6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like 'Star Wars' - We Are The Mighty
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6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

There aren’t any real ways to describe what Afghanistan was like to civilians. Life on deployment is just so bizarre that the only thing you can do is compare it to something else.

You could say that it’s a blisteringly hot desert with creepy-ass bugs that’s peppered with some assholes who want us dead, but a more telling analogy would be to compare it to Star Wars‘ desert planet of Tatooine.


6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

But you might find something that someone else might find interesting. Won’t be you though.

(Photo by photo by Senior Airman Jessica Lockoski)

Constantly looking around for nothing

There are moments on deployment when things get intense. That’s not up for debate. But there is a significant difference between the number of troops who’ve been deployed and the number of troops who’ve seen actual combat. For the most part, patrols come back having received nothing more than a few glares from the locals.

You might have one of the few grunts who was constantly on-mission for duration of your deployment, but for the other 99.99 percent of us, there’s a lot of nothing going around.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

…during which, you guessed it, nothing will happen again.

(Photo by Sgt. Steven Quinata)

Nothing to do if you’re on an outlaying FOB

Even when troops get back to the FOB — surprise! — there’s still nothing going on.

The two-thirds of the “Fobbits” who didn’t join you have nothing interesting to talk about and you’re just twiddling your thumbs waiting until the next time you can go out on patrol.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

Chances are, you’re not going to find a droid with an encoded message from a princess, so just enjoy your recording of a movie that came out three years ago.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. David Carbajal)

The locals sell old hand-me-downs

Despite popular civilian belief, you actually can snag some solid quality-of-life things from the local bazaars.

But it’s never anything actually useful — unless you’re interested in a collection of ripped DVDs of some 90s sitcom. It’s like the old hunk-of-junk droids that Luke buys. I mean, yeah, they kick off the Hero’s Journey for Luke, but everyone else who buys that crap is probably going to hawk it off to the next guy.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

Definitely smells about the same…

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka)

The main airfields were just weird

At first glance, Kandahar Airfield sounds like a Mos Eisley-esque, wretched hive of scum and villainy. Many years ago, that may have been true, but now it’s just… odd.

Everyone from all the NATO nations are headquartered there and with that diversity comes an odd mixture of cultural identities. Everyone seems so happy for no reason, despite there being a literal pond full of sh*t just downwind.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

Both aren’t known for their spectacular aim, either.

(Courtesy Photo)

The terrorists are basically the Tusken Raiders

Terrorists are aggressive and attack when you least expect them to. Once, there was a time when they were feared for their ability in battle.

Truth is, they’re garbage and get wasted pretty fast whenever they show their faces.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

It’s hard to differentiate the two sometimes. They’re usually the only fat people people in a war-torn and impoverished nation, but no one ever says anything about it…

(Photo by Sgt. Tracy Smith)

The warlords are basically Jabba the Hutt

The Afghan leadership thinks they have control over the warlords, but they really don’t. No one wants to call them out for their criminal enterprises; it’s not a fight anyone is willing to take.

Accepting that you have to pay off the Hutts to get things done is the norm on Tatooine. It’s basically the same in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Iran just unveiled its new line of ballistic missiles

It’s finally here, the weapon we’ve been told was in testing and would soon be the undoing of Iran’s regional foes, wherever they might be found: the Dezful ballistic missile. The Islamic Republic’s state-run news agency, Sepah News, unveiled the new weapon on Feb. 7, 2019.

The new 2,000-kilometer missile comes just one week after Iran successfully tested another surface-to-surface weapon, the 1,350-kilometer Hoveizeh cruise missile. The new missile is able to strike U.S. military bases in the region.


Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has been working on the new weapons in preparation for the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Revolution that ousted the imperial Shah Reza Pahlavi and installed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as the Supreme Leader of the new Islamic Republic of Iran.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

The the Hoveizeh cruise missile. Kassif.

(Mehr News Agency)

Iran’s newest weapons are said to be twice as destructive as the most powerful weapons in its current arsenal, the Zolfaghar missile. Iran has used this weapon to strike ISIS targets in Syria. The United States and United Nations have been urging international partners to keep arms embargoes and economic sanctions on Iran in place to stop these weapons from being developed.

Displaying this missile production facility deep underground is an answer to Westerners … who think they can stop us from reaching our goals through sanctions and threats,” Revolutionary Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said from an underground bunker.

