If you’re a Marine or sailor and your unit receives orders to deploy, then you’re also looking at spending a little over a month training in the Mojave Desert. Every year, Marines from all over the U.S. and Japan take a trip to Twentynine Palms, California, where they eat, sleep, and sh*t war games against role players pretending to be the bad guys.
During your stay at “29 stumps,” you’ll get to blow up a lot of stuff, eat plenty of MREs, and sweat your ass off in the process.
Although you’ll have plenty of training to do, you’ll also find yourself bored as hell between activities as you sit in the middle of the desert at Camp Wilson.
(Photo by Marine Cpl Michael Dye)
Instead of twiddling your thumbs, try the following to keep your mind occupied. You’ll thank us later.
Between training revolutions, you’ll have no form of entertainment. Idle minds wander — this is when you’ll come up with new games to play with your fellow brothers. Everyone has a flak jacket and SAPI plates, right? It might be time to enjoy a semi-violent game of “knock down the other guy.”
Sleep, sleep, and then sleep some more
Do you really need any more explanation?
Search for cell service
Cell towers don’t cover most areas of the camp. However, there are a few cell-phone companies that extend service into select spots. We’ve discovered tiny, three-square-foot pockets of service and, once we left that magic spot, we got nothing.
It’s possible to find a signal, you just have to hunt for it.
Work on your six pack
While in Twentynine Palms, you’re going to sweat, which also means you’re losing weight. While you’re waiting to do whatever your platoon commander has planned for the day, you should knock out some crunches and planks. After a few weeks of training, you’re going to rotate home — those six-pack abs will be good for your dating life.
Document how much fun you’re having with a funny YouTube video
Marines can have fun just about anywhere at any time because of the dark sense of humor they proudly inherit from the grunts who came before them. To pass the time while you’re out in the blistering heat with nothing to do, make a video. Document how much fun you’re having.
Watch a movie on your phone
You better have the entire film downloaded to your iPhone or Andriod. Even if you find a little pocket of signal out there, it won’t be enough to download an entire movie — just sayin’.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annual call-in question show on June 7, 2018, contained broad talk of improving Russia’s economy and of the coming Russia-hosted World Cup — but also some ominous warnings about World War III.
Putin frequently frames his country as resisting Western aggression designed to hold back Russia, often citing Western sanctions.
The US and other Western countries sanctioned the Russian economy in 2014 over its illegal annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula on the Black Sea.
Asked about those sanctions on June 7, 2018, Putin said they were “because Russia is seen as a threat, because Russia is seen as becoming a competitor.”
“It is clear to us that we have to defend our interests and to do so consistently, not boorishly or rudely, in both the sphere of the economy and of defense,” Putin said. “The pressure will end when our partners will be persuaded that the methods they are using are ineffective, counterproductive, and harmful to all.”
Asked whether “nonstop” sanctions could lead to World War III, Putin pulled an Albert Einstein quote to deliver a dark warning.
“‘I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones,'” he said, NBC News reports.
“A third world war could be the end of civilization,” Putin went on, saying the high stakes “should restrain us from taking extreme steps on the international arena that are highly dangerous for modern civilization.”
Perhaps more than any other country, Russia has the nuclear capability to end the world. With about 7,000 nuclear weapons making up the world’s most diverse and destructive nuclear arsenal, Putin could unilaterally decide to embark on a civilization-ending war.
Additionally, by annexing Crimea, Putin changed land borders in Europe by force. In peacetime, that most recently happened in the run-up to World War II.
But Putin also gave a nod to the force keeping his nuclear and military ambitions in check: mutually assured destruction. Basically, if Putin decides to let nukes fly, the US is sure to respond in kind, destroying Russia as well.
“The threat of mutual destruction has always restrained participants of the international arena, prevented leading military powers from making hasty moves, and compelled participants to respect each other,” he said.
Putin then said the US withdrawing from a ballistic-missile defense treaty would make Russia “respond.”
So far, Putin’s response has included building what experts call a nuclear “doomsday device,” an underwater torpedo that could render large tranches of the world uninhabitable for decades.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The military community is huge on rivalry and houses some of the most inventive d*ck measuring contests you can think of. Each branch is currently and forever waging a friendly war with one another that has no signs of stopping — not that we’d want it to.
We hate on each other for various reasons, but at the end of the day — we’re still on the same side.
Now, when Marines think about the men and women of the Air Force, they automatically think of them being hardcore.
We’re kidding. Marines don’t remotely think that and constantly hate on airmen for various reasons.
