director Lynn Novick relied on a wealth of archival materials, including stunningly revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations.

Most notably, they solicited accounts from more than 80 witnesses from all sides of the war’s vast social divide: soldiers who fought in the war and Americans who opposed it, as well as North and South Vietnamese combatants and civilians. It was what the filmmakers call a “bottom up” approach with a preference toward mostly ordinary people with incredible stories to tell, rather than the usual talking heads. John McCain, John Kerry, and Jane Fonda, for example, are not interviewed.

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches
Members of the military police keep back protesters during their sit-in at the Mall Entrance to the Pentagon. Image from US Army.

Along the way, the filmmakers didn’t encounter as much reticence from their subjects as some might expect. Credit the passage of time.

“We generally found that there was enormous interest in having their story told,” Novick says. “They saw it as a chance to share experiences with the wider world that were very important to them and seminal, informative, and sometimes very, very painful.”

The result is a panoramic, immersive, intensely intimate and often heart-wrenching film experience that captures the human stories embedded within a war that claimed the lives of more than 58,000 Americans, and more than 3 million Vietnamese military personnel and civilians.

Burns, of course, realizes that many viewers will bring their “personal baggage” and hardened perspectives to the film. But he and Novick insist that they were intent on being as even-handed as possible.

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Filmmaker Ken Burns. Wikimedia Commons photo from user David Hume Kennerly.

“There isn’t a single truth in the war,” Burns says. “In fact, there’s many truths that can coexist, and that might help to sort of take the fuel rods out of the division and polarization that was born in Vietnam that continues to this moment.”

The Vietnam conflict had long been on Burns’ cinematic to-do list. But early in his career he felt the wounds were too fresh. And when he finally did approach the subject, he went in thinking he knew a lot about it, only to immediately learn he didn’t.

“It was a daily humiliation,” he recalls. “And the humbleness that you have to assume in order to get through the next 10 years is just that — humbling. So we just kept our heads down and worked to get it right.”

According to Novick, one of the key discoveries they encountered along the way was the continual privately expressed skepticism from government officials that the US could prevail in the conflict, which was carried out under five presidents.

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President Lyndon B. Johnson greets American troops in Vietnam, 1966. Image fro US State Department.

“There never was a time when the people in our government who were pushing the war forward had total confidence that it was winnable,” she says. “You hear this drumbeat of doubt and lack of sureness that it can come out well, that we can accomplish our goals, that it’s sustainable. And that goes back to the earliest days of American involvement in Vietnam. … That was rather revelatory and devastating.”

It’s Burns’ hope that the film can open a national dialogue about Vietnam and get people to talk about it in a “calm way.” After all, so much of what occurred during the war resonates with the present: Images of mass protests across a deeply divided nation; a White House paranoid about leaks and at odds with the media; disagreements over American military strategy in far-off territories; acrimony over what defines patriotism…

“History doesn’t repeat itself. We’re not condemned to repeat what we don’t remember,” he says. “It’s that human nature never changes.”

MIGHTY GAMING

​The best military games we played at gamescom and PAX West

In the summer, gamescom and PAX West bring out the best in gaming announcements as developers and publishers get the hype trains rolling right into the holiday season. This year was no exception. There are a lot of great games on the horizon, but this year, we’ve got our eyes glued on three shooter titles specifically.

Here are the games, in no particular order, that await your itchy trigger finger.


Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

(Deep Silver)

‘Metro: Exodus’ (PS4/XBO/PC)

I’ll admit, getting some time with Metro: Exodus at gamescom was my first hands-on experience with the lauded series, but it wasn’t my first rodeo in the virtual apocalypse. Despite this minor detail, I was able to jump right in and start exploring the newest title set in a grim future.

It was explained to me that Exodus moves the Metro series away from its traditional, predominantly underground setting into a more balanced mixture of surface and subterranean exploration. The demo environment that I explored was well designed, rich with details to remind players they’re playing a post-apocalyptic RPG. Hidden in the environment (and on corpses) are materials you can use to craft a variety of helpful consumables. One of the coolest features put on display was the ability to customize weapons to fit different situations.

Combat was smooth and accommodates a variety of different gameplay styles. Instead of stealthily picking off my opponents, I tend to lean toward going full Rambo on every enemy in sight, but both approaches seem to get the job done. After a quick developer assist (I explored a little too much and got lost — did I mention how great the environments are?), I dispatched the demo’s boss mob by spending all of my ammo and finishing it off with a very satisfying melee strike.

