ISIS fighters brutally committed a campaign of forced conversion and genocide against the Yazidi religious minority. After overrunning a Yazidi village, ISIS killed the men and took able-bodied women and girls as sex slaves. When one Yazidi slave gave birth, she was not permitted to feed her newborn son, according to Fox News. When the baby cried, the woman’s ISIS master beheaded him.
Xate Shingali shows other Yazidi women how to handle firearms during a display for visiting CNN journalists. Screenshot: YouTube/Hiwa Marko
Some Yazidi women want to punish ISIS for what they did to their people. Xate Shingali, a 30-year-old folk singer, leads the Sun Brigade. The Sun Brigade is part of the Women’s Protection Unit, abbreviated as the YPJ, an all-female branch of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units.
Many volunteers have friends and relatives kidnapped by ISIS. One of the unit members told CNN, “We are Yazidi. We are women. And we will destroy you and anyone who touches our women and dirties our lands.
The Yazidi women share the sentiment of the Kurdish women. CNN interviewed a 21-year-old Kurdish YPJ commander, known as Tehelden – the Kurdish word for ‘revenge.’ ‘They believe if someone from Daesh [IS] is killed by a girl, they won’t go to heaven. They’re afraid of girls.’
One file exposed a plot crafted by senior leaders in the Kennedy Administration encouraging Cubans to kill government agents for financial rewards.
The bounties for targeting Communist informers, cell leaders, department heads, foreign supporters, and government officials ranged from $5,000 to as much as $100,000. The plan, according to the newly released file, was to drop leaflets from the air in Cuba advertising the rewards.
A meager $0.02 was offered for the killing of Fidel Castro, then Cuba’s prime minister.
In 1975, Edward Lansdale, a prominent CIA intelligence official, testified to the Senate that the pocket-change offering for the Cuban leader was meant “to denigrate … Castro in the eyes of the Cuban population.” Lansdale was known for leading counter-insurgency missions in developing countries, especially in Vietnam and the Philippines.
The recently released JFK file goes on to say that once the plan was implemented, US agents would “kidnap known [Communist] party members thereby instilling confidence in the operation among the Cuban populace and apprehension among the Cuban hierarchy.”
The kill-for-pay plan — dubbed “Operation Bounty” — never took hold. Lansdale said he “tabled” the concept because he didn’t think “it was something that should be seriously undertaken or supported further.”
It’s unclear why exactly he thought the plan should have been scrapped. The CIA had, on numerous occasions, attempted to assassinate Castro and overthrow his Communist government.
Some of you military types will be by the pool, some of you will be skating or shamming on duty, and at least one of you will be explaining to someone on Facebook that Labor Day isn’t about veterans or the military.
Let the best memes of the week help you stave off any labor (for at least a few more minutes) and give you some tips for celebrating the holiday.
1. Don’t forget to include your pets.
2. Remember: you can get arrested for a DUI while driving a boat.
3. Guys, be yourself when talking to the ladies.
You know it’s true because it’s the first thing he said to her.
4. Be prepared if the ladies reject your advances.
The US has committed to pulling its forces, as well as NATO forces, out of Afghanistan in a serious bid to stop the 17-year-long war that’s claimed tens of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of US tax dollars.
Citing “significant progress” in peace talks with the Taliban, the hardline Islamist group that harbored Osama Bin Laden and became the US’s first target after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, a US official told Reuters the US was working on a ceasefire and the timing of a pull out.
“Of course we don’t seek a permanent military presence in Afghanistan,” the official told Reuters on the same day Afghan President Ashraf Ghani gave a televised address saying: “No Afghans want foreign forces in their country for the long term.”
“Our priority is to end the war in Afghanistan and ensure there is never a base for terrorism in Afghanistan,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a press briefing on Jan. 28, 2019.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani
(Photo by Patrick Tsui)
“Our goal is to help bring peace in Afghanistan and we would like a future partnership, newly defined with a post-peace government,” the official said. “We would like to leave a good legacy.”
President Donald Trump reportedly pushed for a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan at the same time he announced a troop pull out from Syria, which sparked widespread controversy, criticism, and the resignation of his defense secretary and top official in charge of fighting ISIS.
The US and NATO have fought in Afghanistan since 2001, when they toppled the ruling government that had harbored the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The US and NATO have lost about 3,500 troops in the battle that’s killed tens of thousands of Afghans and nearly 10,000 Afghan security forces fighters a year since 2014.
The Pentagon currently spends about billion a year on the Afghanistan war while other parts of the government contribute additional money to secure the country, build infrastructure, and fund essential programs as the government struggles to control all of its territory.