So check out these six reasons why Marines hate on the Air Force. Shots fired (but all in good fun).
6. Marines have it tougher.
Air Force boot camp is slightly less than eight-weeks long; Marine Corps boot camp, however, is about 13 grueling weeks long. Recruits tend to join the Air Force either because they feel the Corps’ boot camp is too tough, or the Marine recruiters “just weren’t in the office that day” (cough, bullsh*t, cough).
5. The Air Force has the best chow halls in the military. But why? Because they need all their energy to fight fly drones?
That does look glorious, though…
4. Even celebrities who visit airmen wear Marine Corps issue.
Chuck Norris, Bugz Bunny, and Bob Hope are just a few honorary Marines. How many cool celebrities are honorary airmen? Go ahead — name one!
3. They get cute little command coins when they graduate vs. the beloved Eagle, Global, and Anchor after completing the “Crucible.”
Need we say more?
2. Their living conditions are considered five-star compared to the Corps’.
We love the teddy bear and string light additions. It really makes the room pop.
The Mass Effect series has had its share of ups and downs, but one thing is undeniable — the world-building was done insanely well. One such piece of world-building that is worth mentioning is the existence of the Special Tactics and Reconnaissance agents. For those who don’t know, SPECTREs are special agents, granted authority by a government council to essentially carry out special missions that standard military cannot. This authority also gives them an insane amount of freedom.
If there is any unit, fictional or otherwise, to live up to the “Own F***ing Program” mantra, it’s definitely SPECTREs. Why? Because they’re rarely even assigned tasks; often times they just find their own and occasionally check in with the council that granted them their authority in the first place.
So, here are the biggest reasons being a SPECTRE would be awesome:
Although, you may still have to answer to military and government officials when the time comes.
You can choose your missions
You can also decide which ones take the most precedence. Do you want to rescue colonists before defeating a rogue who’s threatening life in the galaxy? Have at it. For the most part, military officials won’t breathe down your neck about what you’re doing — you just do you.
This allows you to put together your own personal A-team.
You choose your crew
You don’t have to go planet-side with a team that was assigned to you. You can essentially recruit whoever you want, including mercenaries, to watch your back.
Like signing out a duty van — just make sure you fill up the tank.
You get your own ship
Who doesn’t want their own ship to travel where and when as they please at the expense of their government? That ship is basically yours to do with as you please and go where you see fit, even if there aren’t any missions tied to that distant moon you just dropped in on.
Or you can just go with what they give you.
You get the best weapons and gear
“Military grade” doesn’t apply to you. In fact, you can buy whatever you need for your missions, and no higher-up is going to yell at you for it. You want that scope for your rifle? Cool. Do you want to use that alien’s blaster that they just dropped? Go for it. Is the military issued armor not best on the market? Pick up your own.
No more relying on that government salary.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
You can get paid by whoever you want
One thing that may not have been covered is whether SPECTREs earn a salary or not. But, one thing’s for sure — if someone offers to pay you credits for a job, you’re allowed to take it. Remember how we said you can pick your own missions? One being more lucrative than another may actually be part of which ones you take.
Blood oaths, prophecies, and brutal life lessons propelled Genghis Khan into conquest, amassing the largest land empire in the history of mankind. As a boy, he was the illiterate son of a murdered chieftain and had everything he loved torn away from him. As an adult, through merciless leadership, he united the steppe tribes and instilled discipline into his warriors.
Genghis Khan established dedicated trade routes, promoted religious tolerance, and got so many women pregnant that you may be related to him. The effects of his rule can still be seen today and few have come close to his level of greatness or ruthlessness.
Leadership based on merit
Temüjin, Genghis Khan’s birth name, loosely translates to ‘of iron‘ or ‘ironworker.’ His leadership style reformed Mongol tradition by replacing the nobility rank structure with a merit-based promotion system. Though much of his army was “recruited” by threat of death, he earned loyalty by promising the spoils of war to his troops rather than hoarding it all himself — after all, he believed that excessive wealth was a weakness. Sure, your home and everything you knew just got rolled over by Genghis Khan, but hey, now you have the opportunity to fight by his side — or die.
The Yassa, a code of law written by Genghis Khan, and its enforcement was a non-negotiable condition of joining the Khan’s empire. Soldiers had to swear allegiance to Genghis Khan, to not steal livestock, to not steal another man’s woman, and, generally, to not be a thieving POS. You could pillage the enemies of the empire, but not the people inside the empire itself.
