Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

It wouldn’t do much good for a wounded World War I veteran trying to reintegrate into society to have a passersby gasp in shock and horror every time they saw him. The town of Sidcup in England attempted to ameliorate this shocked, audible response by attempting to warn the locals about the tenants of a nearby soldiers hospital.

Seeing a man on a blue bench when all the other benches in town were a different color warned the locals the image of a man sitting on it might come as a shock – and the veterans were grateful.

WARNING: Some of these images might be disturbing to even modern eyes.


Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

A World War I veteran who was treated at Sidcup

World War I was an entirely different kind of warfare than the world had ever known previously. With that new, modern, and mechanized destruction, came new wounds and scars that would mark its veterans forever. Few in any military had ever seen anything like the gruesome scars of war left on World War I vets, so it’s safe to say that few civilians had either.

The Great War was packed with horrifyingly disfiguring weapons similar to wars past. Bullets are nothing new, neither was shrapnel. But the new weapons of war were able to unload hundreds of bullets in a minute and fire high explosives and poison gas from places the soldiers on the ground couldn’t even see. Soldiers on both sides suffered disfigurement at an astonishing rate. For the lucky ones who survived, that meant coming home to a population that wasn’t entirely prepared to see the horrors of the war.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

The effects of the earliest plastic surgery on World War I veterans, this work done in London.

Sidcup, England had a hospital devoted to such soldiers. The hospital held hundreds of troops whose facial features were an object of terror to the unprepared. The benches of Sidcup were a warning to passersby that a veteran sitting on the bench might be disfigured, and it’s best not to stare. While this may seem offensive to us these days, for veterans who suffered from these afflictions, it was a blessing. Sidcup became the one place in the world where wounded, disfigured vets could walk around without the gasps and cries found everywhere else.

More than that, such hospitals featured pioneering medical techniques to attempt to mitigate the physical damage and return some kind of normalcy to the subject. World War I veterans were essentially the world’s first plastic surgery recipients. For those who couldn’t get that kind of work done, masks were an option – a painted replica of an unwounded face, covering the wounds of war that marked their daily lives.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

Masks for WWI-era wounded soldiers were usually specially designed for the individual, created for the subject’s unique injury or war wound, and then painted one by one to ensure the look and fit of the mask matched the person wearing it. There are many occasions where (albeit in black and white photos) it’s hard to distinguish the masked face from what might be the soldier’s undamaged face.

They were remarkably accurate and allowed the soldiers a degree of freedom, walking around without the horrors of war written upon their faces.

Intel

SEAL Team Six alum on mission to find Bergdahl wants justice for lost dog

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
A Navy military working dog handler trains his partner. Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson


A former member of SEAL Team Six and military working dog handler wants Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, infamous for allegedly walking away from his post in Afghanistan in 2009, held accountable for his actions.

James Hatch was on a failed mission against Taliban insurgents in 2009 that he maintains was designed to rescue Bergdahl. The DEVGRU SEAL sustained a career-ending injury when his femur was shattered by an enemy round. Remco, a Belgian Malinois assigned to another Navy dog handler on the mission, was killed while assaulting two insurgents to protect Hatch and others.

See the whole story, and Hatch’s reaction to Bergdahl being called for trial, at Stars and Stripes.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel releases details of documents captured in a spy raid in Iran

Israel has revealed new details of how its spy agency smuggled out nuclear documents from Iran in early 2018, although the material does not appear to provide evidence that Iran failed to fulfill its commitments under the 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers.


The information reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post on July 15, 2018, shed more light on the Mossad operation in January 2018 but offered few other details beyond what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed in April 2018 when he announced the results of the raid.

Netanyahu claimed Israeli intelligence seized 55,000 pages of documents and 183 CDs on Iran’s disputed nuclear program dating back to 2003. Iran maintains the entire collection is fraudulent.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

President Donald Trump

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

After his announcement in late April 2018, the Israeli leader gave U.S. President Donald Trump a briefing at the White House and argued it was another reason Trump should abandon the 2015 nuclear deal.

In May 2018, Trump withdrew from the deal.

Tehran has always claimed its nuclear program was only for peaceful purposes.

The New York Times reported on July 15, 2018, that Mossad agents had six hours and 29 minutes to break into a nuclear facility in the Iranian capital, Tehran, before the guards arrived in the morning.

In that time, they infiltrated the facility, disabled alarms, and unlocked safes to extract the secret documents before leaving undetected.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

4 times Iran’s navy got beat down in the Persian Gulf

The Iranian Navy sure does talk a big game for the sheer number of times it got slapped around in its home waters. When Iranian sailors captured U.S. Navy sailors in 2016, the usual response would have been a short, potent facepunch from a nearby carrier group. When President Obama opted not to slap them around, what should have seemed like a close call instead appears to have artificially inflated some Iranian egos, because traditionally, Iran is not good at Navy things.

Iran has been hit or miss on the water (usually miss) since they lost to the outnumbered Greeks at Salamis in 480 BC. Its biggest naval win came against Iraq on Sept. 28, 1980, a day they still celebrate as “Navy Day” because no other engagement would qualify. Ever since, Iran has been threatening anyone within earshot with its aging, rusted patchwork of garbage scows it calls a navy.


Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran, 1941

During World War II, the Allied powers thought neutral Iran was more likely to aid the Axis powers than the allies when push came to shove. Since Iran’s rich oil fields were not something anyone wanted in Hitler’s hands, the Soviets and the British Empire invaded Iran in August 1941. The British Commonwealth ships steamed into Abadan Harbor and promptly lit up the Iranian fleet, killing its leadership and deposing the Shah. The two allied powers then divided the country between them.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

Operation Prime Chance 1987

After Iran crippled the Iraqi Navy during the early days of the Iran-Iraq War, the Iranians pretty much had free rein to wreak as much havoc as they wanted on Iraqi shipping – even if those ships weren’t flagged as Iraqi. The Iranians began targeting tankers and container ships flagged as neutral countries in an effort to choke Iraq into submission. Pretty soon, other countries were reflagging their ships as American, both to deter the Iranians from attacking or laying mines and benefitting from U.S. protection.

The Iranians did not stop mining the Gulf, so the United States began setting up oil platforms as maritime staging areas for special operations missions. Operating from these bases, the Navy took down a number of Iranian minelayers while protecting international shipping lanes.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

Operation Nimble Archer, 1987

U.S. forces attacked and burned Iranian oil platforms after Iran fired a missile at a Kuwaiti tanker, hitting it and wounding dozens of sailors. The Navy determined the attack came from an otherwise-unoccupied oil platform, which they next surrounded, boarded, and destroyed – using both Navy SEALs and accurate fire from four destroyers as well as aircraft.

The special operators who boarded the platforms also seized valuable classified intel, as the platforms were controlled by the Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
PRAYING MANTIS

Operation Praying Mantis, 1988

In 1988, it wasn’t a flagged merchant who hit an Iranian-laid mine. This time it was a US Navy ship, the USS Samuel B. Roberts. Unfortunately for Iran, Ronald Reagan was still President, and the USS Enterprise carrier group was in the area. An entire battalion of United States Marines assaulted an oil platform being used to stage Iranian attacks in the Gulf. When the platform tried to fire on the Americans, they were punished for the effort from US Navy destroyers and Cobra helicopters.

The Iranians responded by sending an Iranian missile boat, the Joshan, straight at the U.S. fleet. When Joshan missed that shot, the American fleets overwhelmed the ship with missiles and guns, sending her to the bottom. Meanwhile, Iranian aircraft and destroyers joined the fray, one destroyer was sunk the other was heavily damaged, and the Iranian fighters were no match for US Navy A-6 Intruders.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Meet the Irish American battalion that en masse defected to Mexico

A bit of far off Irish-American-Mexican history brings to light a lesser-known chapter of Irish military service – the time that 265 Irish service members defected.

Some called them heroes; others called them traitors. The Irish immigrants who joined the Army in the 1840s decided when the war broke out between the US and Mexico that they wanted none of it.


Right after the US annexed Texas in 1845, both Mexico and America sent military members to the newly created and shared border.

1845 America was a tumultuous place – Florida was admitted as a state, the Great Fire of Pittsburg destroyed much of the city, and Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, was published.

Thoreau embarked on his two-year experiment to live in the woods at Walden Pond, a huge fire destroyed lots of New York, and the US Naval Academy officially opened its doors. Johnny Appleseed died in 1845, and Edmonia Lewis died.

A lot was going on, no more so evident than within the US Army. In 1845, the Army was a hodgepodge of service personnel, with diverse backgrounds, much like it is today. Service members were from all over the world, especially from western European countries, all of which had distinct and robust Catholic population groups. Many immigrant service members were blatantly disrespected and discriminated against by “native-born Americans,” which led to widespread unrest and low morale. Adding to that was most of the immigrant soldiers were Catholic, outliers in the very protestant America of the time.

So back to the Irish battalion. No one is quite sure exactly how it happened. Still, most historians agree that the widespread abuse of immigrant personnel coupled with the very low troop commitment levels led to a huge percentage of the Army feeling invisible, disenfranchised, and without appropriate ways to voice their frustrations.

Much of the American public felt that the annexation of Texas was useless – an expansionist war was nothing the young country needed. One of the most vocal about the uselessness of the expansion was Abraham Lincoln, who was quoted as not surprised that the Army saw so many deserters during this time.

While the Army was struggling to hold rank, the Mexican military saw an opportunity to infiltrate and spread propaganda, which is exactly what they did.

Several Mexican Army generals sent messages targeted toward immigrant personnel stationed at the Texas border. These messages crossed the Rio Grande River. All held one core focus – that immigrant service members should abandon their American Army posts and join their Catholic brothers in arms in the Mexican military. The messages offered Mexican citizenship and huge land grants – as much as 320 acres for privates.

More than 5,000 US soldiers would desert their posts throughout the war, and more than 40,000 simply disappeared in Mexico.

The Irish defectors were known as the St. Patrick’s Battalion, and their Mexican brothers-in-arms called them “The Red Company” because so many of them had red hair and ruddy complexions.

The battalion’s flag showed a winged harp, three-leaf clovers, and the motto, “Irish till the end of time,” written in Gaelic. The battalion fought alongside the Mexican Army as part of a rolling rearguard that worked to defend against as the US military advanced further into Mexico.