The Islamic Republic has continued to abide by the terms of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as “the Iran Nuclear Deal” – which did not cover the development of missile technology. These new missiles were partly responsible for the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA. The state’s European partners have not withdrawn.

Iran says the missiles are in line with UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which calls on the country to refrain from “any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” Iran says the Hoveizeh and the Dezful missiles comply with both the JCPOA and Resolution 2231.

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These quirky tanks helped the British crack Hitler’s Atlantic Wall

The Allied invasion of Normandy was a challenge on a grand scale. Every single aspect of the plan drew new challenges for commanders. Luckily, the greatest military minds of the day were leading the Allied forces. They came up with some ingenious solutions. For example, in the absence of securing a usable harbor, they created the Mulberry, a harbor that could be shipped and built on site to keep the flow of supplies going.


To confuse the Germans as to where the D-Day attacks would come, Operation Fortitude created an entire fake army aimed at the Pas-de-Calais. The soldiers on the invasion beaches still faced the many natural and man-made obstacles that would hinder their ability to effectively storm the beaches. One man was tasked to create overcome these obstacles and protect the assault forces.

Major General Percy Hobart, an unconventional yet very successful armored and engineering officer, created specialized vehicles designed to help amphibious forces overcome the natural and man-made obstacles common during a landing. These vehicles helped the British and Canadians during their assaults on Gold, Juneau, and Sword beaches. Collectively these vehicles were known as “Hobart’s Funnies.”

Sherman DD Tank

 

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
Pictured: The Sherman DD (Duplex Drive) amphibious tank with waterproof float screens. When in the water, the float screen was raised and the rear propellers came into operation.

The most well-known of Hobart’s Funnies was the Duplex Drive Sherman Tank — or Sherman DD. This tank had a large canvas floatation screen that was erected to make the tank seaworthy and included a secondary drive mechanism that powered a propeller to drive the tank through the water. The idea was to launch these tanks a few miles from shore and have them come ashore with the infantry without the need to bring a large landing craft too close to shore. Their use on D-Day saw mixed results.

Churchill Crocodile

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
A Churchill Crocodile fires its flame thrower in August 1944.

The Crocodile was a British Churchill tank that replaced the hull mounted machine gun with a flamethrower. An armored trailer behind the Croc carried fuel for the weapon. This weapon was adept at clearing German fortifications and later inspired American versions used in the Pacific.

Crab Tank

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
A British M4 Sherman Crab in Normandy

The Crab was a Sherman tank fitted with a cylindrical flail with weighted chains. When activated, the flail cleared a tank-width path by detonating any mines in its way with the weighted chains. This tank was an improvement over previous versions as the Sherman’s engine drove the flail, rather than needing to fit a separate engine on the tank. It was also equipped with numerous ways to mark the cleared path for the following infantry or tanks.

AVRE (Armored Vehicle Royal Engineers)

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

The AVRE were a family of engineering vehicles designed for specific tasks. All AVRE were Churchill tanks with the main gun removed and replaced with a Petard mortar that could fire 40-pound shells against German fortifications. The British then attached various equipment for specific tasks. One tool was a Bobbin, a canvas sheet that was rolled down in front of and then under the tank to provide a path to keep it, and following tanks, from sinking into the soft ground of a beach. There were also attachments for dealing with gaps such as a fascine, a bundle of wooden poles that could be dropped into a ditch for the tank to drive over, or a small box girder bridge that could clear 30-foot gaps. For breaching, there was an attachment the British called the Double Onion, two explosives on a metal frame that could be pressed against a bunker or fortification to breach it.

ARK (Armored Ramp Carrier)

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
Look closely.

The ARK was a Churchill tank with the turret removed and folding ramps installed in both front and back. The tank could drive up to an obstacle, extend a ramp, and have other vehicles drive up it and over the obstacle. It could also drive into a gap and act as a bridge if necessary.

All of the vehicles Hobart created were assigned to the 79th Armoured Division under his command. All these designs were offered to the Americans as well, but since they did not have a specialized unit to operate the vehicles, they turned them down with the exception of the Sherman DD tanks. The 79th did not fight as a unit on D-Day but was instead assigned to support different elements making the assault. After the success of Hobart’s Funnies on D-Day, the 79th remained in action and used its special vehicles many times throughout the remainder of the war.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most ‘Murican moments of every presidency, part two

In our increasingly divided political world, it’s important to take the time to realize that no President of the United States takes office hoping to be remembered as the worst to ever hold the office. And even though one out of our 45 historical Presidents has to hold that position, I’m sorry to tell you that it’s not one of the Presidents who ever held the office in our lifetimes.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

Part two of this series that highlights the most patriotic moments of every Presidency covers Presidents 12-22, from Zachary Taylor to Grover Cleveland. It also includes James Buchanan, which is interesting because Buchanan jokes have been hard to come up with since 1881.