All hail the God Emperor
Adapt and overcome tactics
The Mongols learned mounted archery at an early age. They were taught to fire the arrow when the horse’s hooves were off the ground to achieve maximum accuracy. They adopted strategies against walls cities out of necessity because the steppes had no fortified towns. In China, the Mongols captured Chinese soldiers and tortured them until they gave them the knowledge to build the necessary siege engines.
Psychological warfare was the Khan’s bread and butter. His armies often used harassing techniques to lure the enemy into ambushes or tied sticks to the tails of their cavalry to exaggerate the size of cavalry charges. The night before battle, troops would burn five fire pits to further exaggerate their numbers.
He would give his opponents the opportunity to surrender and join him before murdering every living thing in their city. He tortured motivated his enemies to death by boiling them alive, had them suffocated, or, in the case of noble named Inalchuq, poured molten silver into the eyes and ears. Fear was an effective tactic that minimized loses in his conquest because cities would rather surrender than suffer the dire consequences.
You could keep your God, but not your shoes.
History remembers the Great Khan, mostly, as a warmongering sociopath, but his views on religious tolerance have influenced our own government’s Constitution. Thomas Jefferson’s view on the separation of church and state is eerily close to the Mongolian warlord’s idea of unifying the tribes (and subsequent territories), regardless of faith and orienting them toward greater ambitions.
Kill all humans.
Safe trade routes
His protections also extended to merchants traveling within his empire in what is now known as the Pax Mongolica (Mongol Peace). Some accounts go as far as to say that a maiden bearing a nugget of gold on her head could wander without fear throughout the realm.
Alpha male genetics..?
Let’s set something straight first. The Great Khan has 16 million living descendants as a direct result of his empire. And it was common for him to take many women from the vanquished. He, himself, was certainly not kind to women in general.
But his social policies supported women’s rights and, to this date, affect a woman’s role in Mongolian society. Though women were still subordinate to men in Mongol culture, they were less subdued than in other civilizations of the time. In fact, Sorkhaqtani, the wife of one of Genghis’ sons, was a trusted advisor played a crucial role in holding the empire together.
Nowadays, you can find entire sections of the internet devoted to mastering the art of “off-grid” living. There, you can find both experts and charlatans exchanging argumentative blows in the never-ending digital debates we’ve let permeate through every facet of our modern lives. Back in 1967, however, things were different.
The internet was still a long way off, as were debates about the best solar-powered showers and thousand-dollar coolers. Getting off the grid back then was a conceptually simpler exercise: you just went into the woods and made do with what you had. Of course, without much of the technology even the saltiest of outdoorsmen have come to rely on today (like modern waterproofing and insulation in our clothes), living off the land was only simple in concept.
Doing so, of course, took hard men with even harder wills; men like Dick Proenneke.
Dick Proenneke hard at work in Twin Lakes, Alaska.
(National Parks Service photo taken by Richard Proenneke and donated by Raymond Proenneke)
Proenneke joined the Navy the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He served as a carpenter, honing his woodworking skills until the end of the war. Upon leaving service, he trained as a diesel mechanic, quickly earning a name for himself that allowed him to travel around the West Coast for work before once again loaning his skills to the Navy as a civilian heavy equipment operator and mechanic at the Naval Air Station Kodiak in Alaska.
After an accident at work years later nearly left Proenneke blind, he decided to devote the remainder of his life to living it as he saw fit. A modest and responsible man, he’d saved enough by age 50 to start his retirement, though while most see retirement as an end to hard work, for Proenneke, it was just the beginning.
An avid naturalist and amateur filmmaker, Proenneke set off to build a log home in the unsettled wilderness of Twin Lakes, Alaska–far from the closest remnants of human civilization. Aside from a few tools and some waterproofing materials he utilized in the construction of his home, he built the entire cabin by hand using only what he had available in the dense Alaskan bush. While this is a feat many others have accomplished, what made Proenneke special was that he filmed the whole thing, giving us a first-hand look at how off-grid living was done back before people debated it in online forums instead of doing it for real.
Proenneke leaned hard on his days as a Navy carpenter in the construction of his home, building most of it with little more than hand saws, mallets, and a sharp ax. He even fashioned the hinges on his doors out of wood he harvested from nearby trees. In the videos he captured along the way, you can see the combination of expertise and patience guiding Proenneke’s hands, making quick work of complex tasks and, if you’re anything like me, occasionally even fooling you into thinking the work looks easy.