Exodus seems like a perfect fit for fans of Bioshock, Dead Space, Far Cry, and other shooter RPGs.

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(The Farm 51)

‘World War 3’ (PC)

World War 3 is an upcoming Battlefield-like multiplayer shooter developed and published by The Farm 51, a small indie studio based in Poland. While WW3 is themed around a theoretical conflict, it’s based on real-world tensions in Eastern Europe.

Gameplay is straightforward enough, but fine-tuned. There’s a good balance of combat classes, weapons, consumables — everything you’ve come to expect from a modern shooter. What stands out about this game, however, is that nearly everything is customizable and the array of selections is huge. Configure your own load out using everything from dozens of different types of head accessories to a variety of mounted vehicle weapons. With a little sleuthing, I even found that one of the more creative developers snuck a nuclear warhead into the mix — just for fun.

The developers on the floor reiterated several times that everything in their game (well, maybe not the nuke) will be unlockable through playing and not microtransactions. While it seems a little unfair to compare this game to AAA giants, like Battlefield, everyone I chatted with at PAX and gamescom seemed ready to draw the comparison. Regardless of whether the title can measure up to multi-million dollar blockbusters, the best part about this game is the indie price. Early access opens up for PC gamers on Steam later this year and gamers can expect to drop between and to join in on the international conflict.

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(EA DICE)

‘Battlefield V’ (PS4/XBO/PC)

Speaking of AAA titles, World War II is back with EA’s latest title, Battlefield V. EA DICE, longtime developers of the Battlefield series, is hoping to provide a vastly new and improved experience over their original title, Battlefield 1942, which celebrated its 16th birthday this week.

This launch comes on the heels of EA trying to recover from bad publicity stemming from the overwhelmingly pay-to-win gameplay that shipped with Star Wars Battlefront II. It seems EA has learned a little bit from their last release as they’ve made it a point to announce that Battlefield V will not feature any loot boxes or other forms of game-altering monetization. This statement may help soothe the ruffled feathers of the recently upset playerbase, but it also leaves the door wide open for DLCs and other types of traditional paid content.

During my brief time with the game, there’s no question that it’s a solid tribute to previous games in the series but, at the same time, there haven’t been any groundbreaking changes made. This fact didn’t seem to matter much for the masses of gamescom attendees who happily lined up and waited for up to 5 hours just play a single match. That being said, there’s a lot left to be announced and much of the game’s content is still hidden away, including the new, not-yet-demoed “Battlefield Royale” mode and the single-player campaign.

They say you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken — and there are a lot of people out there just waiting for their next Battlefield fix, which they’ll get on November 20, 2018.

Articles

7 lies sailors tell their parents while deployed

College life and Navy life are very different, but there’s one thing they have in common: worried parents.


Whether you’re in college or the Navy, you can count on parents constantly checking in and asking a million questions. These conversations can feel like investigations; especially during deployments.

While Navy parents worry about their sons and daughters being in harm’s way, sailors are usually worried about more important things, like when’s the next port visit and what are their duty days. A little white lie can ease a parent’s worries. Here are some of the most common ones offered:

1. “I’m only allowed one call a month.”

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

2. “Sorry I won’t be able to call you during my next port visit, I have duty the entire time.”

3. “Of course I’m eating healthy, midrats is the healthiest meal of the day!”

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Photo: U.S. Navy

4. “With the hours I work, I have no desire to stay out late.”

5. “Yes, I am spending my money wisely.”

6. “No, I never drink during port visits.”

7. “I spent my entire Hong Kong port visit sightseeing.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Honor Guard makes paratrooper’s final request come true

A former Army paratrooper’s final request to be buried with military honors alongside other veterans was carried out by a New York Army National Guard honor guard on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, at Calverton National Cemetery.

Needham Mayes, the New York City resident who was buried, was one of the first African-American soldiers to join the 82nd Airborne Division in 1953. But he left the Army with a dishonorable discharge in 1956 after a fight in a Non-Commissioned Officers Club.

In 2016 — after a lifetime of accomplishment and community service — he began the process of having that dishonorable discharge changed. His lawyers argued that in a Southern Army post, just a few years after the Army had integrated, black soldiers were often treated unfairly.


With an assist from New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand, Mayes appeal came through in September 2019. When he died on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2019, he was finally a veteran and eligible to be buried with other soldiers.