Trump campaigned explicitly against the war in Afghanistan, calling it a big mistake that left US soldiers fighting without purpose.
United States President Donald Trump.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Anna Pol)
The Taliban recently agreed to a landmark concession, saying it would oppose “any attempts by militant groups to use Afghanistan to stage terrorist attacks abroad,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Talks in Qatar, now lasting over a week, have produced results that Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan called “encouraging.”
Afghanistan, sometimes called the “graveyard of empires” for its historic ability to resist outside rule from Alexander the Great, to Britain, to the Soviets, has proven a stalemate for the US, which has failed to lock down the entire country from Islamist control.
The Homeland Security Department’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 requests $2 billion to recapitalize the Coast Guard’s surface fleet — notably $750 million to design and build the US’s “first new heavy polar icebreaker in over 40 years,” according to details released on Feb. 12, 2018 as part of President Donald Trump’s budget request.
The Coast Guard’s total request for the next fiscal year is a little over $11.65 billion — an increase of 8.4%, or $979 million, over the amount requested for fiscal year 2018.
The budget request includes several big-ticket projects for the Coast Guard, including $15 million to support the Service Life Extension Project for the Polar Star, the service’s only operational heavy polar icebreaker.
The Polar Star entered service in the mid-1970s and was refurbished in 2012 and is now well past its 30-year service life — “literally on life support,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft has said. Its sister ship, Polar Sea, is no longer in service and now provides parts to keep the Star running.
Zukunft, who assumed command of the Coast Guard in 2014, has been a driving force behind efforts to acquire a new icebreaker and has said he eventually wants to add three heavy and three medium icebreakers. In fall 2017, the Coast Guard and the Navy issued a joint draft request for proposal to build the next heavy polar icebreaker with an option for two more.
“When I came into this job, we thought: ‘Well, hey, we can wait a while before we address icebreakers. Maybe we can wait another four or five years.’ Well, if we wait another four or five years, as difficult as it is to find an appropriation today, it’s not going to get easier any time in the future, at least when I look into my crystal ball,” Zukunft told Business Insider at the end of 2017.
The $750 million proposed in the 2019 budget “provides detail, design, long lead time materials, construction, program management office support, feasibility studies and maintaining the indicative design, cybersecurity planning, project resident office initiation, and Navy reimbursable technical support.” The money will support efforts to “maintain scheduled delivery … in 2023.”
In addition to money apportioned to icebreaker sustainment and development, the 2019 budget would direct $400 million to start construction of a second offshore patrol cutter and provide long-lead-time materials for a third.
The offshore patrol cutter is meant to replace the service’s medium-endurance cutters, which operate on the high seas and in coastal approaches.
Another $240 million is designated for four fast-response cutters. FRCs are meant to replace the service’s 110-foot patrol boats and improve the Coast Guard’s ability to carry out search-and-rescue, border-security, drug-interdiction, and disaster-response operations.
The four new FRCs will bring the service to 52 of the program’s planned 58 ships.
An additional $5 million is apportioned to support the service’s waterways-commerce cutter, a program that may replace the aging fleet of inland tenders and barges that operate on US inland waterways, assisting the movement of $4.6 trillion in economic activity that makes use of US ports and waterways every year, according to the budget document.
While the budget requests highlight several programs involving the Coast Guard’s surface assets, the replacement of the icebreaker fleet has been a high-profile goal for some time. The aging Polar Star is the only ship the service has to support year-round access to Antarctic and Arctic regions — the latter of which has seen increasing activity as polar ice recedes, opening new channels for commerce and natural-resource exploration.
Operations by other countries in the region — particularly Russia, which already has a large icebreaker fleet — have been a particular point of concern for US policymakers.
“The Russians made it a strategic priority,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in late 2017. “Even the Chinese are building icebreaking tankers.”
Some experts have said the Russian icebreaker fleet is less of a concern than its resurgent navy, and Coast Guard officials, including Zukunft, have highlighted the service’s positive interactions with its Russian counterparts. But the commandant also sounded a note of caution about US policy toward the northern latitudes going forward.
“We do need to make an investment in terms of our surface capability to exert sovereignty in the Arctic,” Zukunft told Business Insider. “I think if you look across our entire military strategy, homage is paid to strength, and not so much if you are a nation of paper lions but you don’t have the teeth to back it up. And that’s an area where we’re lacking the teeth.”