Proenneke remained in his modest but expertly crafted cabin for the better part of three decades before finally returning to civilization at age 82. Four years later, he passed away, leaving the cabin to the National Parks Service to be preserved for posterity, as his remote home at Twin Lakes had already become a bit of a tourist attraction for like-minded adventurers that imagined their own lives away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.
Today, Dick Proenneke’s legacy lives on not only thanks to visitors reaching his remote cabin, but in a series of books and television specials compiled before and after his death. His footage, combined with journals Proenneke maintained over the years, offer a glimpse into the reality of embraced solitude, self-reliance, and what man is capable of if he’s willing to forgo convenience in favor of purpose.
Much of his footage can now be found on YouTube, allowing an entirely new generation of aspiring outdoor enthusiasts to see what getting “off the grid” meant back before that turn of phrase was even invented. Watching Proenneke’s films not only serves as a how-to of sorts, but it also serves as a reminder that humanity wasn’t always so tied to electricity, comfort, and recreation. There was a time when our lives were intrinsically linked to the world around us, when our survival was predicated on our wits and work ethic, and when our job was just a list of things that had to get done before sunset.
Dick Proenneke is a reminder to us all that we aren’t the consumers and couch potatoes we’ve been groomed to be: we’re powerful, capable men and women wired just like the survivors, warriors, and hunters that came before us. The only difference between Dick Proenneke and each of us is a bit of know-how and a lot of heart. These videos can help with the former, but for the latter, you’ll have to look for inside yourself.
You never forget your first — that’s what they all say. Whether service member or military spouse, your first duty station sticks with you for the duration of your military existence. Why? Because it’s all-new, and likely not so shiny. You have to learn things the hard way, you never know where anything is located, housing is a mess, and that’s not even the bulk of it.
PCSing certainly gets easier with time, but when it comes to your first move — your first oh-so-very-painful PCS — it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
Take a look at these all-too-common instances as described in totally accurate memes.
When you realize you have no idea what you are doing
2. Finally getting your HHG and trying to unpack like
Are we done yet?
3. Calling the housing office 10 times a day
4. All the training events for new families
Can we go now?
5. Trying to find the closest grocery store:
Do your best work, GPS.
6. Until you finally get acclimated to your surroundings
Everything is different here.
7. Trying to meet the new neighbors like:
8. SRSLY let’s BFF
Find your own kind of weird out there.
9. More unpacking
Seriously how long does this even take?
10. There are just so many distractions
It’ll get done … eventually.
Your first move, and your first duty station stick with you for the long haul. More often than not, it’s because of the growing pains along the way. Tell us about your most difficult lessons learned with your first PCS experience.
In 1949, Chinese Communists under Mao Zedong finally managed to chase the Chinese Nationalists off the mainland and to Taiwan, where they remain to this day. After 70 years of communism and varying degrees of personal and economic freedom for the Chinese people, the Chinese are finally able to call Chinese Communism something of a success – and China doubled down on the formula, celebrating its platinum jubilee with a military parade, unlike anything it threw before.
Communists love a parade. Dictators do too. Few events are more associated with Communist dictatorships than a good ol’ fashioned parade of ground troops, tanks, and maybe some nuclear missiles. This trait was on full display in China on Oct. 1, 2019, as Chinese President Xi Jinping watched the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China goose step their way into the world headlines on China’s 70th birthday.
The Chinese President was dressed for the occasion, wearing the distinctive “Mao Suit,” popularized by the Chairman and founder of the PRC, a simple button-down tunic with baggy pants. The suit is a functional form of dress, encouraged by Mao for citizens of all social strata to wear. It soon became a symbol of Chinese communism. He spent part of the parade in a limousine, shouting encouragement at Chinese soldiers, who shouted catchphrases back at the leader.
A float featuring China’s national emblem travels past Tian’anmen Gate during a parade marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, on its National Day in Beijing, China Oct. 1, 2019.
The parade itself was a showcase of Chinese capabilities, engineered to remind the world just what China’s capabilities are. Along with the standard presence of Chinese-built tanks, missiles, and even drones, the parade included China’s homebuilt DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile, a first for any Chinese parade. The ICBM is the world’s longest-range nuclear missile, capable of reaching the United States in 30 minutes with six to ten warheads per missile.
Also on display for the first time was China’s JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile, which is not capable of reaching the United States from Chinese waters, but provides China with its own complete nuclear triad. The two missiles are the most powerful weapons in the PRC’s arsenal. Also marching in the parade were 15,000 Chinese communist troops and 70 floats describing the history of China and the different cultural parts of the country.
