Of all the things our 16th President is remembered for these days, his uncanny strength is often overlooked. During his days on the American frontier, he was known for his strength and wrestling prowess. The “Rail Splitter” (Lincoln’s nickname), was a volunteer soldier during the Black Hawk War and even manhandled a violent viewer during one of his political speeches, leaving the podium to toss a man 12 feet away from the crowd.
The Confederacy clearly didn’t know who they were dealing with.
Life on the American frontier was harsh for a figure like Lincoln. He was raised in rural areas of what was then the very edge of a nascent, young country. In his early years, he could barely read or write, and as such he took work as a hired hand. When he was still very young, he experienced a growth spurt that saw him towering over others. His large frame and chosen profession saw the gaunt young boy turn into a man of uncommon strength.
Young Lincoln moved around the country on more than one occasion, and the first thing that needed to be done in his new home was to clear an area of trees and construct his new dwelling. For this, he needed a trusty ax – a tool with which he would become an expert user. His skills with an ax would come in handy later, as his reputation as a free laborer (as opposed to, say, a slave) catapulted him to the White House in 1860.
While occupying the White House, Lincoln had very little use for his skills as a laborer, but the strength he acquired in his early years never left him. On the day before the end of the Civil War, the President was visiting a military hospital in Virginia and spent much of the day shaking hands with Union soldiers, both wounded and not wounded. Onlookers swore the 56-year-old must have shaken thousands of hands that day. But when one Union troop told the President that he must be tired from a day full of shaking hands, Lincoln took it as a challenge.
Spotting an ax, he opted to show a feat of strength he’d done many, many times before when wanting to bond with Union soldiers. He was known to even challenge them to the display of strength he was about to put on for the Petersburg, Va. hospital patients and their visitors.
Lincoln walked over to the ax, picked it up by the butt, and held it out at arms’ length, parallel to the ground for as long as he could.
“Strong men who looked on, men accustomed to manual labor, could not hold the same ax in that position for a moment,” wrote Francis Fisher Browne, a Union soldier who authored a biography called “The Every-Day Life of Abraham Lincoln.”
Such a feat of strength by the Commander-In-Chief was impressive to Union soldiers. Very often, they couldn’t manage such a stunt. During the hospital visit, after holding out the ax, he even began chopping a log nearby, showering onlookers with chips of wood – which they all kept.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called for Russia to withdraw its troops from breakaway regions in Georgia while also pledging deeper security and economic support for Tbilisi.
“The United States unequivocally condemns Russia’s occupation on Georgian soil,” Pompeo said in opening remarks to the annual U.S.-Georgian Strategic Partnership in Washington on May 21, 2018. “Russia’s forcible invasion of Georgia is a clear violation of international peace and security.”
Russia has troops stationed in Georgia’s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions that remained after a 2008 war in South Ossetia between Russian and Georgian troops.
Moscow and a few other nations have recognized the two separatist regions as independent countries.
Pompeo also repeated U.S. policy that Washington supports Georgia’s eventual membership in NATO.
Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said after a meeting with Pompeo that U.S. support for a peaceful resolution to Russian troops in Georgia “is of highest importance to our country and regional stability.”
Kvirikashvili added that Georgia’s membership in the military alliance would be a “clear added value for Euro-Atlantic security.”
NATO promised Georgia eventual membership in 2008.
Kvirikashvili said U.S. involvement in infrastructure projects in Georgia, like the Anaklia deep-sea port on the Black Sea coast, would help attract economic interest to the area.
Featured Image: Green Beret in Vietnam (not Gaspard); Photos: SF Association Chapter XXI.
‘A Warrior’s Warrior’ in MACV-SOG
During America’s long war in Vietnam, many of the Green Berets who fought there became legends within the Special Forces Regiment. And among those warriors were the men of MACVSOG (Military Assistance Command Vietnam, Studies and Observations Group); the SOG warriors were among the finest the country has ever produced.
LTC George “Speedy” Gaspard was one of the most well-known and respected officers from that generation. After serving with the Marine Corps in World War II, Gaspard joined the Army. He was an original, volunteering for the newly formed 10th Special Forces Group and attending Special Forces Class #1. He would run cross border operations in the Korean War but really made his mark during the war in Vietnam, working in Special Forces A-Camps as well as running some of the most secret operations across the border into North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Gaspard became a “Distinguished Member of the Special Forces Regiment” in December 2010.
Shortly after I moved to SW Florida I got into contact with Chapter XXI of the SF Association. I was checking out their excellent website, saw a large segment dedicated to LTC Gaspard, and remembered a brief meeting I had with him years ago. More to that soon.
George Wallace Gaspard Jr. was born at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Ala., on August 5, 1926. He was the son of the late George W. Gaspard of MN, and Annie Lou Bamberg of AL.
He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1944 to 1946 and fought in the final battle of World War II on the island of Okinawa with the 6th Marine Division. He first entered the U.S. Army on June 11, 1951.
In May 1952, Gaspard was a student in the first all-officer-class at the Ranger course. He then attended a special course at the Air Ground School located at Southern Pines, N.C. Afterward, he volunteered for the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), which had just been organized at Fort Bragg, N.C.
His first assignment was as a team leader of the 18th SF Operational Detachment. In November 1952, he attended Special Forces Class #1. The fledgling Special Forces unit, much of it comprised of World War II vets from the OSS, was anxious to get involved in the Korean War and conduct missions similar to those conducted in occupied areas of Europe and the Pacific during the war.
The SF troops were put in an active intelligence operation that utilized Tactical Liaison Offices (TLO). Although they were initially manned only by anti-communist Koreans, the TLO would eventually conduct “line-crossing operations” which included using Chinese agents to gather intelligence on the enemy.
However, the Far East Command (FEC), assigned the SF troops as individual replacements rather than as 15-man A-Teams that SF was employing at the time using the OSS WWII Operational Group model.