6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor had been serving the United States in the Army all the way back to the War of 1812. But by the time came for war with Mexico, Taylor was a general – and a good one. Beating the Mexicans paved his way to the White House.

What’s more patriotic than 30-plus years destroying America’s enemies? As President, Taylor didn’t serve long, but like Andrew Jackson, he asserted the authority of the federal government over the states at a time when it was most important. When Texas and New Mexico entered a border dispute, Taylor stepped in and settled the land boundary. When Texas refused to comply, Taylor threatened to lead an Army – himself – down to Texas, saying everyone there “taken in rebellion against the Union, would hang with less reluctance than hanging deserters and spies in Mexico.”

That’s a Commander-In-Chief.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

Not terribly good with handling ongoing domestic trouble, Millard Fillmore was definitely not going to take shit from some other country.

Millard Fillmore

Fillmore took office after Taylor died from an intestinal ailment involving fruit and iced milk. Fillmore, true to the duties of Vice-President took office to finish up Taylor’s term. It was lucky for France and Portugal that President Taylor was uninterested in foreign affairs, but President Fillmore certainly was.

When Fillmore found out that France, under Napoleon III, was meddling in the affairs of Hawaii, he issued them a stern warning – those were in the American sphere of influence. He also sought money owed to the U.S. from Portugal and sent Commodore Matthew Perry to Japan to open the island nation up for trade… American trade.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

Franklin Pierce

The second installment of this list will include many Presidents that are in the running for the title of “worst.” Franklin Pierce is perpetually nominated for the dubious honor. While the former general’s patriotism is beyond reproach, his skills in office definitely are not. To make matters worse, his tenure is also ranked as one of the least memorable.

What’s most patriotic about Pierce’s tenure is that Pierce ended up losing his party’s nomination for re-election and he accepted that outcome, stepping aside for the election of 1856. The peaceful transfer of power is a central tenet to American Democracy and Pierce more than upheld that tradition.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

Called “Old Buck” in his later years.

James Buchanan

Here it is: the actual worst president ever. As I’ve noted time and again, even James Buchanan didn’t enter office wanting to be the worst. He genuinely thought he was doing what was best for the United States. What he did, however, was absolutely not the best thing for the United States. Even though his tenure is overshadowed by his inaction on the eve of the Civil War, it wasn’t entirely without patriotic moments.

In 1855, the USS Water Witch was fired on by guns from a Paraguayan fort while surveying the Rio de la Plata basin. The attack killed the Water Witch’s helmsman. In response, Buchanan sent a U.S. Navy Squadron of 19 ships to Paraguay (which included the refurbished Water Witch). Paraguay apologized to the United States, paid an indemnity to the family of the Water Witch’s helmsman, and granted favorable trade status to the U.S. — all without firing a shot.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

Finally, a President with a beard takes office.

Abraham Lincoln

The night is darkest just before dawn. When Lincoln took office, seven states already seceded from the Union. Lincoln tried many last-minute measures to hold the Union together, including writing a letter to each governor individually, reminding them that he wasn’t coming for them and that a Constitutional convention to make an amendment respecting the rights of the states was possible. It was all for naught.

When he determined the Civil War was coming whether he liked it or not, he was decisive. He quickly authorized the formation of the Union Army, helped create a Union strategy to blockade and attack the Confederacy, soothed the fears of border states that might have otherwise seceded, and paid close attention to foreign policy to keep foreign powers from supporting the Confederacy. He eventually found the right combination of Army leadership in Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, who helped bring the South to its knees.

Lincoln’s deft political prowess and patience allowed him to free the slaves in the states that were in rebellion and then, after the Election of 1864, when the Congress was packed with fellow Republicans, freed the slaves everywhere in the United States.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

“Man, Abraham Lincoln is a tough act to follow. How am I supposed to compete with that?” – Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson

Johnson had none of Lincoln’s finer qualities – no wisdom, no popularity, no beard. Even though Johnson wanted a swift reconstruction after the Civil War as Lincoln did, he had none of the power Lincoln could muster through sheer force of will. As a matter of fact, Congress repeatedly overrode his vetos and the House of Representatives even impeached him. He barely avoided conviction. His entire term was spent in fights with Congress.