Notably missing from the parade were any of the billion-plus average Chinese citizens who were shut out of the parade. Despite the celebrations, China isn’t the unified bastion of communism it appears to be, as it faces opposition in areas nominally under its control, including the Muslim Xinjiang Province, as well as Tibet and Hong Kong, where the Communist leadership is facing a mountain of protests to Beijing’s rule.
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman will reportedly be in Singapore when President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in a landmark summit on June 12, 2018, according to sources cited in a New York Post report on June 5, 2018.
“No matter you might think about his presence. One thing’s for sure the ratings will be huge,” a source said in the report. “A lot of times in situations that involve complex diplomacy, countries like to identify ambassadors of goodwill and whether you agree with it or not Dennis Rodman fits the bill.”
Rodman has developed a rapport with Kim over the last several years, so much so that he made two trips to the reclusive nation and is one of the few American citizens to have met with its leader. Kim is widely believed to be a fan of the 1990s Chicago Bulls. Rodman was on the team from 1995 to 1998, playing alongside the legendary Michael Jordan.
Rodman has a connection to Trump, who hosted NBC’s reality TV show, “The Apprentice.” In 2013, Rodman was fired by Trump on the show, after misspelling Melania Trump’s name on a promotional poster as “Milania.”
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
Rodman will reportedly arrive in Singapore on June 11, 2018, and could have some role in the upcoming negotiations, sources told the Post, but it’s unclear what that role could be.
Rodman, who fancies himself a sports ambassador to North Korea, said that he did not “want to take all the credit” for laying the groundwork for the summit.
“I don’t want to sit here and say, ‘I did this. I did that.’ No, that’s not my intention,” Rodman told the celebrity gossip outlet TMZ in April 2018. “And I’ve always asked [Kim] to talk to me because he wants the people of North Korea — and the government over there asked me to talk to Donald Trump about what they want and how we can solve things.”
The meeting between Trump and Kim will be held at the Capella Hotel in Singapore. It will be the first such dialogue between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Jimmy Ward was a 22-year-old pilot when he received the Victoria Cross. World War II had been ongoing for a year and the British Empire stood alone against Axis-occupied Europe. Things looked grim as a whole, but small time pilots with stories like Sgt. Ward’s added up to a lot in the end.
The New Zealander was flying with his crew back from a raid on Münster, in northeast Germany. The resistance was light; there were few search lights and minimal flak. He was the second pilot, positioned in the astrodome of his Wellington bomber when an enemy interceptor came screaming at them, guns blazing.
An attacking Messerschmitt 110 was shot down by the rear gunner before it could take down the plane, but the damage was done. Red-hot shrapnel tore through the airframe, the starboard engine, and the hydraulic system. A fire suddenly broke out on the starboard wing, fed by a fuel line.
After putting on their chutes in case they had to bail, the crew started desperately fighting the fire. They tore a hole in the fuselage near the fire so they could get at the fire. They threw everything they had at it, including the coffee from their flasks.
By this time, the plane reached the coastline of continental Europe. They had to decide if they were going to try to cross over to England or go down with the plane in Nazi-occupied Holland. They went for home, preferring a dip in the channel to a Nazi prison camp.
That’s when Sgt. James Ward realized he might be able to reach the fire and put it out by hand. His crewmates tied him to the airplane as he crawled out through the astrodome and tore holes in the plane’s fuselage to use as hand holds as he made his way to the fire on the wing.
He moved four feet onto the wing, avoiding being lifted away by the air current or rotor slipstream and being burned by the flaming gas jet he was trying to put out. He only had one hand free to work with because the other was holding on for dear life.
Ward smothered the fire on the fuel pipe using the canvas cockpit cover. As soon as he finished, the slipstream tore it from his hands. He just couldn’t hold on any longer.
With the fire out, there was nothing left to do but try to get back inside. Using the rope that kept him attached to the aircraft he turned around and moved to get back to the astrodome. Exhausted, his mates had to pull him the rest of the way in. The fire flared up a little when they reached England, but died right out.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill personally awarded Sgt. Ward the Victoria Cross a month later.
“I can’t explain it, but there was no sort of real sensation of danger out there at all,” Ward later said. “It was just a matter of doing one thing after another and that’s about all there was to it.”
American troops are obsessed with coffee. If there’s a military unit whose coffee pot isn’t the hardest-working machine in the building, I haven’t seen it. It doesn’t seem to matter how good or bad the coffee is (even though good coffee is preferable), that beautiful, dirty-brown water is what really fuels the U.S. military’s bureaucratic inner workings — and always has.