In the final days of the final battle, over 60 deserters were captured, and fifty of them were executed. The Mexican Army pleaded for mercy and leniency, but only a handful of the Irish deserters were actually pardoned.

But, of those who were pardoned, it wasn’t as easy as just walking away. The men had to receive 50 lashes on their backs while being tied to trees in the plaza at Churubusco, and their faces were branded with “D” for deserter. To this day, the Irish battalion is honored every year in festivals throughout Mexico and Ireland.

Articles

This is the real Sgt. Pepper from the Beatles album cover

Long story short, the 20th Century’s most widely-known British non-commissioned officer was real. Only his name wasn’t Pepper, it was Babington. And he was a Lieutenant General.


Paul McCartney chose the image of Gen. Sir James Melville Babington as the real-life visage of the fictional Sgt. Pepper for the Beatles 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. For most people, being on a Beatles album would be the highlight of their life. Not so for one of the British Empire’s decorated officers.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Ringo was just happy to be there.

The Scottish-born Babington came up in the ranks of the British Imperial military through the Boer War of the 19th century, spending decades fighting insurgencies against the Dutch descended residents of the southern tip of Africa. He scored a number of decisive wins there, becoming a feared opponent of the rebels. He left just before the end of the war, which went just about as well as you think it might when a bunch of farmers take on the largest empire on earth.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Sorry, fellas. There’s only one America.

After laying the smack down on the Boers in South Africa, he did a brief stint in England before being transferred to take command of the New Zealand Defence Force in 1902. After five years, he was sent back to London, where he stayed until World War I broke out.

From there, he took command of the British 23rd Division under the New Army. Described as “elderly but fearless” he spent a lot of effort and Crown funds on outfitting his men, unlike many other commanders. As a result, his men loved him and fought so hard at legendary WWI battles like the Somme and Ypres. He also led men along the fronts that aren’t as talked about in history books, like Italy and the Asiago Plateau.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Just Sgt. Pepper, doing Sgt. Pepper things.

When he retired, he was Lieutenant General Sir James Melville Babington KCB, KCMG, commander of British Forces in Italy. He died in 1936, and would never know that his face finally achieved worldwide fame, probably even in South Africa.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Strait of Hormuz is so important, in just 10 minutes

There’s a single waterway in the world that pops up in the news every year or so and, right now, is popping up every week or more: The Strait of Hormuz. When I was deployed with Army Central, we received a brief from senior leaders that was all about the importance of this single strip of water. If you’re still a little fuzzy on how Iran can pressure the rest of the world through such a small bit of water, here’s a great primer.


Why the US and Iran are fighting over this tiny waterway

www.youtube.com

The video above is from Vox. We’re going to highlight some details below, but you can understand the broad strokes just by watching that for 9.5 minutes.

The most important thing to understand is that one of the things that makes the strait so important is how small it is. There simply isn’t another economical way to ship most of the oil out of the gulf region, and the strait is so small that even a small navy like Iran’s can inflict serious pain.

It’s sort of like the “Hot Gates” from the story of the Spartans at Thermopylae. But America is Xerxes and Iran gets to play King Leonidas.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

A map shows the network of oil pipelines that carries gas and oil from Russia to the rest of Europe.

(Samuel Bailey, CC BY 3.0)

And oil is, even more than most other commodities, a resource that is extremely price sensitive and the markets are so fluid (no pun intended) that reducing supply anywhere increases price everywhere. Oil coming through the strait is destined for markets around the world, especially the Pacific and Europe.

So, take Europe for a moment. Now, it can get oil from a lot of places. Rigs in the North Sea provide plenty of energy, and pipelines from Russia pump fuel as far west as Germany, Italy, and even England. But all of those markets count on the Russian oil, the North Sea oil, and oil from the Strait of Hormuz. If the oil from the gulf is threatened in the strait, then buyers start competing harder for Russian and North Sea oil and that drives up prices quickly.

And that drives up the price of everything. Petroleum drives cars, heating oil warms homes, lubricants are needed for everything from vehicles to ice cream makers to door hinges. An interruption of oil in the strait threatens 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, making everything more expensive and risking thousands of homes going cold.

But why is Iran willing to do this? After all, they are risking a new war by attacking tankers flagged by gulf and European countries.

Well, Iran needs sanctions relief, and right now that’s primarily a problem between them and the U.S. Sure, Europe has a longer trading relationship with Iran, and it has protested losing access to Iranian markets and oil during periods of American-led sanctions. But Europe has proven time and again that in a power struggle between the U.S. and Iran, Europe is willing to step aside.

Targeting oil in the strait allows Iran to spread the pain to other countries. Europe is forced off the sidelines as its access to energy markets is thrown into disarray. China, India, Japan, and South Korea are all top-five oil importers, and America—at number two—is the final member of the big 5. All of them feel the crunch when oil prices climb.

But there’s, obviously, a big risk for Iran. While China and Russia might side with Iran if only to counter American power, the rest of the world could easily decide that it’s easier to back the U.S. in a power play against Iran than to endure Iranian agitation.

Lists

18 terms only soldiers will understand

Soldier lingo has a tendency to reference things that only exist in the Army. Here are some terms outsiders probably don’t know.