The one shining moment of American Union patriotism was in his dealings with former Confederate President Jefferson Davis. While many former Confederates were allowed to simply resume normal life after the war, Johnson put a bounty on the head of the Chief Confederate — to the tune of id=”listicle-2610056421″.6 million in today’s money.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

Ulysses S. Grant

Grant would be the first to tell you that he wasn’t the best President, but he was dedicated to the rights and principles of the United States and its Constitution. From the moment he took office, he advocated for voting rights for every man (yes, just men), but specifically extended it to the newly-freed African-Americans and Native Americans. But a new terrorist group in the south was trying to disrupt that effort — the Ku Klux Klan.

Grant created the badass-sounding Department of Justice whose sole purpose (back then) was to enforce Reconstruction laws by any means necessary — along with Federal troops and U.S. Marshals. He actually appointed former Confederate officer Amos Ackerman as the first Attorney General. Ackerman indicted 3,000 Klansmen and convicted 600 offenders. He also forced thousands of other to flee Georgia, fearing for their freedom. That was just the first year. Grant had no problem sending U.S. troops to the south to enforce Federal laws.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

Don’t let that cold stare fool you. Beneath it is actual ice.

Rutherford B. Hayes

Hayes was a wounded Civil War vet who rose to the highest office in a controversial deal that ended Reconstruction and cast doubt on Hayes’ legitimacy. All that aside, Hayes still expended every possible effort to welcome newly-freed former slaves and Native Americans into U.S. Citizenship.

Hayes’ most American moment came when he, General William T. Sherman, and their wives travel West on the Transcontinental Railroad, physically bringing the country closer together by becoming the first sitting president to travel west of the Rocky Mountains.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

At this point, you pretty much have to be a Civil War veteran to get elected.

James A. Garfield

The 20th President was only President for a few months before he was shot in the back on a train. But in those months, Garfield devised a plan to increase the prestige (and pocketbook) of the United States through increased trade, a planned canal across Panama, and a new look for an expanded U.S. Navy that would protect American merchant vessels while challenging the supremacy of the British Fleet.

But he was shot in the back on a train.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

No one ever grows Chester A. Arthur beards anymore. This needs to change.

Chester A. Arthur

Arthur was a longtime fan of political patronage, especially in the corrupt political system that existed in New York City during his age. Even though he came to power unelected, he still determined to change this. Inexplicably, one of the biggest beneficiaries of the civil service “spoils system,” in place since the age of Andrew Jackson, was the one to change it.

Under the new system, civil service in the United States became a meritocracy. Arthur forced resignations and even had the Justice Department try to convict the worst offenders of the corrupt spoils system. In its place, a civil service examination requirement was passed and Arthur created a special board of former rivals to ensure its enforcement and expansion.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

It takes a big man to get elected when the other party is dominant. Advantage: Cleveland.

Grover Cleveland #1

Cleveland was a Democrat elected during a period of Republican domination of American politics. As a President, he understandably used the executive veto power more than anyone else until that time. But what he and the Congress could agree on, they also acted on: Defending America.

Even though the United States had no real external threats at the time of Grover Cleveland’s first term, the coastal defenses and U.S. Navy hadn’t really seen a major upgrade since the Civil War, more than 30 years prior. After all, land wars inside the United States against native tribes had been the focus. Cleveland upgraded the coastal defenses of 27 different sites. And while the Navy received a few good new, steel ships during Arthur’s administration, Cleveland ensured they were completed and ordered 16 more. The forts would last until the outbreak of World War II, while the new U.S. Navy ships would come in handy defeating Spain just a decade later.

Looking to go back in time? Check out part one.

Looking to visit the future? Check out part three.

MIGHTY SPORTS

First a pandemic and now Tom Brady is leaving the Patriots?

Tom Brady is no longer a Patriot – after 20 years.


It’s the end of an era. Whether you love him, hate him, wish you could be him, wish you could be the guy that beat him, Tom Brady has loomed large in two decades of NFL dominance.