Long before Rip-Its became the official beverage of the Global War on Terror, coffee was the only game in town and it was so important during the Civil War that it might have been the reason the North won the war.
The South wished they had the ability to brew coffee the way the North did. The Union blockade of the Confederate States meant that real coffee was in very short supply, and ground troops were unlikely to receive any of it. The Confederate Army tried everything they could to replace the magic bean, including replacing it with alternatives, like roasted acorns, malted barley, actual beans, cottonseed, potato peels, and the ever-present chicory root.
But there’s nothing like the real thing, baby. As Union troops realized when they had to start subsisting on what they could capture from Southerners, coffee was only available through Uncle Sam. As you go back through historical records, they more than made their feelings known — and businesses, government, and families soon responded.
“Coffee Call” by Winslow Homer.
1. Civil War diaries use the word “coffee” more than any other.
That’s right — more than words like “bullets,” “war,” “cannon,” “Lincoln,” and even “mother,” troops had one thing on their minds: black gold. In letters written back to their families, much of the discussion was focused on the quality of the coffee that day or the hope that they would have coffee the following. Even around the campfire, much of the talk centered around the quality of that day’s joe.
2. This rifle with a grinder in the butt stock.
In the 1860s, the Sharps Rifle Company created a carbine with a small grinder in its butt stock, which was immediately useless for most intended purposes. It was actually designed to grind grain for horses in cavalry units, but the very fact that people immediately thought of using it as a coffee grinder tells you just how important coffee was to the average troop. I bet Sharps Rifle Company wishes they had thought of marketing it that way.
When there’s no room for Jeb to fit, but Jeb sits anyway.
3. There was no water too putrid to make coffee.
As long as troops had the beans to brew it, coffee was going to happen. Not only were troops happy to use their canteen water to make coffee, they would also use free-running water, water from puddles, and even the sediment-filled water of the Mississippi River – also known as Mississippi Mud.
The best part of Civil War is Folgers in your cup.
4. The officers noticed the effects it had on the men.
Many Union officers ensured their men got at least a cup of the stuff in the morning before a battle, with many often having it ready for them after the battle, some demanding the men keep it in their canteens, and even going so far as to hire boys to run coffee to men in critical positions.
Then-Sgt. William McKinley was one such runner, who made it all the way to the White House riding that brave Civil War act during the Battle of Antietam. Hell, a monument was even erected for it.
Hundreds of people attended the memorial and funeral of a World War II soldier in his hometown of Troy, Indiana on March 30, 2019. Most of them never met him.
Pfc. Clifford M. Mills, a soldier who fought with the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, was buried 75 years after his death during Operation Market Garden in 1944.
Mills was considered Missing in Action since Sept. 18, 1944, after the glider he was in crashed behind enemy lines near Wyler, Germany, until January 2019 when his remains were identified by the Defense Prisoner Of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency and transferred back to his hometown on March 28, 2019.
U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to the 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, carry the casket of Clifford M. Mills, a World War II veteran, in Troy, Ind., March 30, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)
Mills’ remains were transported from Tell City’s Zoercher-Gillick Funeral Home to Troy Cemetery in an elaborate procession consisting of local fire departments, law enforcement, and motorcycles flashing red and blue lights.
As the procession made its way, it passed beneath a large American flag attached to the outstretched ladder of a firetruck. Residents of all ages lined the streets or stood in front of public buildings waving American flags or saluting as the procession passed by them.
A portrait of U.S. Army Pfc. Clifford M. Mills, formerly a member of the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, is displayed at his memorial service in Tell City, Ind., March 30, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)
The Purple Heart recipient was buried with full military honors provided by the 319th Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Abn. Div. from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
“In the 82nd Airborne, we walk in the footsteps of legends,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Seymour of the 319th. “With each of these homecomings, we close the gap of those still missing and come closer to fulfilling our promise to never leave a comrade behind.”
Currently, there are 72,000 Americans still unaccounted for from World War II.
Seymour presented Mills’ 91-year-old brother, Robert Lee Mills, with a folded flag during the burial ceremony March 30, 2019.
U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to the 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, carry the casket of Clifford M. Mills, a World War II veteran, in Troy, Ind., March 30, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)
Mills was buried next to his wife, Ethel Mills, who died in 2004. She never remarried. Notably, the efforts of a 33-year-old Dutch man from the Netherlands proved unmeasurable in facilitating the positive identification and homecoming of Mills.
Nowy van Hedel was approved by a volunteer program 12 years ago, which assigned him the name of a soldier on the Walls of the Missing at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands.