Over the years Hollywood has shed both positive and negative light on the military experience. While the biographical examples might face severe scrutiny over matters of accuracy, here are 8 fictional military characters who inarguably wouldn’t cut it in the real deal:
1. Ensign Charles Beaumont Parker – “McHale’s Navy”
When the military is used as the basis for a sitcom, it’s inevitable that some of the troops won’t exactly be up to snuff. Ensign Parker brings that to another level, actively causing harm to U.S. and Allied Forces. (The show takes place during World War II.) He accidentally fires a depth charge in one episode, and in another accidentally shoots down an Allied aircraft. That’s a level of ineptitude the United States military wouldn’t and frankly couldn’t stand for.
2. Buster Bluth – “Arrested Development”
Buster is enlists in “Army,” as he calls it, due to a dare a comedian makes to his mother. And lucky for him, he’s immediately honorably discharged after having his hand bit off by a seal. In season 4, he re-enlists to control drones in Iraq. Buster has a blast – until someone explains to him that what he’s doing is real, and he immediately has a panic attack. Then again, Buster once had a panic attack because a llama was near him. He might tell you he’s in Army, but he isn’t Army Strong.
3. Beetle Bailey – “Beetle Bailey”
One thing you certainly can’t be in any branch of the military is lazy, and Beetle Bailey is perhaps the laziest of them all. He’ll do anything to get out of work, including putting his fellow soldiers, and commanding officers, at serious risks. Luckily, the characters at Camp Swampy don’t seem to face any particular risk of war being declared, and therefore will likely avoid any form of actual combat. If they did face an enemy attack, or were sent to fight someplace, chances are Beetle Bailey would be too lazy to even raise his arms.
4. Gareth Keenan – “The Office” (BBC version)
There’s no real reason to doubt Gareth Keenan when he claims he was a Lieutenant in the Territorial Army before joining Wernam-Hogg, aside from how utterly clueless he seems to be when Tim and Dawn quiz him about tactical strategy. Gareth talks a big game, always being prepared to take a man from behind, give a man a lethal blow, or even discharge with rapid speed if enemies should uncover and enter his hole — you know, find out where he’s hiding. The fact Gareth never seems to understand the double entendres behind his own boasts kind of makes him look foolish, perhaps too foolish to actually achieve any kind of rank.
5. Zapp Brannigan – “Futurama”
Zapp may be a 25-Star General in the Year 3000, buts its impossible to imagine he’d last a single day in any branch of the U.S. military. No part of Brannigan’s success makes sense. Although Brannigan’s Law is named after him, he openly admits he doesn’t understand it in the slightest. In fact, most of Brannigan’s successes are subjugating and annihilating weak and defenseless aliens, which, while smart satire, isn’t something that would actually be tolerated in the military.
6. Don Draper – “Mad Men”
Don’s a special case on this list, in that his whole story is that he quite literally couldn’t make it in the military. As fans now know, Draper’s mystery actually began with him as Dick Whitman, but things dramatically changed during the Korean War. Terrible things happen during war, and its hard to say how any individual would react when faced with the horrors Whitman and his Lieutenant, the real Don Draper, faced. But what’s clear is Whitman’s reaction is highly illegal and wouldn’t be tolerated in any military.
7. Homer Simpson – “The Simpsons”
Homer Simpson has had over 100 jobs, and he’s been terrible at nearly every one of them. His time in the service still manages to rank among his most inept. Homer actually joined the service twice—first as a member of the Navy Reserve in Season 9, then in Season 18 he enlisted in the Army. As a member of the Navy Reserve, Homer nearly caused a nuclear war with Russia, and in the Army he turned a training exercise into a city-wide explosive event. The military always welcomes recruits, but Homer should probably stick to his hundreds of other jobs.
8. Dave Titus – “Titus”
Everyone in the Titus family seems to think it would be a great idea for Dave to join the Army. It could teach him responsibility and get him to stop doing drugs and being lazy. However, his brother Christopher sees it a different way: the Army isn’t going to bring Dave up; Dave’s going to bring the Army down. Fearing “Private Dave” could somehow cause nuclear destruction, Christopher gives Dave some pot to smoke on the way to recruitment, hoping this story will find a less destructive end.
Over a period of several years, Adolf Tolkachev, an engineer overseeing a radar development lab at a Soviet state-run defense institute, passed the US information and schematics related to the next generation of Soviet radar systems.
Tolkachev transformed the US’s understanding of Soviet radar capabilities. Prior to his cooperation with the CIA, US intelligence didn’t know that Soviet fighters had “look-down, shoot-down” radars that could detect targets flying beneath the aircraft.
This was vitally important information. Thanks to Tolkachev, the US could develop its fighter aircraft, and its nuclear-capable cruise missiles, to take advantage of the latest improvements in Soviet detection — and to exploit gaps in Soviet radar systems.