1. Private News Network: The rumor mill or soldier gossip.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Smith


2. Grab some real estate: This is a command to get on the ground and start exercising, usually with pushups. It’s issued as a punishment for a minor infraction. The command can also be stated as, “beat your face.”

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Army by Markus Rauchenberger

3. LEG/NAP: Acronyms for any soldier who is not trained to parachute from airplanes. LEG, or low-entry ground soldier, is considered offensive. Non-airborne personnel, or NAP, is the accepted term. Most NAP are quick to point out that airborne soldiers, once they reach the ground, are little different from their peers.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Army Spc. Karen Kozub

4. Fister: An artillery observer. The term refers to the soldier being part of the Fire Support Team, or FiST. These soldiers direct cannon fire. The symbol of the observers is a fist clutching a lightning bolt.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. DeNoris A. Mickle

5. Beat feet: To move from your current location quickly.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Army Sgt. Joseph Guenther

6. Don’t get wrapped around the axle: Refers to how vehicles can be halted or destroyed when something, like wire, wraps around the axle. It means a soldier needs to steer clear of the little problems and move on to the real issues.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Army Spc. Daniel Herrera

7. Azimuth check: Azimuth checks are a procedure in land navigation when a soldier makes sure they haven’t wandered off course. Outside of patrols or land navigation courses, azimuth check means to stop and make sure the current task is being done right.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Army

8. “Acquired” gear: Equipment that may have been, but probably wasn’t, obtained through proper channels.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Navy HMC Josh Ives

9. Good Idea Fairy: Like the tooth fairy, except it creates work for junior soldiers. It suggests to officers and sergeants that they should grab the closest soldiers and make them do something like build new shelves, clean out a storage unit, or mow grass with office scissors.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: Robert K. Baker

10. Why the sky is blue: Soldiers, even the noncombat ones, are trained starting in basic training that the sky is not blue because air particles transmit blue light. It’s blue because infantry soldiers are denoted by blue cords, discs, and badges, and God loves the infantry.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: John Rives, Wikimedia Commons

11. Fourth point of contact: A butt. In Airborne Training, future paratroopers are trained to fall through five points of contact. First, they hit the balls of their feet, then they roll across the ground on their calf muscle, thigh, buttocks, and finally torso.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Army Spc. Michael MacLeod

12. Come up on the net: Communicate with your unit what is going on with your personal life or the mission.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

13. Joes: Slang term for soldiers, usually referring to the junior enlisted personnel. Can also be used as “Private Joe Snuffy” to refer to a single soldier generically.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua

14. PX Ranger: A soldier who has a lot of unnecessary gear that they bought for themselves from a post exchange or other shop.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Army Spc. Elisha Dawkins

15. CAB Chaser: Noncombat soldiers who try to get into a minor engagement to earn a combat action badge. They generally do this by volunteering for patrols and convoys where they aren’t needed.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Army Sgt. Russell Gilchrest

16. Beat your boots: A physical exercise. A soldier stands with their legs shoulder-width apart, hands on hips. They then lower at the waist, hit their boots or shoes with their hands, return to the start position, and repeat. Generally used for punishing minor infractions.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Military Academy by Mike Strasser

17. Dash ten: The user manual. Army publications are all assigned a number. Technical manuals, the closest thing to a civilian user/owner manual, are usually assigned a number that ends in “-10.”

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Army

18. Sham shield: Derogatory name for the rank of specialist. Specialists are expected to shirk some duties and the symbol for a specialist is shaped like a small shield.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
Photo: US Army

Articles

China may be training to overtake Japan-administered islands

Concern is rising in Japan that the Chinese military may be training for a future mission in the disputed Senkaku Islands, where Beijing has been dispatching coast guard ships at increasing frequency in recent years.

Quoting the Pentagon’s 2017 survey of the Chinese military, Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported June 8 the People’s Liberation Army could be training for a raid of outlying areas, including the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, also claimed by China and Taiwan.


In a section on China’s amphibious capabilities, the report from the U.S. Department of Defense states the “PLA Army focuses its amphibious efforts on a Taiwan invasion while the PLA Navy Marine Corps focuses on small island seizures in the South China Sea, with a potential emerging mission in the Senkakus.”

The Japanese military also may be concerned that, according to the report, China’s PLA Navy Marine Corps brigades conducted “battalion-level amphibious training at their respective training areas in Guangdong,” or the Southern Theater.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) transit the Philippine Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers)

“The training focused on swimming amphibious armored vehicles from sea to shore, small boat assault and deployment of special forces by helicopter,” the report states.

In May, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported China’s Navy Marine Corps is in the process of building a 100,000-strong military unit.

The Pentagon report states China has used “coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims.”

Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty applies to the Senkakus, and the United States is obligated to defend the islands if they come under attack.

In May, four Chinese coast guard ships entered Japanese territorial waters near Okinawa and the Senkaku Islands and in 2016, more than 100 Chinese ships trespassed into Japan’s territorial waters, the second-largest annual number of Chinese ships entering disputed areas since Japan announced the nationalization of the Senkakus in September 2012.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans finding connection through social and physical activities

Did you know that there are 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans nationwide, and that 250,000 more service members will leave active duty this year to join them? These veterans often face isolation, lack of physical fitness, and a lack of purpose in a world that doesn’t understand the military.