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Sgt. Kemval Samll, and other members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard stand at attention during the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

That duty fell to the Long Island team of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard. The Army National Guard soldiers provide funeral services for around 2,400 New York City and Long Island veterans annually at the Calverton National Cemetery.

Any soldier who served honorably is entitled to basic military funeral services at their death. Statewide, New York Army National Guard funeral honors teams conduct an average of 9,000 services.

On Dec. 2, the Long Island National Guard soldiers dispatched 11 members to honor Mayes’s last request.

The Honor Guard members treat every military funeral as a significant event, because that service is important to that family, said 1st. Lt. Lasheri Mayes, the Officer in Charge of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard.

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Members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard provide military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

But the story of Mr. Mayes “was unique,” and because his family had fought hard to get him the honors he deserved that made the ceremony particularly important, Lt. Mayes said.

Mayes’s funeral was held as a storm moved into the northeast, and while there was no snow on Long Island, the weather was cold and windy.

The Honor Guard soldiers conducted a picture-perfect ceremony despite the bad weather, Lt. Mayes said.

Sgt. Richard Blount, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the mission, assembled a great team, she added.

It was “a tremendous honor” for his soldiers to conduct the mission for the Mayes family, Blount said.

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New York Army National Guard Sgt. Richard Blount, the non-commissioned officer in charge of a New York Military Forces Honor Guard team, salutes while overseeing military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

“I was proud to see the team that I put together all join in celebrating his life, and being a member of this memorable event for the family,” he said.

According to the New York Times, Mayes Army career went awry in 1955 when he was invited to a meal at the Fort Bragg Non-Commissioned Officers Club.

Pvt. 1st Class Mayes got in a scuffle at the Non-Commissioned Officers Club at Fort Bragg. At some point, a gun — carried by another soldier according to a story in the New York Times — fell on the floor, went off, and a man was shot.

Mayes reportedly confessed to grabbing for the gun. He was sentenced to a year at hard labor and received a dishonorable discharge.

After leaving the Army, Mayes moved to New York City and became an exemplary citizen.

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Members of the New York Military Forces Honor Guard provide military honors for the funeral service of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

He earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree and became a social worker and a therapist. He raised three daughters and worked for groups fighting drug abuse and promoting mental health awareness and advocated for young black men.

But for Mayes, his dishonorable discharge always bothered him; his family members told the New York Times.

In 2016, as his health started to decline, according to the New York Times, he hired a lawyer to get his discharge upgraded so he could be buried as a veteran.

Initially, the request was denied, but this year New York Senator Kristin Gillibrand began advocating for Mayes.

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

New York Army National Guard 1st LT Mayes, Lasheri Mayes, Honor Guard officer in charge, presents the colors from the casket of former Army paratrooper Pvt. Needham Mayes to Maye’s grandson Earl Chadwick Jr at Calverton National Cemetery, N.Y., Dec. 2, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Pietrantoni)

Also, another former soldier who was involved in the fight for so many years urged that Mayes’s dishonorable discharge be changed.

“Being a person of color, I could never imagine what my predecessors went through, “Blount said. “What happened to Mr. Mayes was not right.”

“But it made me that much more proud of the accomplishments and the goals the military has made to move more in a positive direction — a place where we can be unified on all fronts,” Blount added.

“I am thankful every day for those that paved the way for myself and others to be the best soldiers and leaders that we can be,” he said.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This Netflix show depicts veterans surprisingly well

The popular Netflix show Love, Death & Robots lacks an Oxford comma in the title and gets some details of military service wrong (really wish people would stop having Marines call each other soldier), so you would think a former military journalist would spend the whole time nitpicking it. But it actually portrays vets so well as a whole, that that’s what you walk away thinking about.


Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

Soviet soldiers even get an episode.

(Netflix’s Love, Death Robots)

To understand what’s going on here, you need to understand that the series is an anthology, mostly of science fiction stories but with some entries that would more neatly be classified as fantasy. Most of them are animated, and one of the live-action episodes stars Topher Grace, so you’re going to be rooting for the animated portions.

None of the stories directly feed into each other, and the animation styles are all over the place, but the stories that touch on military service are surprisingly good and come at military service with a real understanding of veterans and military lifestyle. The show isn’t about the military, by the way, but about four of the episodes in it are.

(Note, we’re going to avoid spoiling the ends of any of the stories here, but there are spoilers for the starts and second acts of multiple episodes after this disclaimer, like, literally in the next paragraph. If you want to watch the series and you want to see each episode completely fresh, click away.)