The Soviets had no idea that the US was so aware of the state of their technology. If a hot war had ever broken out between the US and the Soviet Union, Tolkachev’s information may have given the US a decisive advantage in the air and aided in guiding cruise missiles past Soviet detection systems. Tolkachev helped tip the US-Soviet military balance in Washington’s favor. And he’s part of the reason why, since the end of the Cold War, a Soviet-built plane has never shot down a US fighter aircraft in combat.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Hoffman’s newly published book “The Billion Dollar Spy” is the definitive story of the Tolkachev operation. It’s an extraordinary glimpse into how espionage works in reality, evoking the complex relationship between case officers and their sources, as well as the extraordinary methods that CIA agents use to exchange information right under the enemy’s nose. And it revisits a compelling example of the unexpected ways in which technology can effect intelligence collection.
In the 1960s, the CIA was attempting to develop a hand-held two-way communications system that would allow case officers to swap messages with sources without having to physically meet.
There were a few possible advantages to these early Short-Range Agent Communications devices (SRAC). SRAC systems could eliminate detection risks associated with face-to-face meetings. Messages could be sent directly to sources, rather than left in vulnerable “dead drops” or conveyed through risky “brush passes” in public. Agents could transmit instructions in text-form over short distances, using radio frequencies that were far more difficult to intercept than those used for long-range or telephonic communications.
Buster, an early version of SRAC, had “two portable base stations — each about the size of a shoe box — and one agent unit that could be concealed in a coat pocket,” Hoffman writes. “With a tiny keyboard one and a half inches square, the agent would first convert a text message into a cipher code, then peck the code into the keypad. Once the data were loaded — Buster could hold 1500 characters — the agent would go somewhere within a thousand feet of the base station and press a ‘send’ button.”
This “primitive text-messaging system” underwent a major upgrade in the late 1970s. The Discus, a greatly improved version of Buster, “eliminated the need for the bulky base station and could transmit to a case officer holding a second small unit hundreds of feet away.” The Discus consisted of just two devices that could send and receive messages, along with a keyboard larger and more user-friendly than Buster’s. The terminals were small enough to fit in an agent or source’s coat pocket.
In addition, the Discus automatically encrypted its messages, eliminating the cumbersome process of converting communications into cipher code. It could also transmit a larger data load than its predecessor.
As Hoffman puts it, the device was “way ahead of its time,” a hand-held personal messaging system in an era when there was “nothing remotely like the Blackberry or the iPhone” in existence — except for the Discus.
Although there are no open-source images of the Discus, the CIA has published images of early text-messaging systems used by rival agencies. This East German device from the mid-1960s could wirelessly send and transcribe morse code messages at a range of up to 300 miles. Its
At one point, the CIA considered giving Tolkachev a Discus that he could use to signal his handlers for meetings, since just relaying even basic messages in Cold War-era Moscow ran a a significant risk of exposure. Some hoped the Discus could eventually be used to send intelligence: “While the traditional method of dead drops usually took a day or longer to signal, place, and collect, the electronic communicator could transmit urgent intelligence almost instantly,” Hoffman writes.
The Discus could be “an invulnerable magic carpet that would soar over the heads fo the KGB.”
But there were a few drawbacks. In order to send and receive a message, both users had to remain still. A user would know that a message had arrived when a red light flashed on the device, but had to remain in place until they were positive it had been received. On top of that, even something as basic as checking for a flashing light on a concealed piece of complex electronics could give an operative away in a city swarming with counter-intelligence agents.
The Discus was also obvious spy equipment. There was no plausible cover story that a source could concoct if the device were ever spotted. It would almost necessarily compromise the source and expose the CIA’s work.
There was another, more fundamental problem with the technology. The Tolkachev operation was successful in large part because a succession of talented CIA case officers had built up trust with the radar researcher based on little more than hand-written notes and brief and infrequent face-to-face meetings. From that, the CIA was able to build a profile of Tolkachev, analyzing his motives and state of mind and ensuring that the Agency wouldn’t alienate, needlessly endanger, or psychologically break one of the most important intelligence assets in US history.
That was only possible because of masterful case officer handling of Tolkachev. “Human intelligence” methods that would still be essential to espionage regardless of how far technology advanced — as Hoffman writes, some of the agents involved in handling Tolkachev realized that in spite of the the Discus’s impressive technology, “they still needed to look the agent in the eye, and Tolkachev needed to shake the hand of a case officer he could trust.”
Tolkachev was eventually given a Discus, but never successfully used it to contact the CIA. Other, less technically sophisticated methods proved more effective in his case.