20 years. 6 championships. A lifetime of memories. Thank you, Tom.pic.twitter.com/exQPrweT5h

twitter.com

His resume includes:

  • Six Super Bowl titles
  • Three time NFL MVP
  • Four time Super Bowl MVP
  • Nine Super Bowls appearances
  • 14 time Pro-Bowler
  • 30 playoff wins
  • 219 regular-season wins
  • 16 AFC East titles
  • Second all-time in passing touchdowns
  • Second all-time in passing yards
  • Fifth all-time in QB rating

Today, Brady will become something he has not been since the 1990s, an unrestricted free agent. The 42-year-old ageless wonder will test free agency (it should not be much of a test) and will be wearing another team’s colors next season. Brady released a statement via Instagram in which he thanked the Patriots organization, teammates and the fans for his two-decade run. As many football fans know, the Patriots were nothing like the franchise they are now, usually being a struggling team that did not have much success. They had made two Super Bowls previously losing both, including one of the worst losses in Super Bowl history.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

i.pinimg.com

Then, as the story famously goes, the Patriots drafted a quarterback in the 6th round of the 2000 NFL Draft. Pick #199 was a quarterback out of the University of Michigan that not too many people were excited about. While at Michigan, he was a backup for two years before becoming the starter for the Wolverines his junior year. Heading into his senior year, Brady thought he was a lock to be the starter… only to find out that he had to compete with highly heralded recruit Drew Henson. Brady found himself the unpopular guy on campus as Wolverines fans (and some coaches) seemed to favor the younger QB. The plan was for Brady to start while Henson would come off the bench in the second quarter. Brady would have none of it. He fought tooth and nail and during the season cemented his status as the only QB that Michigan needed that season. Many NFL teams should have seen the tenacity and determination that Brady showed as a potential leader for their team.

Instead, they focused on mechanics and how he looked.

Here is his NFL Combine workout:

Tom Brady 2000 NFL Scouting Combine highlights

www.youtube.com

The Patriots drafted Brady and had him set as a back up to Drew Bledsoe. By this point, the Patriots had turned their franchise around first under the coaching of Bill Parcells and then under the helm of Bill Belichick. Bledsoe was their quarterback for the future. In 2001, he signed a 10 year, 100 million dollar contract, and was their guy that would lead them to glory. A big hit from the New York Jets Mo Lewis changed that fast. Bledsoe suffered massive internal injuries (doctors almost had to perform open chest surgery), and Brady had to step in.

Well, you all know what happened next.

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Brady (to the delight of Pats fans and despair of literally everyone else) would go on to have a career that will be hard for future quarterbacks to match. Yes, you can argue if Montana had it harder. You can argue if Brady is truly the best football “player” or the best at his position. You can argue it was really Belichick’s football genius and Brady is a “system quarterback.”

You can argue all that, but really the argument will fall on deaf ears.

Tom Brady will play for a different team next season. Rumors right now say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers (ugh that still hurts to write) are the front runners. He might go to these teams and do amazing, he might do average or he might really suck.

But he will also be 42 years old. There aren’t too many 40+ players in NFL history. There are even fewer that will have teams fighting to bring them on board to win a Super Bowl.

No matter where he ends up, hats off to an amazing athlete and all-time great!

MIGHTY HISTORY

How the Marines succeeded at Belleau Wood in World War I

In 1918, World War I was in its fourth year. Imperial Russia had succumbed to the Communist Revolution and capitulated to Imperial Germany. In the West, a race against time was on. The Allies of Great Britain and France were watching with mounting concern as German armies from the Eastern Front began reinforcing those on the Western Front. Their armies, having been bled white and wracked by mutiny after three horrific years of trench warfare, were at the breaking point. The last hope for Allied victory was the United States. It had entered the war in April 1917, and its troops began arriving in France later that year.


The American forces were hastily trained for the demands of total warfare in the European model, and for the most part were equipped with a hodge-podge of weapons supplied by their allies. The question on both sides of the trenches was not if the growing number of American units would fight, but rather how well? Only combat would answer that question. Field Marshal Paul von Hindenberg and Gen. Erich Ludendorff of Germany were determined to shatter Allied resolve and achieve victory with an offensive launched before the full weight of the U.S. Army could be felt.

On May 27, 1918, specially trained “shock units” led a three-pronged offensive that smashed into the British and French lines. At Aisne, the French lines bent, then broke. In less than two days, the German army was at the Marne River at Chateau Thierry. Once again, the German army had victory within its grasp, and once again, the road to Paris, about 50 miles away, was wide open. In 1914, France, and the Allied cause, was saved by a sudden influx of troops delivered to the front by Parisian taxis – the “Miracle of the Marne.”