In March 1953, then 1Lt. Gaspard was assigned to FEC/LD 8240AU FECOM. He commanded four enlisted men and 80 South Korean agents, who were dispatched behind enemy lines to gather intelligence on the North Koreans. Obviously the threat of double agents, something that would later haunt SOG operations in Vietnam, loomed. An excellent piece on this facet of the Korean War, written by former SF Officer and USASOC Historian Eugene Piasecki, “TLO: Line Crossers, Special Forces, and ‘the Forgotten War'” can be found here.
Gaspard was awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star for actions in combat during June 11-12, 1953.
In October 1954, Gaspard joined the 77th SF Group (A) as a guerrilla warfare instructor with the Psychological Warfare School’s Special Forces Department. He was subsequently transferred to the 187th ARCT and honorably discharged in September 1957.
From 1960 to 1962, he served as a civilian mobilization designee with the Special Warfare department in the Pentagon. In April 1962, he was recalled to active duty and assigned to the 5th SF Group (A) at Fort Bragg, commanding Det A-13. In September, he opened a new Special Forces Camp in Kontum Province at Dak Pek, Vietnam, which remained the longest continuously active SF/ARVN Ranger camp until it was overrun in 1972. That would be the first of seven tours of duty in Vietnam for Gaspard.
During the early days of Vietnam, there was a general lack of accurate reporting by the press on the fighting. However, there were a handful of reporters who were willing to walk in the field and endure combat with the troops. One of those was Pulitzer Prize-winning author and reporter David Halberstam. He was a special correspondent with the New York Times and not a wire reporter, so, he had the time to visit the troops and share a much closer look at what was truly transpiring on the ground.
One of the first people that Halberstam met in Vietnam was Speedy Gaspard. The two developed a friendship and Gaspard became a source of what was really happening in the outlying areas of Vietnam where SF was working by, with, and through the locals. Halberstam was so taken by Gaspard that he modeled the lead character of his war novel “One Very Hot Day” after him.
Captain Gaspard returned to Fort Bragg in 1963 as adjutant and HHC commander of the newly formed 6th SF Group (A). In July 1965, he reported to AID Washington, DC, and subsequently to AID Saigon, where we was assigned as a provincial adviser in Quang Duc Province. He was instrumental in the very tricky negotiations to peacefully transfer FULRO personnel (Front Uni de Lutte des Races Opprimées — United Front for the Liberation of Oppressed Races) to the Army of South Vietnam.
FULRO was comprised of the indigenous people of the Central Highlands of Vietnam (Montagnards). They were hated by the lowland Vietnamese, both in South and North Vietnam and referred to as “moi” (savages). At the time, Vietnamese books characterized Montagnards as having excessive body hair and long tails. The Vietnamese rarely ventured into Montagnard regions until after the French colonial rule. Then, they built several profitable plantations to grow crops in and extract natural resources from those bountiful areas.
The simple mountain people were excellent hunters and trackers. They immediately bonded with the Green Berets assigned to stop the communist infiltration of South Vietnam and the Green Berets responded in kind. SF set up the Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG), which trained and led the Montagnards in Unconventional Warfare against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.
But the South Vietnamese government never trusted and hated the CIDG program because it feared the Montagnard people would want independence. (Such was their hatred for the Vietnamese that the Montagnards would continue to fight a guerrilla war against unified Vietnam for 20 years after the war ended. There were reports of genocide against the mountain people and over 200,000 died during the fight.)
Gaspard was promoted to major in 1966, and after completing his tour, reported to 1st SF Group (A), Okinawa. In October 1967, he returned to Vietnam and directed the MACVSOG “STRATA” program until September 1968.
The commanders in Vietnam, especially among the SOG personnel, were never satisfied with the intelligence collection activities conducted in North Vietnam. STRATA was conceived to aid the intelligence situation by focusing on short-term intelligence-gathering operations close to the border. The all-Vietnamese Short Term Roadwatch and Target Acquisition teams would report on activities across the border and then be recovered to be used again. Gaspard and the SOG Commander, Col. Jack Singlaub, briefed Gen. Westmoreland and Gen. Abrams on STRATA operations.
Once, a STRATA team became surrounded and required emergency extraction. Gaspard, riding a hydraulic penetrator, twice descended to remove a wounded agent. He was subsequently awarded the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross for Heroism and the Purple Heart Medal for his actions.
Moles inside South Vietnam’s government and military, even in SOG, were a constant source of leaks to the North, even in SOG. Some of these leaks came to light much later. However, Gaspard would remedy that. As written in a fantastic piece by SOG team member John Stryker Meyer, Gaspard moved the operations jump-off location out of South Vietnam and the intelligence leaks began to dry up.
“The unique aspect of STRATA, which operated under OP34B, the teams launched out of Thailand, flying in Air Force helicopters. The Air Force performed all insertions and extractions without pre-mission reports to Saigon. During Gaspard’s tenure at STRATA 24 teams were inserted into North Vietnam on various intelligence-gathering missions. Only one and a half teams were lost during that period of time that involved inserting and successfully extracting more than 150 STRATA team members during that time.” “Again, a key part to our success was having our separate chain of command and not telling Saigon. We worked with the Air Force on a need-to-know basis.”
It wasn’t until many years later that Gaspard realized the extent of the communist infiltration of the south, right into SOG headquarters. Meyer describes in his piece the horror felt when someone close to the Americans, someone who had been vetted, was in fact a spy for the enemy.