Hand-held communication devices are now ubiquitous around the world. The Discus represented a huge step forward, and it’s a virtually unknown fore-runner of smart phone technology. But it’s still an example of how even the most vaunted technology doesn’t automatically solve every problem in intelligence and national security. The human element will always be decisive — no matter how good the technology may look.
Welsh’s comments on Thursday represented a shift in the Air Force’s official attitude toward reviving the F-22; it had previously said doing so would not be cost effective.
“I don’t think it’s a wild idea,”Welsh said, as Defensenews.com notes. “I mean the success of the F-22 and the capability of the airplane and the crews that fly it are pretty exceptional. I think it’s proven that the airplane is exactly what everybody hoped it would be.”
“We’re using it in new and different ways and it’s been spectacularly successful and its potential is really, really remarkable,” Welsh continued. “And so going back and looking and certainly raising the idea well, could you build more? It’s not a crazy idea.”
As Jamie Hunter, editor of Combat Aircraft Monthly, wrote in 2015: “How about a risk-reduced approach for NGAD? Take the almost perfect Raptor and put it back into production, albeit this time with the tweaks that make it truly the best fighter ever it can be. That approach may just help mitigate against the early cost overruns and delays and provide capability faster and when it’s needed.”
President Donald Trump took North Korea’s recent provocative statements into account when he canceled his planned summit with the country’s leader Kim Jong Un. Trump believed Kim would cancel the meeting first, US officials said, according to NBC News.
“There was no hint of this yesterday,” a US official familiar with the summit preparations told NBC News on May 25, 2018.
Trump reportedly began seriously considering withdrawing from the summit on May 23, 2018, and consulted with Vice President Mike Pence, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly, and national security adviser John Bolton. The president also spoke with defense secretary Jim Mattis on May 24, 2018.
Trump eventually released a letter addressed to Kim on May 24, 2018, citing what he described as Pyongyang’s “tremendous anger and open hostility” in its recent public statements. North Korea sent out heated missives in response to controversial remarks from Pence and Bolton on the fate of the North Korean regime.
According to a Washington Post report, Trump was reportedly worried that North Korea would back out of the meeting first, and in an effort to prevent the US from looking desperate, he beat them to the punch.
“I was very much looking foward to being there with you,” Trump said in the letter.
Trump’s abrupt decision took lawmakers and allies, including South Korean President Moon Jae-in, by surprise. It also contradicted a letter from the State Department on the constructive talks Pompeo was having with other Asian leaders ahead of the summit, which was sent nearly two hours before Trump’s letter to Kim.
Pompeo has taken a prime role in US-North Korean diplomatic relations, after he traveled to North Korea and helped secure the release of three Korean-American prisoners. But according to some US officials, Bolton, who is viewed as a hawkish policy advisor, clashed with some of Pompeo’s ideas and floated the notion of scuttling the Trump-Kim meeting.
Following Trump’s decision, North Korean officials released a statement saying they were still willing to meet with the US to “resolve issues anytime and in any format.”
“I want to conclude that President Trump’s stance on the North-US summit does not meet the world’s desire for peace and stability both in the world and on the Korean Peninsula,” a North Korean official said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Military relief organizations typically focus on their own service members and families. But on June 4, 2021, many of those organizations went all-in for wounded Airmen, instead.
In 2019, the Air Force saw unprecedented suicide numbers within their active duty force. It prompted a branch-wide stand down to address the alarming losses and opened an even deeper discussion on suicide prevention. The Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) program saw success with their intense efforts that year but it was short lived. Known for their Warrior Care events and adaptive sports, much had to be put on hold the following year due to a global pandemic. COVID-19 quickly created increased isolation and caused negative mental health symptoms to skyrocket.
The Inspire Up Foundation, founded by four military spouses each affiliated with a different branch of service, wanted to help. Their primary mission is to serve the military and first responder communities. Jessica Manfre, a Coast Guard spouse and CFO of the organization, said they had to do something. “We’re well-known for our Spark and Inspire boxes we give away so we thought this was a unique opportunity to create a warrior box just for them,” she explained.
Manfre said they brought the idea to their primary sponsor and partner, Caliber Home Loans. The goal was to create 500 boxes for Airmen identified as at-risk and the company immediately donated $7,500 to the cause.
“Caliber believes strongly in stepping forward to support our military and veterans. Being a veteran Air Force spouse myself, this project really hits home. I’m thankful we could step forward to kickstart this endeavor to uplift Airmen in need,” Brittany Boccher, National Director of Military Community Engagement for Caliber Home Loans stated in the press release.
Knowing they’d need more to fill those boxes, the networking began.