Team Red, White & Blue‘s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Utilizing a nationwide network of chapters, Team RWB hosts and participates in events designed to bring veterans together and engage in the communities where they live and work.

Whether it’s workouts, races, social activities or community service projects, Team RWB members, also known as Eagles, support each other through shared values and experiences; there’s probably an RWB chapter near you.


Joining Team RWB is easy

Visit the Team RWB homepage to sign up. New members also receive a free Team RWB Nike t-shirt ( shipping and handling charge). New eagles are also quickly connected to their local chapter to learn about upcoming local activities. More than 160K veterans, their families, and non-military supporters have already joined Team RWB.

This is Us – Team RWB

www.youtube.com

Team Red, White Blue is a nonprofit founded by veterans working to solve the epidemic of loneliness through physical activity. Team RWB is the bridge connecting communities where veterans and civilians work together to gain common understanding.

Team RWB takes the best of military service–the camaraderie and physical challenges–and creates a new family of Eagles connected through physical activity.

“Staying active both physically and socially is key for a lot of veterans, especially those who have been wounded, ill or injured,” said Tampa VAMC Chief of Recreation and U.S. Army veteran Geoff Hopkins. “It’s very important for those veterans with ‘invisible wounds,’ such as PTSD, to engage in activities in the community, to draw them out of their dark places and get them interacting with others.”

Take the 1776 Challenge

Independence Day is for celebrating our nation’s freedom. This summer, Team Red, White Blue will showcase their commitment to the men and women who have fought for our freedom with the 1776 Challenge.

Team RWB invites you to join all Team RWB Eagles across the nation. Whether you do it with someone else or weave it into your workout, you will know that thousands of others will be taking on that day’s unique challenge with you! Dedicate your hard work and sweat to celebrate our nation’s veterans and their commitment to this great nation. Every time you “check in,” you will be entered into a chance to win prizes!

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

To understand Chinese expansionism, look to the Opium Wars

In 1839, England went to war with China because it was upset that Chinese officials had shut down its drug trafficking racket and confiscated its dope.


Stating the historical record so plainly is shocking — but it’s true, and the consequences of that act are still being felt today.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
British iron steamship ‘Nemesis’ destroys a Chinese junk at the Second Battle of Chuenpi. | Edward Duncan painting

The Qing Dynasty, founded by Manchurian clans in 1644, expanded China’s borders to their farthest reach, conquering Tibet, Taiwan and the Uighur Empire. However, the Qing then turned inward and isolationist, refusing to accept Western ambassadors because they were unwilling to proclaim the Qing Dynasty as supreme above their own heads of state.

Foreigners — even on trade ships — were prohibited entry into Chinese territory.

The exception to the rule was in Canton, the southeastern region centered on modern-day Guangdong Province, which adjoins Hong Kong and Macao. Foreigners were allowed to trade in the Thirteen Factories district in the city of Guangzhou, with payments made exclusively in silver.

The British gave the East India Company a monopoly on trade with China, and soon ships based in colonial India were vigorously exchanging silver for tea and porcelain. But the British had a limited supply of silver.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
European factories in Canton. | William Daniell painting

Opium war

Starting in in the mid-1700s, the British began trading opium grown in India in exchange for silver from Chinese merchants. Opium — an addictive drug that today is refined into heroin — was illegal in England, but was used in Chinese traditional medicine.

However, recreational use was illegal and not widespread. That changed as the British began shipping in tons of the drug using a combination of commercial loopholes and outright smuggling to get around the ban.

Chinese officials taking their own cut abetted the practice. American ships carrying Turkish-grown opium joined in the narcotics bonanza in the early 1800s. Consumption of opium in China skyrocketed, as did profits.

The Daoguang Emperor became alarmed by the millions of drug addicts — and the flow of silver leaving China. As is often the case, the actions of a stubborn idealist brought the conflict to a head. In 1839 the newly appointed Imperial Commissioner Lin Zexu instituted laws banning opium throughout China.

He arrested 1,700 dealers, and seized the crates of the drug already in Chinese harbors and even on ships at sea. He then had them all destroyed. That amounted to 2.6 million pounds of opium thrown into the ocean. Lin even wrote a poem apologizing to the sea gods for the pollution.

Angry British traders got the British government to promise compensation for the lost drugs, but the treasury couldn’t afford it. War would resolve the debt.

But the first shots were fired when the Chinese objected to the British attacking one of their own merchant ships.

Chinese authorities had indicated they would allow trade to resume in non-opium goods. Lin Zexu even sent a letter to Queen Victoria pointing out that as England had a ban on the opium trade, they were justified in instituting one too.

It never reached her, but eventually did appear in the Sunday Times.

Instead, the Royal Navy established a blockade around Pearl Bay to protest the restriction of free trade … in drugs. Two British ships carrying cotton sought to run the blockade in November 1839. When the Royal Navy fired a warning shot at the second, The Royal Saxon, the Chinese sent a squadron of war junks and fire-rafts to escort the merchant.

HMS Volage‘s Captain, unwilling to tolerate the Chinese “intimidation,” fired a broadside at the Chinese ships. HMS Hyacinth joined in. One of the Chinese ships exploded and three more were sunk. Their return fire wounded one British sailor.