After over a decade of research conducted in his free time, Hedel submitted his findings to the DPAA in 2017. Scientists from the DPAA were able to make a positive identification. Hedel received the news from Mills’ family in January 2019.
The casket vault of Clifford M. Mills rests above ground before being buried at Troy Cemetery in Troy, Ind., March 30, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)
“You’d get one lead and search that direction. Then you’d hit a dead end. It went on for 12 years,” said Hedel. “When I received the information from the family that there was a 100 percent match, my world was turned upside down. I couldn’t believe it.”
Hedel keeps a photograph of Mills in his living room. He also continues to help others in identifying unknown soldiers.
A rosette has been placed next to Mills’ name on the wall to indicate he has been accounted for. “It is like a piece of closure for me,” said Hedel holding back tears, “but you also feel the pain because it’s a funeral. He died 75 years ago for our freedom.”
On May 12, 1862, a gentleman named Robert Smalls was aboard a Confederate transport ship pretending to be doing his normal duties. In reality, he was preparing to take a risk that could cost him his life.
Smalls was a pilot for the Confederate Navy’s military transport, CSS Planter, and picked up four captured Union guns, over 200 rounds of ammunition, and other supplies. The Planter was a lightly armed ship that skirted up and down the coast and down rivers and allowed the Confederate military to move troops, supplies, and ammunition while staying away from the Union blockade that was set up a few miles out to sea. It also laid mines to keep the Union fleet away from the harbor.
When the ship got back to its dock, the three officers on board left Smalls in charge and went to their homes to sleep. They had no reason to think that Smalls or the crew would do anything crazy.
Around 3 a.m. that night, Robert and the crew cast off. Instead of heading for their intended destination, they had to backtrack into the harbor. They made one stop where they onboarded several women and children and started off again. The Planter wasn’t exactly quiet. Literally anyone standing watch would hear and see her coasting along the harbor. Robert knew this from his years of experience piloting the boat.
He put on his captain’s spare uniform and a straw hat that was made to look like his captain’s. Along the way, the Planter passed by several Confederate lookout posts. As they approached each one, Robert would give the passcode and salute in the same mannerism as his captain. By 4:30 a.m., the ship was passing Fort Sumter. The old Union Fort was the site of the beginning of the war and full of Confederate soldiers guarding the harbor against the United States Navy.
As they passed the imposing walls of the Fort, Smalls being as cool as a cucumber, took off his hat and waved it. At the same time, he sounded the ships whistle with the correct number of blows.
A Confederate sentry yelled, “Blow the damned Yankees to hell, or bring one of them in.” Robert simply replied, “Aye Aye” and continued on.
As if the night wasn’t already stressful enough, Robert now headed straight to a Union blockade in a ship flying both the Confederate Stars and Bars as well as the South Carolina State Flag.
He ordered the flags lowered and a white flag raised. But there were two problems. It was still too dark to clearly see, and the morning fog came in pretty thick. It would be a tragedy to come all this way just to be blown out of the water. The Planter headed toward the USS Onward, which by now had taken sight of the ship and prepared its guns to sink it, at first assuming it was trying to attack the blockade.
As the Union shouted warnings at the Planter, they noticed the white flag and its occupants celebrating on the deck while gesturing furiously and cursing at Ft. Sumter.
As the Planter pulled alongside the Onward, the Union captain started looking for the presumed Confederate captain. A man in a Confederate captain uniform came forward, took off his hat, and proclaimed, “Good morning, sir! I’ve brought you some of the old United States guns, sir! That were for Fort Sumter, sir!” Shock registered across the Union sailors’ faces as they finally cast eyes on the Planters “captain.”
Robert Smalls was a slave.
His entire crew was also slaves, and their families were aboard too. A bunch of slaves had just escaped from bondage by stealing a Confederate Naval vessel, and sailing right passed the Rebel’s own eyes!
The Union realized that not only did they get a ship and its cargo, but a trove of valuable intelligence. On board was a book with all the Confederate passcodes as well as a map detailing the layout of mines in Charleston harbor, and Smalls own detailed knowledge of which forts were manned, gunned and their supplies.
As news spread Northward, the press took the story and ran with it. Smalls was an instant celebrity in the North. In the South, there was considerable embarrassment that a slave would be able to steal a naval vessel. Slaves had previously escaped by using hand made canoes and rafts as a means to get to the Union blockade. But to have slaves steal a ship of the Confederate Navy was too much. The three officers who left the ship were court-martialed. They claimed they wanted to spend time with their families, although many suspected they never fathomed that slaves would be smart enough to steal the ship.