“I just finished reading Once a Warrior, written by Jake Wood. The book was an incredible journey through his Marine Corps service and his season of finding purpose outside his uniform,” Manfre explained. “I just couldn’t help but think this was the book these wounded Airmen needed to read. So, I emailed Jake and asked if he or his publishing company could help us with our project and they immediately said yes.”
Black Rifle Coffee company was approached next, known for their ongoing support of the military community. Manfre said the company immediately offered enough coffee for half of the boxes and gave the rest well below cost. The remaining funding was used to create a special warrior coffee mug and custom journal, a practice studies have linked to support healing.
The collaborating wasn’t done yet. Manfre said they had everything shipped to AFW2 headquarters in San Antonio, Texas — a city the Green Beret Foundation also calls home, too. “I called their executive director and asked if they’d be willing to host us to assemble and fill the boxes,” Manfre said. “He [Brent Cooper] said yes without hesitation. It didn’t matter that these weren’t soldiers or special forces, they were in.”
In the press release for the project, Cooper said they were proud to host. “Suicide is not exclusive to one branch of the military. Our service members and veterans continue to battle mental health every day and it’s critical for organizations to come together to accelerate the impact of reducing the suicide statistics,” he shared. “We are more than happy to be able to provide the workspace needed to the Inspire Up Foundation, one of GBF’s force multipliers, and work together to continue the fight against veteran suicide.”
On the day of the event, the building was filled with smiling volunteers from all walks of the military life. Samantha Gomolka, Army spouse and COO of the Inspire Up Foundation, said it was overwhelming. “The joy was palpable and it was so beautiful to see,” she explained. “Beyond immediately serving these wounded warriors, we want the world to know that taking care of our service members doesn’t stop when they take off the uniform. They deserve and need our support always.”
Maria Reed, Army Spouse and CEO of the Inspire Up Foundation, echoed that sentiment. “I get emotional talking about it but our warriors here at home need us just as much as those deployed do. Don’t forget them,” she implored through tears.
Also present for the event were local Air Force spouses like Verenice Castillo, CEO of the Military Spouse Advocacy Network, veteran special forces soldiers and the AFW2 Wellness and Resiliency team. It only took the group three hours to assemble and fill 500 boxes.
“We all just want this project to just be the beginning. Our military community was already hurting before this pandemic made it worse,” Manfre said. “It’s not even about a free box filled with nice things. It’s the gesture and the way we hope to show them they are loved and seen. As a therapist, I know the value of community and connection. For many, it makes a life or death difference.”
On June 5th, seven veterans of the Battle of Midway joined about 1,000 people aboard a retired US Navy aircraft carrier to mark the 75th anniversary of the turning point in World War II’s Pacific Ocean theater.
Two F/A-18 Hornet fighter planes, blocked by clouds, thundered above the USS Midway, a Navy carrier that was commissioned in 1945 to commemorate the battle. The carrier was decommissioned in 1992 and has been in a military museum in downtown San Diego since 2004.
Well-wishers lined up to shake hands with 102-year-old Andy Mills and other wheelchair-bound Midway veterans after a 90-minute ceremony that recounted how the landmark battle unfolded. One Midway veteran came from hospice care.
The 1942 battle occurred six months after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor after Navy code breakers broke complex Japanese code to reveal a plan to ambush US forces. The Japanese planned to occupy Midway, a strategic U.S.-held atoll 1,300 miles northwest of Pearl Harbor, and destroy what was left of the Pacific fleet.
When Japanese planes began bombing Midway, American torpedo planes and bombers counter-attacked in waves, bombing and sinking four Japanese carriers on June 4. The fighting continued for another three days before the United States proved to be victorious.
Adm. John Richardson, chief of U.S. naval operations, told the audience that a string of “effective but decisive” actions led to a victory with razor-thin room for error.
“In hindsight, when you review the Battle of Midway, you can see like a series of strokes of amazing luck. And when you put those strokes together, it’s like a miracle occurred at Midway. It trends towards the miraculous,” he said.
Anthony J. Principi, who served as secretary of veterans affairs from 2001 to 2005, wrote in the Military Times that that Navy commanders made “coordinated, split-second, life-and-death decisions.”
“We won because luck was on our side, because the Japanese made mistakes and because our officers and men acted with great courage amidst the chaos of battle,” he wrote.
The Midway, which has more than 1 million visitors a year, has hosted college basketball games, parties during the Comic-Con pop culture extravaganza, and TV tapings for shows like ABC’s “The Bachelor.”
Army Col. Scott Gerber said he had to pay out-of-pocket for an independent inspector to verify mold infestation and water damage in his home in an effort to get the attention of the private company running base housing at Fort Meade, Maryland.
“The only reason we knew [it was there] was because our kids were getting sick,” she said.