Seven months later, a full-scale expeditionary force of 44 British ships launched an invasion of Canton. The British had steam ships, heavy cannon, Congreve rockets and infantry equipped with rifles capable of accurate long range fire. Chinese state troops — “bannermen” — were still equipped with matchlocks accurate only up to 50 yards and a rate of fire of one round per minute.

Antiquated Chinese warships were swiftly destroyed by the Royal Navy. British ships sailed up the Zhujiang and Yangtze rivers, occupying Shanghai along the way and seizing tax-collection barges, strangling the Qing government’s finances. Chinese armies suffered defeat after defeat.

When the Qing sued for peace in 1842, the British could set their own terms. The Treaty of Nanjing stipulated that Hong Kong would become a British territory, and that China would be forced to establish five treaty ports in which British traders could trade anything they wanted with anybody they wanted to. A later treaty forced the Chinese to formally recognize the British as equals and grant their traders favored status.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
An 1858 drawing by Thomas Allom from ‘The Chinese Empire Illustrated’

More war, more opium

Imperialism was on the upswing by the mid-1800s. France muscled into the treaty port business as well in 1843. The British soon wanted even more concessions from China — unrestricted trade at any port, embassies in Beijing and an end to bans on selling opium in the Chinese mainland.

One tactic the British used to further their influence was registering the ships of Chinese traders they dealt with as British ships.

The pretext for the second Opium War is comical in its absurdity. In October 1856, Chinese authorities seized a former pirate ship, the Arrow, with a Chinese crew and with an expired British registration. The captain told British authorities that the Chinese police had taken down the flag of a British ship.

The British demanded the Chinese governor release the crew. When only nine of the 14 returned, the British began a bombardment of the Chinese forts around Canton and eventually blasted open the city walls.

British Liberals, under William Gladstone, were upset at the rapid escalation and protested fighting a new war for the sake of the opium trade in parliament. However, they lost seats in an election to the Tories under Lord Palmerston. He secured the support needed to prosecute the war.

China was in no position to fight back, as it was then embroiled in the devastating Taiping Rebellion, a peasant uprising led by a failed civil-service examinee claiming to be the brother of Jesus Christ. The rebels had nearly seized Beijing and still controlled much of the country.

Once again, the Royal Navy demolished its Chinese opponents, sinking 23 junks in the opening engagement near Hong Kong and seizing Guangzhou. Over the next three years, British ships worked their way up the river, capturing several Chinese forts through a combination of naval bombardment and amphibious assault.

France joined in the war — its excuse was the execution of a French missionary who had defied the ban on foreigners in Guangxi province. Even the United States became briefly involved after a Chinese fort took pot shots at long distance at an American ship.

In the Battle of the Pearl River Forts, a U.S. Navy a force of three ships and 287 sailors and marines took four forts by storm, capturing 176 cannons and fighting off a counterattack of 3,000 Chinese infantry. The United States remained officially neutral.

Russia did not join in the fighting, but used the war to pressure China into ceding a large chunk of its northeastern territory, including the present-day city of Vladivostok.

When foreign envoys drew up the next treaty in 1858 the terms, were even more crushing to the Qing Dynasty’s authority. Ten more cities were designated as treaty ports, foreigners would have free access to the Yangtze river and the Chinese mainland, and Beijing would open embassies to England, France and Russia.

The Xianfeng Emperor at first agreed to the treaty, but then changed his mind, sending Mongolian general Sengge Rinchen to man the Taku Forts on the waterway leading to Beijing. The Chinese repelled a British attempt to take the forts by sea in June 1859, sinking four British ships. A year later, an overland assault by 11,000 British and 6,700 French troops succeeded.

When a British diplomatic mission came to insist on adherence to the treaty, the Chinese took the envoy hostage, and tortured many in the delegation to death. The British High Commissioner of Chinese Affairs, Lord Elgar, decided to assert dominance and sent the army into Beijing.

British and French rifles gunned down 10,000 charging Mongolian cavalrymen at the Battle of Eight Mile Bridge, leaving Beijing defenseless. Emperor Xianfeng fled. In order to wound the Emperor’s “pride as well as his feeling” in the words of Lord Elgar, British and French troops looted and destroyed the historic Summer Palace.

The new revised treaty imposed on China legalized both Christianity and opium, and added Tianjin — the major city close to Beijing — to the list of treaty ports. It allowed British ships to transport Chinese indentured laborers to the United States, and fined the Chinese government eight million silver dollars in indemnities.

The Western presence in China became so ubiquitous, and so widely detested, that an anti-Western popular revolt, the Boxer Rebellion, broke out in 1899. The hapless Qing Dynasty, under the stewardship of Dowager Empress Cixi, first tried to clamp down on the violence before throwing its support behind it — just in time for a multi-national military force of U.S., Russian, German, Austrian, Italian, French, Japanese and British troops to arrive and put down the rebellion.

It then spent an entire year looting Beijing, Tianjin and the surrounding countryside in reprisal.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches
The inside of a Taku River fort after its capture in August 1860. Felice Beato feature

‘Century of Humiliation’

It’s hard to over-emphasize the impact of the Opium Wars on modern China. Domestically, it’s led to the ultimate collapse of the centuries-old Qing Dynasty, and with it more than two millennia of dynastic rule. It convinced China that it had to modernize and industrialize.