“During a 1996 Hanoi television show, Maj. Gen. George “Speedy” Gaspard, was shocked when he saw an individual he knew as “Francois” receive Hanoi’s highest military honor for his years of service as a spy in SOG. Gaspard, who had several tours of duty in Vietnam and in SOG, knew “Francois” and was “shocked” when he saw the program. Francois had access to highly sensitive information while employed by the U.S. Author and SOG recon man John L. Plaster, has a photo of Gaspard standing with Francois in Saigon when Gaspard had no idea of the spy’s real role for the NVA. That photograph of Gaspard and Francois is on Page 463 of Plaster’s book: SOG: A Photo History of the Secret Wars, by Paladin Press Book. “There’s no question that he hurt SOG operations,” Gaspard said. “Again, how do you gauge it all? When you look at the success rate of STRATA teams by comparison, you can see why they succeeded. We were disconnected from Saigon and we didn’t have the NVA and Russians working against us.”
Gaspard returned to SOG in 1969 and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1971. He reported to 1st SF Group, Okinawa as the group executive officer, and later assumed command of the 1st Battalion. He retired in August 1973 after having served in three wars.
His earned multiple awards and decorations including the Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with V-device and five Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with V-device and three Oak Leaf Clusters, Purple Heart Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Combat Infantryman’s Badge with one Battle Star, Master Parachutist Badge, Pacific Theater Service Ribbon with one Campaign Star, Korea Service Ribbon with two campaign Stars, Vietnam Service Campaign Ribbon with 15 campaign Stars, 18 other service and foreign awards including the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Gold, Silver and Bronze stars, U.S. Navy Parachute Wings, Korea Master Parachutist Wings, Vietnamese Master Parachutist Wings, Thailand Master Parachutist Wings, and Cambodia Parachute Wings.
LTC Gaspard was a member of SFA, SOA, VFW, MOAA, American Legion, and the Sons of Confederacy.
From 2004 to 2017 Speedy served as president, vice president, or secretary of the Chapter XXI President of the Special Forces Association. (The Chapter provided a lot of Gaspard’s personal biography listed here.)
In 1985, Colonel Gaspard entered the South Carolina State Guard and in 1987 was appointed Chief of Staff with the rank of Brigadier General. In 1991, he was inducted into the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame at Fort Benning, Georgia.
In the early fall of 1989, when I was a student in the SF Officer’s course at Ft. Bragg, one of our fellow students was a young man named George Gaspard, the son of Speedy. Young George, whom we knew as “Buck” was an outstanding officer and an even better man who was very popular among the officers in the class.
We learned that General Speedy Gaspard was going to address our class. He first showed us an outstanding slideshow of pics he took while conducting some hair-raising missions with SOG. They were better than anything we had seen in any book or magazine. He then addressed the class in his self-effacing style and said: “standing before you is an old, fat man, but in Vietnam, I was an old, fat captain… but I relied on and surrounded myself with outstanding SF NCOs who made me look brilliant.”
He encouraged the future A-Team commanders to trust in their team sergeants and NCOs and they’d never be steered wrong. SF NCOs, he said, were the true leaders of Special Forces and officers need to realize it, work together, and take care of NCOs. Of course, sitting in the rear of the classroom was General David Baratto commander of the Special Warfare Center and School (SWC), who cringed a bit at those pointed comments.
Sitting in the back, my buddy Wade Chapple and I were stealing glances at General Baratto who looked pained… In a typical Chapple bit of sarcasm, he leaned over and said to me, “I think his (Baratto’s) head is about to f***ing explode.”
After the day was over, our entire class, including many of our instructors, joined Speedy Gaspard at the “O-Club” for a cocktail or three. He regaled us with some cool stories about the SF and SOG guys he served with. It was a memorable night. When we left that night, he made everyone feel that we knew him well. It was an honor to have met him.
LTC George “Speedy” Gaspard passed away on January 30, 2018.
Throughout the Cold War, as the nuclear arms race became more frantic, a nuclear confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union remained a major concern.
With intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and air-dropped bombs, both countries had several options when it came to nuclear warfare.
But the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the closing days of World War II made clear the destructive capability of nuclear arms and the danger of a full-blown nuclear conflict.
As a result, US strategists sought ways to use nuclear weapons without triggering an all-out nuclear war.
The tactical nuclear option
In the 1950s, the US military came up with the tactical nuclear option, using weapons with a lower yield and range than their strategic counterparts.
These weapons would be used on the battlefield or against a military-related target to gain an operational advantage. For example, the Air Force could drop a tactical nuclear bomb on a Soviet division invading Poland to stop its advance without triggering a disproportionate response — such as a nuclear attack on New York City.
There were two types of tactical nuclear munitions: The Medium Atomic Demolition Munition (MADM) had a medium-yield payload and required several troops to carry it. The Special Atomic Demolition Munition (SADM) had a low-yield payload but could be carried by one soldier.
The order to use tactical nuclear weapons would still have to come from both political and military authorities. SADMs were subject to the same command-and-control procedures as other tactical nuclear weapons and meant to be used only if there were no other means of creating the desired effect.
Specially trained Green Berets were assigned to Green Light Teams. Their purpose was to clandestinely deploy in NATO or Warsaw Pact countries and detonate their SADMs in a conflict with the Soviets. The Pentagon later included North Korea and Iran on the target list.
Green Light Teams’ main targets were tunnels, major bridges, mountain passes, dams, canals, ports, major railroad hubs, oil facilities, water-plant factories, and underground storage or operations facilities.
In other words, SADMs were intended to either slow down the enemy by destroying or significantly altering the landscape or target the logistical, communications, and operations hubs that are vital to an army, especially during offensive operations.
Green Light Teams primarily carried the MK-54 SADM. Nicknamed the “Monkey” or “Pig,” the device weighed almost 60 pounds and could fit in a large rucksack.
In each team, there was a chief operator who was primarily responsible for the activation of the SADM. He and other members of the team held the codes required to activate the bomb.
Like every Green Beret team, Green Light teams were trained in various insertion methods, including parachuting — both static line and military free fall — skiing, and combat diving.