This time France had no miracles of her own remaining. Allied Commander-in-Chief Gen. Ferdinand Foch turned to Gen. John Pershing, commanding general of the American Expeditionary Force. Previously, Pershing had resisted releasing units piecemeal to reinforce depleted British and French divisions. He stated that when Americans fought, they would do so as a unified army.

But Pershing recognized that the present crisis overrode national considerations and temporarily released his five divisions to Foch’s command. The American 2nd Division, containing the 4th, 5th, and 6th Marine Brigades, was assigned to Gen. Joseph Degoutte’s French 6th Army, located along the Marne Front. Not since the Civil War had American troops been involved in a conflict of such magnitude. And it had been more than 100 years, at the battles of Bladensburg and New Orleans during the War of 1812, since the Marine Corps had faced an armed foe at the professional level as it did now against the 461st Imperial German Infantry regiment.

Though Pershing, an Army general, harbored little love for the Marines, he did not allow service parochialism to blind him to the Marines’ capability. Shortly after Ludendorff’s offensive began, when the 4th Marine Brigade’s commander, Brig. Gen. Charles Doyen, had to return to the States due to a terminal illness, Pershing assigned command of the brigade to his chief of staff, Army Brig. Gen. James Harbord, telling him, “Young man, I’m giving you the best brigade in France – if anything goes wrong, I’ll know whom to blame.”

It was not without some concern that Harbord assumed his new command. He was replacing a respected and loved commander; he was a National Guard cavalry officer, a temporary brigadier general; and his two regimental commanders were Col. Albertus Catlin and Col. Wendell “Whispering Buck” Neville, both recipients of the Medal of Honor. He worked hard at his new command and earned the respect of the Marines. Harbord would retire a major general and later write of his experience, “They never failed me. I look back on my service with the Marines Brigade with more pride and satisfaction than on any other equal period in my long Army career.”

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

The fighting ended, exhausted and seriously depleted ranks of the 6th Marines gather outside Belleau Wood before moving on.

(USMC History and Museums Division)

The 4th Marine Brigade was ordered to shore up defenses and assume a blocking position north of the important east-west Paris- Metz highway. They dug into position along a line just above the village of Lucy-Le-Bocage. Immediately in front of the Marine line was a large wheat field, and beyond that was a mile square game preserve. The French called it Bois de Belleau. To the Marines and America, it would be immortalized as Belleau Wood. The Marines had barely gotten into position, digging shallow individual trenches they called “foxholes,” when the German army renewed its offensive on June 2. Demoralized French troops in the forest began falling back. One French officer, as he passed through the Marine lines, advised the Americans to join in the retreat. Capt. Lloyd Williams responded, “Retreat, hell! We just got here!” The French officer and the other French troops continued on. Soon the Marines were alone.

The rest of the day and the following morning were quiet. The heat of the early June sun parched the throats of the Marines as they waited for the enemy to appear. Finally, in the early afternoon, movement was seen at the southern edge of the forest, and the distinct shapes of German soldiers in their feldgrau began to emerge. Long line after long line of soldiers, slightly crouched and weapons low, began trotting through the ripening wheat. Veteran Marines of the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion in China, and the Veracruz Expedition lay side by side with unblooded men whose memories of the profane injunctions of their drill instructors were still fresh. The Germans confidently advanced. What they did not know was that no longer before them was a demoralized French foe. Instead, they were marching toward a fresh enemy with high morale that took pride in training its men in how to shoot. The Germans also did not realize they were already within range of the Marines’ shoulder arm, the .30-06 Springfield M1903 rifle.

The accepted combat range of rifles during World War I was a maximum of 250 yards. The Springfield ’03 was rated with an effective range of 600 yards. In the hands of an expert marksman, it could be deadly at ranges well beyond that. The line of gray-clad troops advancing through an open field presented the Marines with a shooting gallery. At 800 yards, the order was given, and sustained fire commenced. German soldiers spun, collapsed, and fell as bullets from the first volley tore into them. The German advance wavered, then astonished survivors fell to the ground seeking cover. Their officers ran through their ranks, shouting for them to get up and continue the advance. The troops rose and were hit with another volley fired at long range. A third attempt to advance was met by a third deadly volley that was also accompanied by machine gun fire. The stunned survivors retreated into the woods to take up defensive positions and plan their next move.