They obviously didn’t know their pilot very well.
Robert Smalls was born in Beaufort, South Carolina to a slave mother and her owner. When he was 12, he was loaned out to work in the shipyards of Charleston. The practice was that slaves would work in urban areas in skilled positions, and the master would collect the wages for himself. Slaves in this position would be able to move around the city from their lodging to their place of work. Some even were able to save money on their own. Smalls worked his way up from a longshoreman to being a pilot of boats that traveled up and down the coast. From age 12 to 23, Smalls mastered the art of piloting ships and absorbed everything around him; the harbor, fortifications, passcodes, whistle codes, and when the war started, all the military intelligence he would learn.
When he was 17, Smalls married a slave that worked in a local hotel. By the time of his escape at 23, he had a family that he was worried about. He was conscripted into the Confederate Navy, but he knew with the war going the way it was at the time there was a chance the Rebels could win. He also was under constant duress that his wife and kids would be sold at a whim, never to be seen again. He knew at some point he had to do something, and on the morning of May 13, he sailed his way into history.
You would think at this point, with his family and his freedom that Smalls would be content to just relax and enjoy his celebrity status.
Robert Smalls had only just begun to fight.
Smalls traveled to D.C. as part of an effort to convince Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, and through him, President Abraham Lincoln, of the need to allow blacks to serve in the United States military. Smalls own daring escape was one of the examples used, and soon after, Lincoln allowed units to be formed consisting of escaped slaves and freedmen.
Smalls then became a civilian contractor in the Navy. The captured Planter was valuable because of its shallow draft and his combination of pilot skills and knowledge of mine placements made Smalls a valuable commodity. He later was transferred to the Army when ships like the Planter were deemed more suitable for Army operations. He ended up seeing action in 17 Civil War engagements.
In one engagement, the Planter came under heavy Confederate fire. The Captain of the ship ran from the pilothouse down to the coal room expecting the ship to be captured. Smalls, knowing that black crew members would be killed if captured, decided that surrender wasn’t exactly in his best interest. He took control of the ship and piloted the Planter through a heavy barrage and into safety. For this action, General Quincy Adams Gilmore gave him the rank of captain, making him the first African American to command a U.S. ship. (After the war, the military contested the rank saying it wasn’t a true military rank. Smalls fought them on this, and eventually earned the pension of a Navy captain).
In 1864, Smalls was then picked to be one of the freedmen delegates to the Republican National Convention. It was to be held in Philadelphia that year. While in Philadelphia, an incident happened that would motivate Robert Smalls for the rest of his life. While on a trolley car, he was ordered to give up his seat to a white man and move. He instead got off and protested his treatment as a war hero. The city was embarrassed, and local politicians began a concentrated effort to desegregate public transportation in Philadelphia. They succeeded in 1867.
After the war, Smalls returned to Beaufort. He purchased the home of his old master, which was seized during the war. He allowed his old masters family to live on the premises while he started out on his new life. One of the first things he did was learn to read and write. Intelligence had already been seen in Smalls, but he knew he could do more.
And he did.
He opened a store, started a railway, and began a newspaper. He also invested heavily in economic development projects in Charleston. Smalls spoke with a Gullah accent, and this made his extremely popular with local African Americans as he was one of them but had become very successful. Smalls took the opportunity to get involved in politics.
Smalls was a die-hard Republican once saying it was…”the party of Lincoln…which unshackled the necks of four million human beings” and “I ask that every colored man in the North who has a vote to cast would cast that vote for the regular Republican Party and thus bury the Democratic Party so deep that there will not be seen even a bubble coming from the spot where the burial took place.”
Smalls knew that post-war, newly freed slaves would bear the wrath of Southern Democrats and got heavily involved in politics. He first served in the South Carolina State Legislature from 1868 to 1874.
In 1874, he took his talents to Washington D.C. as a newly elected member of the House of Representatives. He served until 1887. Along the way, his career was hampered by Southern Democrats’ furious efforts to gerrymander districts, stop African Americans from voting, remove Federal troops from the South, and personal assaults. His career effectively came to an end when he was accused by Democrats of taking a bribe (a charge he was later pardoned for).
After his national career was over, Smalls remained active as a community leader. He most famously stopped two African American men from being lynched. He died in 1915 at the age of 75.
On his tombstone was a quote from his political career.
“My race needs no special defense, for the past history of them in this country proves them to be the equal of any people anywhere. All they need is an equal chance in the battle of life.”