Free falling was probably the most realistic insertion method other than ground infiltration, but doing it with the device was tough.
During parachute insertions, the chief operator seldom got to jump with the device because it had a high probability of injury for the jumper, and the chief operator was key to mission success.
An operator would have to strap the SADM between his legs like a rucksack, but the device would work against him as he tried to stabilize in the air before deploying his parachute. Even in static-line parachuting, when the ripcord is hooked to the plane, there would still be issues.
Paratroopers will release their rucksacks or other heavy cargo attached to them via a line moments before landing to prevent injuries. But the SADM tended to get stuck between the jumper’s feet in the crucial seconds before landing, resulting in several sprained ankles and broken legs.
Everything closely associated with Green Light Teams was top secret, and the seriousness of the mission followed Green Light operators outside work. They were instructed to travel only on US airliners and never to fly above a communist country in case the plane had to make an emergency landing, which could lead to them being held by local authorities.
No one is coming for us
A common thread among successive generations of Green Light Teams was their distrust of leadership when it came to their specific mission.
“During training, the instructors had told us we had about 30 minutes to clear the blast radius of the device. We never really believed that,” a retired Special Forces operator who served on a Green Light Team told Insider.
“In every other mission, teams would have an extraction plan. We didn’t. It was all up to us to get the hell out of dodge. But that’s not how the Army works. So that’s why we never really believed that we could get out alive in case we had to use one of those things. It was a one-way mission,” the retired Green Beret added.
There were Green Light teams forward deployed in Europe — even in Berlin — always on standby to launch. Some Green Light Teams even sought to forward deploy inside East Germany to be ready in case the Soviets unleashed their military on Western Europe.
Green Light Teams also deployed to South Korea at different times and were on standby in case tensions with North Korea turned into war.
With the end of the Cold War, the Green Light Teams were deactivated. They were never used in a real-world operation.
Stavros Atlamazoglou is a defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.
Something strange has been happening in Eastern Colorado at night.
Since the week of Christmas, giant drones measuring up to six feet across have been spotted in the sky at night, sometimes in swarms as large as 30. The Denver Post first reported these mysterious drone sightings in Northeast Colorado on Dec. 23, 2019. Since then, sightings have spanned six counties across Colorado and Nebraska.
Phillips County Sheriff Thomas Elliot had no answer for where the drones come from or who they belong to, but he has a rough grasp on their flying habits. “They’ve been doing a grid search, a grid pattern,” he told the Denver Post. “They fly one square and then they fly another square.”
The drones, estimated to have six-foot wingspans, have been flying over Phillips and Yuma counties every night for about the last week, Elliott said. Each night, at least 17 drones appear at around 7:00 pm and disappear at around 10:00 pm, staying 200-300 feet in the air.
The Federal Aviation Agency told the Post it had no idea where the drones came from. Spokespeople for the Air Force, Drug Enforcement Administration, and US Army Forces Command all said that the drones did not belong to their organizations.
As the airspace in which the drones are flying is relatively ungoverned, there are no regulations requiring the drone operators to identify themselves. However, Elliott said that the drones do not appear to be malicious.
The Post spoke to commercial photographer and drone pilot Vic Moss, who said that the drones appear to be searching or mapping out the area. Moss said that drones often fly at night for crop examination purposes. It’s also possible that the drones belong to one of several drone companies based in Colorado, which may be testing out new technologies.
In the meantime, Moss urges residents not to shoot down the drones as they are highly flammable.
“It becomes a self-generating fire that burns until it burns itself out,” he told the Post. “If you shoot a drone down over your house and it lands on your house, you might not have a house in 45 minutes.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Over the years, it has become a running joke of sorts that Batman’s glorified fanny pack contains whatever items he needs to fulfill his current mission, regardless of how unlikely a scenario the caped crusader may find himself in. This leads us to the query of the hour- what has Batman’s utility belt been shown to contain?
Up until the release of Detective Comics #29, which formally introduced the idea of Batman having a utility belt, Batman’s costume had, for all intents and purposes, an ordinary belt that stored a single gadget- the bat rope with a grappling hook.
Whats in Batmans Utility Belt & Other Bat Gadgets? – Know Your Universe | Comicstorian
In Detective Comics #29, writer Gardner Fox decided to expand his tool-set, establishing that the Dark Knight wore a belt with numerous pouches containing various gadgets he may need while fighting crime- the first revealed being small glass pellets that when thrown released a large cloud of obscuring, choking gas.
From there things became a bit more elaborate. For example, among other things the utility belt was shown to include a giant balloon figure of batman that can be inflated remotely (Batman #115), a mini Geiger counter (Batman #117), and even a small disk made of asbestos inexplicably revealing his secret identity (Detective Comics #185).
In the 1958 comic Batman #117, it even shows him carrying shark repellent, for all those times one needs to fend off sharks while fighting crime on the streets of Gotham… If you’re curious, in this case Batman was underwater on an alien planet. Lucky for him, he remembered to pack his shark repellent and used it against an angry alien, reasoning that “if it works on the killers of the deep on Earth” it might just scare away a similar creature on an alien planet. We mention this because it gives the infamous scene in the 1966 Batman film where Adam West fends off a shark in mid-air with some handy Shark Repellent Bat Spray some context. Glorious, 1950s era context with pure West.
Later comics also establish that Batman has gadgets specifically designed to counter single members of his rogues gallery such as an antidote to the Joker’s Joker toxin, a Bat-heater to combat Mr Freeze, and special gloves that augment his punching power to fight on a more even playing field with the superhumanly strong villain Bane. Not just for enemies, Batman also apparently keeps what’s needed on hand to take out his allies as well, including a little bit of kryptonite, just in case.
It should also be noted here that in his very earliest comic outings, Batman’s utility belt had space for a handgun. Yes, as sacrilege as this would be in modern times, early versions of Batman had no qualms about shooting bad guys dead.