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

The mercenaries continue to make fun of each other even as a centuries-old evil hunts them. Anyone who has patrolled with combat arms soldiers will know this is realistic.

(Netflix’s Love, Death Robots)

Take the episode where Marines are bolstered by werewolves. The werewolves are part military working dog, part racially disparaged service members. A lot of the conflict comes from the tension between humans and werewolves, but the moments of bonding come when the Marines lose men and wolves to a Taliban attack and bond together because, regardless of blood, you do not mess with Marines.

Or there’s the story of accidentally freeing Dracula from a centuries-long imprisonment. At least one of the mercenaries guarding the archaeologists is a veteran. Likely, all three of them are. They make fun of the academics and each other, came to the fight well-prepared for conventional attacks, and quickly improvise while fighting Dracula. And no matter how dark their mission gets, they still work through it with a dark, dark sense of humor.

In episode Lucky Number 13, a dropship pilot bonds with an “unlucky” ship that, when treated right, saves the lives of the pilot, the co-pilot, and the Marines who ride aboard her. As the dropship performs better and better, the Marines love her more and more, and protect her as fiercely as she protects them.

Step inside a 30-ton Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicle built to battle onto enemy beaches

Marines casually discuss just how haunted their dropship is as they fly into a hot LZ. “We’re gonna die, right?” “Probably.”

(Netflix’s Love, Death Robots)

As mentioned at the top, the series isn’t perfect. The werewolves are offended when senior Marines keep saying they aren’t “real soldiers.” Some of the tactics are sloppy, some of the discipline is nonsense.

But, as a whole, the writers clearly treated their military characters as full humans, worthy of a deep and real look at what fuels them, what lines they would and would not cross, and what motives may have driven them to cross otherwise uncrossable lines.

Even Soviet troops get a deep and respectful depiction as they brave frozen forests in hunt of an ancient evil summoned by the governments past mistakes. Again, there are great moments of dark humor and familiarity with death that are great.

If you have Netflix, there’s a 90 percent chance the service has already suggested the series for you, so just click on it if you want to see what we’re talking about. Just search “Love, Death…” if, somehow, it’s not in your suggested content. It’ll come up quick.

If you don’t have Netflix, well, make your own decisions. The episodes are short, so you can easily binge it in a day. You probably don’t want to buy a month-long subscription for a one-day series.

Articles

An FBI translator married the ISIS terrorist she was investigating

Rogue FBI translator Daniela Greene stole off to Syria and married the Islamic State terrorist she was supposed to investigate.


Federal records state that Greene, who had a top secret security clearance, lied to the FBI about her reason for traveling to Syria. She also told her ISIS husband he was under investigation, CNN reports.

The man’s name is Denis Cuspert. He started off as a German rapper and eventually moved to Syria to join the Islamic State, adopting the name Abu Talha al-Almani.

Greene joined him in Syria but quickly realized she had made a terrible mistake and fled back to the U.S. It’s not clear how she traveled into Syria or how she managed to escape from deep inside the country.

John Kirby, a former State Department official under the Obama administration, told CNN that in order to enter ISIS territory in Syria, Greene likely would’ve needed the authorization of top ISIS leaders, as ordinary people risk “getting their heads cut off.”

She was immediately arrested upon returning to the U.S., at which point she served two years in prison and was released the summer of 2016.

Since she no longer works at the FBI, she’s taken a job as a hostess at a hotel lounge.

Her story has never been told until now.

The trouble began when she was assigned to monitor Cuspert due to her fluency in German. Cuspert had converted to Islam in 2010 and ended up in Egypt and Libya in 2012.

In 2013, he made the jump to Syria and later appeared in a 2014 video in which he pledged allegiance to ISIS .

Although it’s unclear how the relationship between Greene and Cuspert formed, Greene completed an FBI travel authorization form, saying she was traveling to Munich for vacation. Instead, she flew to Istanbul, Turkey, and went to a city close to the Syrian border, at which point a third party brought her over the border.

She then married Cuspert.

Before she left Syria, she told an unidentified person in the U.S. what a horrible mistake she had made.

“Not sure if they told you that I will probably go to prison for a long time if I come back, but that is life. I wish I could turn back time some days,” she wrote on July 22, 2014, to the unidentified person.

The Pentagon thought it had killed Cuspert in an airstrike in October 2015, but Cuspert in fact survived.

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