Today, the First Opium War is taught in Chinese schools as being the beginning of the “Century of Humiliation” — the end of that “century” coming in 1949 with the reunification of China under Mao. While Americans are routinely assured they are exceptional and the greatest country on Earth by their politicians, Chinese schools teach students that their country was humiliated by greedy and technologically superior Western imperialists.

The Opium Wars made it clear China had fallen gravely behind the West — not just militarily, but economically and politically. Every Chinese government since — even the ill-fated Qing Dynasty, which began the “Self-Strengthening Movement” after the Second Opium War — has made modernization an explicit goal, citing the need to catch up with the West.

The Japanese, observing events in China, instituted the same discourse and modernized more rapidly than China did during the Meiji Restoration.

Mainland Chinese citizens still frequently measure China in comparison to Western countries. Economic and quality of life issues are by far their main concern. But state media also holds military parity as a goal.

I once saw a news program on Chinese public television boasting about China’s new aircraft carrier Liaoning — before comparing it to an American carrier. “They’re saying ours is still a lot smaller,” a high school student pointed out to me. “And we have only one.”

Through most of Chinese history, China’s main threat came from nomadic horse-riding tribes along its long northern border. Even in the Cold War, hostility with the Soviet Union made its Mongolian border a security hot spot. But the Opium Wars — and even worse, the Japanese invasion in 1937 — demonstrated how China was vulnerable to naval power along its Pacific coast.

China’s aggressive naval expansion in the South China Sea can be seen as the acts of a nation that has succumbed repeatedly to naval invasions — and wishes to claims dominance of its side of the Pacific in the 21st century.

The history with opium also has led China to adopt a particularly harsh anti-narcotics policy with the death penalty applicable even to mid-level traffickers. Drug-trafficking and organized crime remain a problem, however. The explosion of celebrity culture in China has also led to punitive crackdowns on those caught partaking in “decadent lifestyles,” leading to prominent campaigns of public shaming.

For example, in 2014 police arrested Jaycee Chan, son of Jackie Chan, for possessing 100 grams of marijuana. His father stated he wouldn’t plead for his son to avoid imprisonment.

Past history does not always determine future actions. Chinese sentiments toward the United Kingdom today are generally positive despite the Opium Wars. The escalating military confrontation over the South China Sea is a reality of our times, but that doesn’t mean China’s leaders will forever be committed to a strategy of expansion and confrontation.

Nonetheless, fostering better relations requires that we understand how China’s current foreign policy has it roots in past encounters with the West.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Former Army Ranger crushes world record for pullups in a day

When one pushes their body to its most extreme limit, they find that they are simultaneously pushing their mind and spirit. Few are more familiar with this feeling than Brandon Tucker — a U.S. Army Ranger veteran who climbed his way to becoming a squad leader in the 3rd Ranger Battalion. When he was medically discharged due to inflammatory bowel disease, his sense of purpose and drive was not deterred. He dove headfirst into the fitness and business world by managing Uncommon Athlete in Columbus, Georgia, while also serving as a personal trainer and fitness instructor there.

As a testament to his dedication to fitness, on Oct. 26, 2019, Tucker surpassed the world record for number of pullups in a day. The feat is currently undergoing the verification process with Guinness World Records. Tucker completed 7,715 pullups in the span of 24 hours, beating the previous record of 7,600 by a significant margin.


Coffee or Die recently spoke to Tucker about his achievement.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

Tucker served in D Co, 3/75 from 2011 to 2018.

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Tucker.)

“I was so glad to be done — I was having doubts when I had around 5,000 pullups because up to that point, I had only done 4,300 in my training. That took me 14 hours,” Tucker said. “Once I hit 5,000 on game day, I started having all these doubts. It was new ground — I didn’t know if I was going to hit a wall, hit a second wind … I wasn’t sure. My muscles were failing, my hands were blistered … it was painful, man. I had two pairs of gloves on, and I had on these leather cowhide pieces under those. My hands still felt like I had stuck them on a stovetop … But I just had to stay on course.”

Tucker said he repeated a mantra to himself for motivation: “Three pullups every 30 seconds. Three pullups every 30 seconds.” If he felt good, he would try for four every 30 seconds to create a buffer.

“Your body is amazing when you have the mind to work it and push it,” he said.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

In training, Tucker would do over 1,000 pull ups a day.

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Tucker.)

Tucker’s road to the pullup bar was not an easy one. Prior to being medically discharged, Tucker’s mother was killed in a car accident. This hit Tucker hard, but she remained a source of inspiration for him after her passing, just as she had been when she was alive.

“My mom saw so much potential in me, and I never really saw it myself. I used her faith in me to literally pull myself upward,” Tucker said. “We’re so quick to be victims of our circumstances. We naturally want to find all these excuses as to why we can’t do something, instead of just saying, ‘You know what? I’m just going to go do this.’ I’ve never trained for something like I trained for these pullups. I’ve never put this amount of discipline into training, recovery, all of that.”