The commander of the German 28th Division facing opposite the American 2nd Division confidently told his men, “We are not fighting for ground – for this ridge or that hill. It will be decided here whether or not the American Army will be equal to our own troops.” It was a prescient statement. Unfortunately, for him, not in the way he expected.

After receiving news that the German attack had been blunted at Belleau Wood, Degoutte ordered the 2nd Division to counterattack the following day, June 6. The attack began with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines launching a dawn attack on the German-held Hill 142 on the division’s left flank. German machine guns raked the Marine ranks during the half-mile advance. The Marines succeeded in capturing the hill at about noon. But doing so had cost the battalion 410 casualties. It was a foretaste of what was to come.

Meanwhile, two battalions of the 6th Marines and one battalion of the 5th Marines were preparing for the main attack on Belleau Wood. The attack was launched at 5 p.m., and the Marines advanced in a formation and at a fast pace taught by the veteran French officers who had rounded out their training shortly after the Marines arrived in France. It was the same formation that had doomed thousands of French poilus during the disastrous offensives of 1914 and 1915. It achieved the same results on the Marines. As the Marines began crossing the battle-scarred wheat field, it was the German machine gunners’ turn. The lead troops were quickly cut down. Surviving Marines dove for the ground and continued the advance crawling on all fours, pausing and, like pop-up targets, taking aim and quickly firing back before dropping down for cover in the wheat stalks. Even so, the advance slowed dangerously, with the German machine gun fire continuing seemingly unabated. It appeared that the attack would fail just 50 yards before the Marines reached the German lines.

Reporter Floyd Gibbons was with the Marines during the attack and lay terrified among the dead and wounded in the wheat field. Not far from him was Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Daly, a double Medal of Honor recipient for heroism in the Boxer Rebellion and Haiti. In a report he later filed, Gibbons wrote, “The sergeant swung his bayoneted rifle over his head with a forward sweep, yelling at his men, ‘Come on, you sons-of-bitches, do you want to live forever?'” The Marines with him stood up, and with a roar, charged. By the end of the day, the first line of German defenders was overrun and taken. But the cost of the attack was severe. On that day, the 4th Marine Brigade had suffered 1,087 casualties, making it the bloodiest day in Marine Corps history up to that point. More Marines had fallen on June 6, 1918, than in the entire 143-year history of the Marine Corps.

The Battle for Belleau Wood would continue to almost the end of June and was fought in a series of savage actions. It was during this battle that, according to legend, the 461st Imperial German Infantry gave the Marines the nickname “Teufelhunden” – “Devil Dogs.” Finally, on June 26, Maj. Maurice Shearer of the 5th Marines sent to headquarters the message: “Woods now U.S. Marine Corps entirely.”

Convinced that the Marines had saved Paris, the French government renamed the game preserve Bois de la Brigade de Marine. And, more importantly, this action, as well as American success at Cantigny and Ch’teau-Thierry, Pershing later wrote, “… gave an indication of what trained American troops would do.” But the German high command was not finished. A final German offensive was launched on July 15. This time, the 2nd Division and its Marines joined the French XX Corps and repulsed the German attack at Soissons, sustaining another 2,000 casualties. When the German offensive was stopped, the initiative shifted to the Allies. They responded with the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

On July 29, 1918, Pershing made Gen. John A. Lejeune commander of the 2nd Division. His first assignment was to reduce the dangerous German salient at St. Mihiel. After four days of fierce fighting by the combined Marine and Army units, the salient was eliminated. The 2nd Division then was assigned offensive operations in support of the French Fourth Army, commanded by Gen. Henri Gourand. But German defenses along the Meuse River succeeded in slowing the French advance until it was stopped before Blanc Mont, or White Mountain, a ridge that dominated the region for miles. The Germans had held Blanc Mont since 1914 and had heavily fortified the ridge. To restart his stalled attack, Gourand wanted Lejeune to break up his division and disperse it into depleted French units. Lejeune’s reaction was quick and hot. Following Pershing’s example, he was not about to have his division broken up, particularly since there was no dire crisis now confronting the Allies. The Marine general told Gourand, “Keep the division intact and let us take [Blanc Mont].”

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

U.S. Marines in Belleau Wood (1918) by Georges Scott.