As for more day to day things, Batman’s utility belt further carries: A first aid kit containing basic surgical tools and various anti-toxins, an acetylene torch that can “cut through the hull of a battleship”, a forensic kit for analysing crime scenes, batarangs, a communication device, keys for the Batmobile, a rebreather in case Batman is ever submerged underwater, Batcuffs (special handcuffs designed to restrain even superpowered individuals), a lockpick, a high resolution camera and in some cases and the aforementioned grappling hook. In addition, the belt also contains numerous darts and pellets designed to subdue, incapacitate or otherwise stun criminals non-lethally when thrown. It also is variously shown to have a flamethrower, and EMP, a sonic devastator, remote claw, napalm, explosive gel, a cryptographic sequencer, and grenades of various type.
In the Batman and Robin film, the belt is even shown to contain a bat-credit card, which, if Batman is to be believed when he flashes it, is something he never leaves home without. And, to be honest, while this scene is often made fun of by the masses, it does at least accurately demonstrate a way for Batman to use his greatest super power- being rich.
In any event, as you might be gathering at this point, writers for Batman really do use his utility belt as a deus ex machina of sorts, usually introducing an amazingly specific gadget seemingly perfectly suited to solve whatever problem Batman has at a given time, with that gadget often never being mentioned again in later depictions.
In an effort to explain away their lazy writing in a semi-plausible way, the comic authors established in Batman canon that the hero obsessively plans every encounter to the most minute detail and has safeguards in place for any eventuality. Thus implying that the exact contents of his utility belt at any given time vary considerably from day to day, though even just going with the staple items that are supposedly always there, the storage capacity of this belt would give Hermione Granger’s handbag a run for its money.
Speaking of planning for any eventuality, the belt has numerous inbuilt security systems to prevent unauthorized use including a tracking beacon and an explosive charge so Batman can destroy it as a last resort if he ever loses it. The belt can also only be accessed by Batman and the various compartments and pouches will only open in response to a specific finger pattern.
The belt is also supposed to be constructed from a titanium alloy that makes it near indestructible, except, we guess from whatever explosive he used for its self destruct mode.
Of course, it’s at this point we feel compelled to point out that in the 1960s Batman TV show, early editions of his utility belt can very clearly be shown to be made up of common household kitchen sponges clipped to a yellow belt…
But to sum up, Batman’s superhero fanny pack contains a bafflingly array of equipment to fight crime, from shark repellent to kryptonite, that somehow all fits neatly into his tiny belt thanks to the magic of lazy comic writing.
Speaking of Batman’s obsessive planning, the comic JLA: Tower of Babel notes that Batman has plans in place to take out his own teammates, keeping detailed dossiers describing how to best deal with heroes such as Superman, Wonder Woman and the Flash. Batman’s obsession with being prepared for every scenario is such that he even keeps a file detailing how to kill himself should the need arise. For anyone curious, Batman notes that the easiest way to kill him would be to distract him by taking an innocent person hostage then take him out like any other mortal man. Although, given countless villains have used this exact strategy against him with little effect, we’re thinking maybe Batman’s planning abilities may be a little overestimated.
This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.
Over 200 vehicles provided to the Afghan government by the United States have fallen into the hands of the Taliban in Badakhshan province. That shocking claim comes from a former Afghan intelligence chief who claims that the vehicles include High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles.
“We lost 200 Humvees and Rangers in two or three months as the result of incompetence. Imagine what has happened to the people in those two or three months,” Rahmatullah Nabi told TOLO News. Faisal Bigzad, the governor of Badakhshan province, has urged that NATO assist the Afghan government by destroying the stolen vehicles.
The story might sound familiar for another reason. Humvees and other vehicles provided to the Iraqi government were captured by ISIS when the terrorist group seized control of portions of Iraq. American air strikes have since destroyed some of that equipment. However, ISIS and the Taliban aren’t the first American enemies to get their dirty mitts on American military gear.
Artists rendering of the capture of the USS Chesapeake. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Way back in the War of 1812, several American vessels, including the frigates USS Essex, USS Chesapeake, and USS President were among those captured by the British in the fighting. The U.S. Navy, of course, captured or sank a number of British ships as well.
At the end of the Age of Sail, the Civil War saw some American ships captured. Most famous was the USS Merrimac, which was repurposed into the ironclad CSS Virginia. But the USS United States, one of the original six frigates ordered in 1797, was also captured by the Confederacy and briefly used until it was scuttled.
In World War II, Japan captured the four-stack destroyer USS Stewart (DD 224). The Stewart had fought in the Dutch East Indies campaign in January and February 1942 before being damaged. As Japanese forces neared, Allied personnel used demolition charges to try to scuttle her.
Despite the scuttling attempt and a hit from a Japanese bomber, the Stewart’s wreck was captured and the Japanese fixed her up and put her into service as Patrol Boat 102. The ship would be notable for assisting the sub chaser CD 22 in sinking the USS Harder (SS 257). After Japan surrendered, the old USS Stewart was recovered, although the name had already been assigned to an Edsall-class destroyer escort, DE 238. The ship was eventually sunk as a target.
Germany, though, takes the prize for its acquisition of American gear. Perhaps its most notable coup was the way the Luftwaffe was able to either capture or cobble together as many as 40 B-17 Flying Fortresses.
The captured planes were often used by Kampfgeschwader 200, sometimes for inserting agents or for reconnaissance. But some were used to infiltrate Allied bomber formations.
Even after World War II, American gear fell into enemy hands far too often. In 1975, a lot of American equipment fell into Communist hands when South Vietnam fell, including F-5E Tiger IIs, C-130 Hercules and C-123 Provider transports, and A-37 Dragonfly attack planes.