Gherdovich said she had to pay ,700 to an outside inspector to verify her claims, and she’s still fighting to get reimbursement.
In testimony Tuesday before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, Gerber and Gherdovich echoed the demands of other military families for an expansion of the recently approved Tenant Bill of Rights to let them withhold rent in disputes over repairs and maintenance of privatized military housing.
And in a following panel the same day, representatives from four military housing companies said that they supported giving that right to military families.
They also expressed varying levels of regret for the military housing problems that have been detailed in numerous reports and hearings, including mold and pest infestation, poor performance on fulfilling work orders, and negligence in responding to tenants’ complaints.
In his prepared statement, Richard Taylor, president of Balfour Beatty Communities, said, “I would like to begin by saying that we sincerely apologize for having fallen short of the high standards our nation’s military families deserve.
“We fully accept that we must make improvements, and we are determined to regain the trust and confidence of our residents and our military partners,” he added.
On Feb. 25, the Pentagon announced that Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the secretaries of the service branches had signed the Military Housing Privatization Initiative Tenant Bill of Rights, which was included in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
There were 15 provisions in the bill, including “the right to a written lease with clearly defined rental terms” and “the right to reside in a housing unit and a community that meets applicable health and environmental standards.”
The Pentagon’s announcement acknowledged that three rights were missing from the list — access for tenants to a maintenance history of their units, a detailed process for dispute resolution, and the withholding of rent until disputes are resolved.
The military will work with the private companies and Congress to get those three provisions added to the list, the Pentagon said at the time.
At the hearing, Gerber said the right to withhold rent is vital to leveling the playing field with the private companies.
He said he and his wife, Sandy, “lived through two mold-infested homes,” adding “our situation wasn’t unique.”
Military families need “the ability to hold that contractor accountable. We need an easy mechanism to stop that [Basic Allowance for Housing]” from going to the private companies during disputes, Gerber said.
In a separate panel at the hearing, representatives of four companies managing private housing on military bases said they are in favor of adding the ability to withhold rent and the other two missing provisions to the Tenant Bill of Rights.
Denis Hickey, chief executive officer of Lendlease Americas, said under questioning, “We realize we can and must do more” to improve conditions.
“Obviously, some of our families feel our company has come up short,” said Jeff Guild, vice president of Lincoln Military Housing. The company is resolved to “repairing a culture of trust with our residents,” he added.
Heath Burleson, a senior vice president at Corvias Group, said the company had gotten away in the past from the “basic blocking and tackling” needed to keep homes in good repair. “I believe we’re on the right path, but we’re not done,” he said.
After listening to the company representatives, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, the subcommittee’s chair, said, “all of your testimony is very nice now, [but] the system was set up as a gravy train for your companies.” There’s no accountability to military families, she added.
“It is outrageous,” she said.
The military contributed to the failures of the system through inattention and poor oversight of the performance of the private companies involved in military housing, said Pete Potochney, the acting assistant secretary of defense for sustainment.
“The fact that we’re having this hearing and others like it is saddening,” Potchney said. “We simply took our eye off the ball” over the years in oversight of military housing.
“We sure as hell didn’t do a great job,” he added.
The 18,000 Marines and sailors who landed on the island of Betio in the Tarawa atoll in the Pacific Ocean early on Nov. 20, 1943, waded into what one combat correspondent called “the toughest battle in Marine Corps history.”
After 76 hours of fighting, the battle for Betio was over on November 23. More than 1,000 Marines and sailors were killed and nearly 2,300 wounded. Four Marines received the Medal of Honor for their actions — three posthumously.
Of roughly 4,800 Japanese troops defending the island, about 97% were killed. All but 17 of the 146 prisoners captured were Korean laborers.
“Betio would be more habitable if the Marines could leave for a few days and send a million buzzards in,” Robert Sherrod, a correspondent for Time, wrote after the fighting.
The victory at Tarawa “knocked down the front door to the Japanese defenses in the Central Pacific,” Adm. Chester Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific fleet, said afterward.
Four Marines carry a wounded Marine along the cluttered beach to a dressing station for treatment after fighting on Tarawa eased.
(US Marine Corps Photo)
Hundreds were left unidentified and unaccounted for
Because of environmental conditions, remains were quickly buried in trenches or individual graves on Betio, which is about a half-square-mile in size and, at the time of the battle, only about 10 feet above sea level at its highest point.
Navy construction sailors also removed some grave markers as they hurriedly built runways and other infrastructure to help push farther across the Pacific toward Japan.