On most training days, Tucker would do 1,000 pullups. He found himself truly understanding the value of recovery and discovered the need to be disciplined in that regard just as he was disciplined in every other area of his training.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

During the event, Tucker repeated the mantra “Three pullups every 30 seconds, three pullups every 30 seconds.”

(Photo by Matt McQuire Photo.)

Technically speaking, Tucker’s pullup record is still filed as an “attempt.” He is currently in the verification process with the Guiness Book of World Records, a process that is now past the submission stage and into the verification stage.

This is not a straightforward process; Guinness requires a host of verifications, witnesses, and documentation to qualify. Prior to the day of the event, Tucker’s mind had to be honed and focused on the training portion — he needed help with the logistics of the event itself.

This is where Tucker’s military family stepped in — particularly Mary Kubik, Gold Star sister of fallen Army Ranger Ronald Kubik (KIA April 2010). Not only did she help him find someone to set up the two verification cameras, coordinate the witnesses, and keep log sheets, she also helped him come up with a list of charities they felt were worthy of support.

Tucker’s GoFundMe donations will help support Rescue 22, Warrior Fortitude, Darby’s Warrior Support, Warrior Outreach Inc., Achilles International – Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, and Higher Ground USA.

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

“This is what I’m passionate about. It’s what I like to do.”

(Photo by Matt McQuire Photo.)

Three days before Tucker attempted to break the world record, he reached out to the previous world record holder, John Orth. Tucker had heard Orth on a podcast, and he had found it incredibly motivating. He wasn’t sure how Orth would take being contacted by the person trying to break his record, but Tucker sent him a message on Instagram anyway.

Not only was Orth receptive, but he was eager to give Tucker encouragement and some practical tips as well. At the time, Tucker was planning on moving forward with a single pair of gloves. Orth immediately told him to have 10 pairs of gloves and make sure they were kept dry.

“Had I not reached out to him, I probably would have failed,” Tucker said. “He’s an awesome guy, he was all about helping me.”

That spirit inspired a similar attitude in Tucker. “Now that I’ve done it, I’m not worried about someone breaking [the record],” he said. “I want someone to break it.”

Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

Tucker left the military as a Ranger squad leader.

(Photo courtesy of Brandon Tucker.)

When asked what his plans are after the verification process is complete, Tucker said he plans to continue focusing on his health and fitness.

“I am sick,” Tucker said. “I do have this disease that I get treated for every eight weeks. I struggled after I got out [of the Army], but now this thing has lit a fire inside me. I don’t know what’s next, but I want to see what I’m capable of with this body and my mind. If it’s fitness related and I can’t do it, it’s my own fault. I’m surrounded by the coaches, the gyms, the nutrition coaches — I have all the tools.”

He also expressed a desire to continue to see Uncommon Athlete grow and thrive. The “multipurpose fitness training facility,” as their website describes, has operated just outside of Fort Benning, Georgia, since 2011.

“I think we all have a calling,” Tucker said. “We all have that voice that whispers to us. For me, I’ve always had this voice about fitness and competing. My mom would always say it and I’d always tell myself — but I’d be too scared to act on it and really put myself out there.

“Listen to that voice, and just try it. If it doesn’t work, then just move on to the next objective. Don’t get stuck because you don’t know where to go. You know where to go — listen to the voice in your head. Life is all about choices. You can either settle, or you can continue to fight and go for what you want.”

This Is What It’s Like to Run the Darby Queen Obstacle Course

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

U.S. Air Force F-16s belonging to the 31st Fighter Wing rapidly deployed to Decimomannu Air Base, Italy as part of an exercise incorporating elements from the developing operational concept known as Agile Combat Employment.

Several F-16s belonging to the 510th Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, northeastern Italy, deployed to “Deci”, Sardinia, between Jan. 13-16, for Agile Buzzard, a bilateral training exercise with the Italian Air Force.


Why disfigured World War I veterans had their own park benches

One of the F-16s involved in Agile Buzzard exercise takes off from Decimomannu Air Base. (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri).

Agile Buzzard was one of the first exercises to incorporate elements from the developing operational concept known as Agile Combat Employment, or ACE.

According to the U.S. Air Force, this new ACE concept calls for forces to operate more fluidly in locations with varying levels of capacity and support. “This ensures U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa are ready for any potential contingencies.” In short, within ACE, combat aircraft take off from their bases and deploy to airfileds where they can’t count on all the “accomodations” they can find at their home station. Over there, they must prove their ability to service aircraft and make them ready for combat.

“Training exercises like Agile Buzzard enhance the wing’s ability to take command and control of a region, as well as deliver lethal airpower more effectively and efficiently anywhere in the world. Additionally they are designed to enhance partner interoperability, maintain joint readiness, and assure U.S. regional allies,” says an official USAF release.

Agile Buzzard was a low intensity exercise: each day a wave made of 3-4 aircraft launched from Aviano, landed in Decimomannu, where they were hot-refueled and armed with Mk-82/BDU-50 500-pound inert dumb bombs, then took off again to engage the Capo Frasca firing range for air-to-ground training before returning to Aviano.

For their mission, the Aviano Vipers carried two AIM-120 AMRAAM, one AIM-9X Sidewinder, an AN/ASQ-T50(V)1 AIS pod, a SNIPER ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod) along with the BDU-50 and two fuel tanks.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.