In 2005, Hugo Chavez threatened to give China and Cuba F-16 Falcons that the United States had sold to Venezuela in the 1980s. The Soviet Union acquired an F-14 Tomcat from an Iranian defector. In 2006, Marines in Iraq killed a sniper team of two insurgence who were trying to carry out a sniper attack, and recovered a M40A1 sniper rifle that had been lost in a 2004 ambush.
American gear falling into enemy hands is not new — there has been a long history of that happening in the past. Infuriatingly, it will happen in the future, despite the best efforts of American military personnel.
The Pentagon can resist all it wants, but beards have made a comeback.
The Official Journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society even conducted a study to explore how individuals with (or without) facial hair are perceived by others. Women rated men with facial hair as more attractive and appearing healthier than those who were clean-shaven — and now male service members want change.
Today’s military men, however, are just going to have to rely on the uniform to gain an edge over civilians — since the advent of the gas mask, facial hair has been strictly regulated by the military. There are certain exceptions, however, such as a new regulation that will allow service members to wear a beard for religious reasons or operations where a beard could help service members blend in better with the local population.
But until the U.S. military embraces the beard, it’ll remain a rare sight on our warriors.
All the more reason to admire the best military beards in history.
Harry served from 2005-2015, even secretly deploying on combat missions in Afghanistan before his location was publicized and he was pulled out for security reasons. He’s the epitome of cool, he fully recognizes the meaning and importance of service, and he’s proof that a military beard can still look professional.
Ulysses S. Grant
The man led the Union to victory and served two terms as president. That is the beard of victory right there.
Maj. Gen. George Crook
Crook cut his teeth fighting Native American tribes in Oregon before the Civil War. When he was called on to serve the Union, he used the same tactics in the face of the rebel enemy. His beard is exactly the kind you’d expect from a man the Apaches called “Grey Wolf.”
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It’s all about discipline, according to the Navy SEAL and admiral who led one group of special operators when they captured Saddam Hussein and all of special operations when they killed Osama bin Laden. He wrote the book on special operations, had a successful 37-year career in the military, but says the key to saving the world is making your bed.
U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, visits U.S. troops on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013, at Camp McCloskey, Logar province, Afghanistan.
Navy Adm. William McRaven is best known for overseeing Operation Neptune Spear — the raid to kill bin Laden — while he was the commander of Joint Special Operations Command. It was a critical and hotly debated operation, with planners arguing about insertion methods, what aircraft to use, and other details.
In the end, McRaven ordered two specially-equipped Black Hawks as part of the insertion and extraction, and the mission was a roaring success. While it angered an American ally, it also resulted in the death of bin Laden and the seizure of massive amounts of important intelligence.
A German soldier stands guard outside Fort Eben Emael in Belgium in May 1940. The Germans captured the fort with only 87 paratroopers because the special operators seized the initiative in the first moments of the battle.
The book/thesis goes through a detailed examination of eight historic special operations from Germany attacking the Belgians at Fort Eben Emael in 1940 to a 1976 Israeli Raid into Uganda in 1976. McRaven’s assessment of special operations focuses on how successful ones have created and maintained “Relative Superiority,” where operators are able to overcome numerical and defensive shortcomings thanks to creating their own conditions for the fight.
The HMS Campbeltown sits against the drydock in St. Nazaire, France, in the minutes before it blew up and destroyed the docks for the rest of the war. British commandos sacrificed themselves by the hundreds to make the mission successful and cripple Germany in World War II.
This is mainly about creating an imbalance of power and requires initiative. When he explains the concept in his writing, he identifies the moment that a few dozen German paratroopers were able to use shaped charges to knock out the most important defenses on Eben Emael. In the British St. Nazaire Raid, relative superiority was achieved when the commandos were able to get the explosives-laden HMS Campbeltown from the river entrance to the German-held drydocks.
To be clear, achieving relative superiority doesn’t guarantee success, but McRaven maintains that it is necessary for success, and special operations planning should identify what will cause the attackers to achieve relative superiority and how they can protect it during the operation.
On missions like the capture of Saddam Hussein, this special operations relative superiority is unnecessary, because he was hiding in a hole. The more traditional relative superiority of outnumbering and outgunning your enemy provided the edge there. But when it came to the bin Laden raid, where dozens of SEALs and other operators would insert via helicopters while hiding from air defenses, things were different.
Admiral McRaven addresses the University of Texas at Austin Class of 2014
For that, Operation Neptune Spear needed to attain relative superiority by inserting without triggering Pakistani defenses. Once in control of the perimeter, the SEALs would have relative superiority, easily overcoming the terrorist defenders and bin Laden himself.
The ultimately successful mission capped a highly successful career for McRaven that, ironically, had begun with him being fired from his first SEAL unit. His first leadership position had been leading a squad in SEAL Team 6, but he had clashed with the team commander and was fired. He proceeded to command a platoon in SEAL Team 4 and then all of SEAL Team 3 as he climbed the ranks.
Just months before his official retirement, McRaven gave a commencement speech at The University of Texas at Austin for the graduating class of 2014 where he emphasized the importance of making your bed every morning. That section of his speech focused on how achieving one task at the start of the day allowed a person to build momentum and tackle their other tasks.
But it also tied into his belief that Saddam Hussein had doomed himself and that other rogue leaders, like bin Laden, were doomed. McRaven published Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World in 2017. In the book, he discusses going most days to question Hussein when he was a prisoner and seeing the former dictator’s unmade bed.
Not making your bed shows a lack of discipline, and McRaven is all about discipline. He got himself fired from SEAL Team 6 because he pushed for more rigorous discipline, he cites the importance of discipline in two of the case studies in The Theory of Special Operations, and he has discussed the importance of discipline in speeches, addresses, and operations across his career.
So be disciplined, make your bed, and you’ll never find the scary SEAL under it. You might even get to question the next Hussein and help kill the next bin Laden.