The US Army Graves Registration Service came after the war to exhume remains and return them to the US, but its teams could not find more than 500 servicemen, and in 1949, the Army Quartermaster General’s Office declared those remains “unrecoverable,” telling families that those troops were buried at sea or in Hawaii as “unknowns.”
Over the past 16 years, however, Betio, now part of Kiribati, has yielded some of the largest recoveries of remains of US service members.
That work has been led by History Flight, a Virginia-based nonprofit and Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency partner that’s dedicated to finding and recovering missing US service members.
“History Flight was started in 2003, and we’ve been researching the case history of Tarawa since 2003, but we started working out there 2008,” Katherine Rasdorf, a researcher at History Flight, told Business Insider on Thursday. “We had to do all the research and analysis first before we went out there.”
The first individual was found in 2012. That was followed by a lost cemetery in 2015 and two more large burial sites in 2017 and 2019, Rasdorf said.
In 2015, History Flight found 35 sets of remains at one site, including those of US Marine 1st Lt. Alexander Bonnyman, Jr., who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the battle.
In July 2017, the organization turned over 24 sets of remains to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency for identification.
Osteologists with History Flight excavate a grave site from the battle of Tarawa at Republic of Kiribati, July 15, 2019.
Those are the largest recoveries of missing US service personnel since the Korean War.
Using remote sensing, cartography, aerial photography, and archaeology, History Flight has recovered the remains of 309 service members from Tarawa, where the organization maintains an office and a year-round presence, Mark Noah, president of History Flight, told a House Committee on Oversight and Reform in a hearing on November 19.
Seventy-nine of those discoveries were made during the 2019 fiscal year, Noah said, adding that History Flight’s recoveries are 20% of the DoD’s annual identifications.
Archaeologists with History Flight excavate a grave site from the battle of Tarawa, in the Republic of Kiribati, July 15, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo Sgt. Melanye Martinez)
“Many of them were underneath buildings, underneath roads, and houses,” Noah told lawmakers of remains on Betio, noting that they are often discarded, covered up, and accidentally disinterred — the first two Marines his organization recovered on Tarawa in April 2010 were displayed on a battlefield tour guide’s front porch.
Today, 429 servicemen killed at Betio remain unaccounted for, Rear Adm. Jon Kreitz, deputy director of the DPAA, said when at least 22 servicemen returned to the US in July.
Hero’s welcome for those returned home
Those discoveries have allowed the sailors and Marines who died at Tarawa to finally return home.
Joseph Livermore, a 21-year-old Marine private when he was killed by a Japanese bayonet on November 22, 1943, was given a hero’s welcome in his hometown of Bakersfield, California, where his remains were buried on November 15.
A thousand people lined the streets for Livermore’s return, Noah said.
Service members with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency fold flags on transfer cases on a C-17 Globemaster, in Tarawa, Kiribati, Sept. 27, 2019.
Pvt. Channing Whitaker, an 18-year-old from Iowa killed in a Japanese banzai attack on the second day of the battle, was buried with full military honors in Des Moines on November 22. His remains returned to the US in July.
In History Flight’s experience, more than 50% of those recovered had living brothers, sisters, and children at their funerals, Noah told lawmakers this week.
“The recovery of America’s missing servicemen is a vital endeavor for their families and for our country. What we are accomplishing in recovering the missing is putting a little bit of America back into America,” Noah said.
An island nation ‘facing annihilation’
While hundreds of servicemen likely remain on Betio, environmental conditions there may soon make finding them even harder.
Kiribati, one of the most isolated countries in the world, is also one of many Pacific Island nations likely to be unlivable in a few decades due to the effects of climate change.
More than half of Kiribati’s nearly 120,000 residents live on South Tarawa, just east of Betio. Rising sea levels are a particular threat to densely populated country. Exceptionally high tides and sea-water incursions threaten the fresh water under the atolls.
Many of the graves located by History Flight are below the water table, meaning workers had to pump water from the sites each day to excavate.
“When it’s rainy season, it’s very difficult to do archeology, because the locations fill with water and we have to come up with drainage solutions that are not impacting the highly populated areas and … reroute [the water] to places where it’s not infringing on their clean drinking water,” Rasdorf said.
On the whole, History Flight’s day-to-day work has not been greatly affected by changing environmental conditions, Rasdorf said, but others in Kiribati have called for drastic action in response to the threat of climate change.
Anote Tong, Kiribati’s president from 2003 to 2016, bought nearly 8 square miles of land to potentially relocate to in Fiji, about 1,200 miles away from Kiribati, for nearly million in 2014.
His purchase was decried by some as a boondoggle and alarmist, and his successor took office in 2016 planning to shift priorities and making no plans for people to leave. But Tong continues to sound the alarm.