When France asked Germany to open negotiations for an armistice and peace treaty during the Battle of France, Germany was quick to agree — but Hitler had one petty and symbolic gesture that he demanded be part of any negotiations.
The rail car that had belonged to French Marshal Ferdinand Foch on display in the 1920s. It would later be dragged back into the forest on Hitler’s demand as a final insult to the conquered French army.
Foch was a French hero in World War I. Despite setbacks in some offensives, like the Battle of the Somme for which he lost prestige, he was credited as one of the primary contributors to the plans that won the first and second battles of the Marne. By the end of the war, he was the Supreme Allied Commander and the Marshal of France.
It was in this role that he went with his train car to the Compiegne Forest in 1918 to oversee the start of the armistice negotiations. After the reading of the preamble, Fochs stepped outside in what was seen as a direct insult to the German officers within.
French Marshal Ferdinand Foch, second from right, and other officers from the French and German forces stand outside Foch’s rail car following the end of armistice negotiations ending hostilities in World War I. The armistice went into effect six hours later.
Some of the Treaty of Versailles most restrictive clauses were drawn from the armistice negotiated in the train car. Foch asked for the farm and got everything. Well, except for the exact number of submarines and locomotives he had demanded. Germany simply had less equipment than Foch desired, but they did sign over what they had.
And it didn’t end there. While some of the worst items from the armistice were left out of the Treaty of Versailles, Foch took a public stance on wanting the most restrictive terms possible on Germany, calling for territory to be remitted to France and decades of occupation. Other negotiators and Allied government leaders refused, largely due to worries that strengthening France too much at the expense of Germany could lead to conquest by France.
French and German soldiers, mostly German, look at the Ferdinand Foch Railway Car in June 1940 as the officers prepare to sign the armistice that will withdraw most French forces from World War II.
For his part, Foch thought the final terms of the treaty were too lenient and declared that the final deal was, “not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.”
Hitler and other German leaders, apparently still seething from their drubbing and Foch’s treatment at the end of World War I, invaded France less than 21 years after the Treaty of Versailles was signed.
During the invasion, France, gambling heavily that the Ardennes Forest was impassable for panzers and that the Maginot Line was nearly unassailable, sent its best units north. But while the Maginot Line would largely hold for a few weeks, panzers actually found fairly easy passage through the Ardennes, allowing the blitzkrieg to grab large sections of French territory.
The top tier units sent north, meanwhile, were unable to quickly turn and face the new threat and were largely enveloped, forcing the surrender of most of France’s strongest and most modern units. The blitzkrieg marched towards Paris, which was then declared an “Open City,” a city that has given up resisting so that it won’t be destroyed in the war.
The invasion had begun May 10, 1940. Largely because of the Ardennes gamble and the overwhelming force of the blitzkrieg, the negotiations for the armistice began less than six weeks later.
The Compiegne Forest, which Germany demanded be the site of negotiations, meanwhile had grown into a sort of park celebrating France’s World War I victory. A statue of Foch overlooked the rail car, monuments to French dead, and a large statue celebrating the defeat of Germany.
Hitler looks at the statue of Ferdinand Foch in the Compiegne Forest before going into Foch’s former railway car to negotiate France’s surrender to Germany.
(U.S. War Department)
Germany destroyed it all, except for the statue of Foch. Where it had once overlooked a forest filled with monuments to France’s victory, it now looked over only a wasteland. For the rest of the war and the first few months of peace, Foch’s statue sat largely alone in an empty forest, all other symbols of triumph stripped away.
But with the end of the war, money was gradually allocated to rebuild the monuments. The train car was burnt and destroyed by Germany in Berlin in 1945, but another car from the same train was found and rebuilt to appear exactly like the Ferdinand Foch Railway Car. It sits like its predecessor in the Compiegne Forest.
When Michael Oulavong came home from the Marine Corps, he wasn’t able to make the same transition as some of his peers. Initially, he found success training as an EMT and firefighter, but ran into troubles when old Marine Corps injuries derailed his plans.
He sank further into his mental funk and started experiencing more symptoms of his PTSD. He needed a change and he needed a friend. That’s when he met Zoe.
Marine veteran Michael Oulavong deployed.
“My plan literally just fell apart and, being a Marine, I need to prepare for everything,” he said. “I have everything planned out… …I didn’t plan for this injury and for this doctor to be like, ‘You shouldn’t be a firefighter.’ That’s when I was like, ‘Well, crap. I’m in this black hole right now. I’m just stuck. I don’t know what to do.’ …I was in a rut. I was dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts. I was lonely.”
Oulavong knew that he needed a change, and he heard about Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation’s program to pair rescue dogs with veterans and teach the veteran to train the animal to be a service dog. It meant that Oulavong could get a service dog to help with his symptoms nearly for free.
And that’s a huge deal. Service dogs can change the trajectory of a veteran’s life, but costs can also top ,000 for a single animal.
Oulavong signed up and was surprised by how quickly he was paired with Zoe, a mixed-breed dog that clearly has a lot of German Shepherd blood.
“… the day that I first met her, it was, to be honest, it was just kind of like meeting a stranger,” he said “It was just like, ‘Hey, there’s a dog. Shoot, I guess this is my dog.’ It was kind of overwhelming when I initially met her because it was like, ‘Okay, now I have another living thing to take care of.'”
Michael Oulavong and service dog, Zoe, at the pet store.
Zoe and Oulavong met just two weeks after he signed up for the program, but he quickly became worried about the financial obligations of owning a dog. Even though he had received Zoe for free, he knew that taking care of animals can get expensive. That’s when Purina Dog Chow, which partners with the Animal Rescue Fondation to help cover some of the costs of the program and of the individual animals, stepped in.
“I was like, ‘I can’t afford this type of thing, but thank you,'” he said. “Thanks to Merritt [Rollins, ARF Veterans program manager] and to ARF and Purina, everything, they calmed those nerves down pretty quickly. You get free food for the rest of your dog’s life. They take me to Pet Food Express, and the program paid for everything the dog needed, from their poop bags to its crate to her food to everything else.”
And so Zoe and Oulavong started training. Luckily for him, Zoe stood out during training for her calm and for ability to learn quickly.
Michael Oulavong and Zoe on the day of their graduation from Basic Manners I.
“It was easy to train her,” Oulavong said. “It took work. I spent every day doing it, but compared to the other dogs in the program — not trying to talk bad about them — Zoe really made them look, seriously, she made them look like kids, but she was the adult.”
Some of the training is basic obedience work, but dogs and veterans who stick with the program will graduate to full-on service dog status, with the dogs properly trained to identify and interrupt panic attacks and other episodes in their nascent stages.
“When I do have those instances of having a panic attack or feeling very anxious and everything, I have certain tells in my body,” Oulavong explained. “So, that’s what the program has been training us to do. Say it was shaking my leg, or punching my fist, or grinding my teeth, or what not, she’ll sense that and she’ll come up and dig her head under me, or lick me, or kiss me.”
With Zoe around, Oulavong has someone protecting him from descending into a dark spiral, and someone to take care of, giving him a purpose that he compares to his time as a Marine. Between those two factors, he’s been able to better transition into the civilian world, getting a job at a Japanese restaurant as a bartender and server.
Michael Oulavong and Zoe
“…everyday I PT with Zoe every morning,” Oulavong explained. “We go for about anywhere between a mile and three mile walk, depending on how I feel that morning. She helps me keep active. I go for a walk with her every day. I just spend time with her. Five times a day, I do at least five to ten minutes simple, basic training with her, just to keep her refreshed.”
Right now, Purina is holding a fundraiser it calls the “Service Dog Salute.” As part of the fundraiser, for every bag of specially marked Dog Chow sold, including bags that feature Michael and Zoe, Purina will donate the Animal Rescue Foundation, giving up to 0,000. They’ll be giving up to another 0,000 based on how many people share the Buzzfeed video above.
The Navy has been testing a railgun that could see deployment on the guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt and her sister ships. The goal is to get the railgun to not only be able to fire its projectiles to a range of 110 nautical miles, but to increase the rate of fire to as many as ten rounds a minute.
The long range is only one of the many advantages. Another is improved safety. Gunpowder can be very volatile, as a number of British battlecruisers found out at Jutland and at the Denmark Straits. The battleship USS Arizona (BB 39) also found out about how bad a gunpowder explosion in the wrong place at the wrong time can be.
The approach also saves money, and provides for more ammo capacity. The gunpowder is expensive to safely store, has to be purchased, and it takes up spaces in the ship. All of those factors end up making the ship design more expensive.
The railgun testing is slated to take place over the summer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division in Virginia. One of the big issues will be to quantify how much electrical power will be needed to send the rounds downrange.
Forget what you saw in 2009’s “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” when an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer took out the Decepticon Devastator. Only the Zumwalt-class destroyers have the electrical power capacity to use a railgun.
Another is addressing the issue of barrel wear – largely because it is sending the mail downrange at Mach 6.
Dr. Tom Beutner of the Office of Naval Research notes that the barrel wear issue is being fixed, saying, “They’ve extended the launcher core life from tens of shots’ core life when program started to something that’s now been fired over 400 times and … we anticipate barrels will be able to do over 1,000 shots.”
Watch the video of the Navy testing the railgun’s autoloader below:
Editor’s Note: The original article appeared on Marine Corps Systems Command’s website Nov. 16, 2017. The following article provides an update to reflect the current status of the program.
The Marine Corps continues to upgrade the turret system for one of its longest-serving fighting vehicles — the Light Armored Vehicle-Anti-Tank.
In September 2017, Marine Corps Systems Command’s LAV-AT Modernization Program Team achieved initial operational capability by completing the fielding of its first four Anti-Tank Light Armored Vehicles with the upgraded Anti-Tank Weapon Systems to Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Marines.
The ATWS fires the tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided — or TOW — missiles. It provides long-range stand-off anti-armor fire support to maneuvering Light Armored Reconnaissance companies and platoons. The ATWS also provides an observational capability in all climates, as well as other environments of limited visibility, thanks to an improved thermal sight system that is similar to the Light Armored Vehicle 25mm variant fielded in 2007.
The Marine Corps continues to upgrade the turret system for the Light Armored Vehicle-Anti-Tank.
(US Marine Corps photo)
“Marines using the new ATWS are immediately noticing the changes, including a new far target location capability, a commander/gunner video sight display, a relocated gunner’s station, and an electric elevation and azimuth drive system, which replaced the previous noisy hydraulic system,” said Steve Myers, LAV program manager.
The ATWS also possesses a built-in test capability, allowing the operators and maintainers to conduct an automated basic systems check of the ATWS, he said.
The LAV-ATM Team continues to provide new equipment training to units receiving the ATWS upgrade, with the final two training evolutions scheduled for early 2019. Training consists of a 10-day evolution with three days devoted to the operator and seven days devoted to maintaining the weapon system. Follow-on training can be conducted by the unit using the embedded training mode within the ATWS.
“This vehicle equips anti-tank gunner Marines with a modern capability that helps them maintain readiness and lethality to complete their mission,” said Maj. Christopher Dell, LAV Operations officer.
Full operational capability for the ATWS is expected at the end of fiscal year 2019.
“Currently, there are 58 in service within the active fleet,” said Myers. “The original equipment manufacturer delivered 91 of the 106 contracted kits and is ahead of schedule. Now MCSC’s focus is directed at the Marine Corps Forces Reserve, ensuring they receive the same quality NET and support as their active counterparts.”
This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.