Gourand looked at Lejeune skeptically, then nodded his assent. Lejeune’s plan was to assault the German position with lead attacks from both flanks and, when they had closed to pinch out and isolate the center, the rest of his troops would advance and overwhelm the defenders. In what Pershing would later call “a brilliant maneuver against heavy machine gun resistance,” the attack kicked off on Oct. 3 with a short, five-minute artillery barrage of 200 guns. As soon as the cannon fire stopped, the 3rd Infantry Brigade launched its attack on the German right flank. Simultaneously, the 4th Marine Brigade attacked the German left. This was followed by an advance by the 6th Marines. Supporting the overall attack were French tanks. By noon, the 6th Marines had seized the crest and were clearing the heights. Additional troops from the 5th Marines moved up to add overwhelming power to the 2nd Division’s punch. On the left flank was a heavily fortified position known as the Essen Hook that was assigned to French units who were temporarily held in reserve. As the battle progressed, the French troops were released to seize the Essen Hook. When the French proved unable to do so, a company of Marines from the 5th Regiment led by Capt. Leroy P. Hunt was ordered to help. Hunt’s company succeeded in throwing out the Germans, and the Marines then handed over the Essen Hook to the French. The Germans returned and quickly overwhelmed the French defenders at Essen Hook, whereupon the 5th Regiment was forced to drive the Germans out a second time. This time they secured the position for good. When the day was over, Blanc Mont was in the hands of the 2nd Division.

Lejeune followed up the capture of Blanc Mont with an advance on the nearby village of St. Etienne on Oct. 4. The 5th Marines, who were leading the attack, literally ran into the Germans’ counterattack designed to retake Blanc Mont. Unfortunately, the Marines’ advance in the offensive had outpaced the French units beside them, causing them to form a salient that left them exposed to enemy fire from both flanks as well as their front. Despite the murderous fire falling on them, the Marines grimly kept the pressure on. After four days of intense fighting in which the Marines suffered more than 2,500 casualties, including the seemingly indestructible Daly, who was wounded, St. Etienne was liberated and, by Oct. 10, the Germans were in full retreat.

Not long after the battle, the grateful French government awarded the 5th and 6th Marines and the 6th Machine Gun Battalion their third citation of the Croix de Guerre for gallantry. As a result, the members of those outfits were now entitled to wear the scarlet and green fourragère. Field Marshal Henri Petain, the hero of Verdun, would add his own accolade, stating that, “The taking of Blanc Mont Ridge is the greatest single achievement in the 1918 campaign.”

Of the Marine Corps contribution in World War I, Col. Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret.) wrote in his book, A Fellowship of Valor, “Less than 32,000 Marines served in France. More than 12,000 of those given the opportunity to fight in France became casualties; 3,284 died. The survivors had given their country and their Corps a legacy of courage, esprit, and ferocity which would remain the standard of combat excellence for the remainder of the violent century.”

This article originally appeared on Argunners. Follow @ArgunnersMag on Twitter.

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3 most haunted places in war-torn Afghanistan

Places of anguish, death and chaos are magnets for paranormal activity. Locals living near battlefields of the past bear witness to lights and chills in the darkness. Spirits echo through time on an infinite loop imprinted on the fabric of time. Filled with ancient bones and soviet phantoms, Afghanistan itself is a nationwide graveyard. U.S. troops stationed abroad have reported experiencing unexplained phenomena on their tours in the barren wasteland.

1. The haunted Military Outpost of Observation Post Rock in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s notorious Helmand Province is plagued with the sounds and sights of the paranormal. Before Operation Enduring Freedom, The Rock or OP Rock, was a crumbling mud-fort controlled by the Taliban. The Rock’s elevation is a defensive advantage and thus an ideal place to establish a base. While it resembles a rock, it is not one. The locals claim that rebel fighters were buried alive during a missile strike during the surge. However, some of the bones are ancient and believed to be from hundreds of years ago. Since recorded history of the site is near impossible to find without the help of expert archeologists, whom will not set foot into a warzone, we may never know the stories of the dead.

Soldiers described seeing strange lights, hearing strange static on the radio, seeing sudden temperature swings from hot to freezing, hearing lights and voices in the night, and having a creepy, uneasy feeling. Several Marines posted there said someone or something was keeping an eye on them. Several people said they heard Russian sounds in the darkness. The smell of rotten flesh is a characteristic of poltergeist hauntings. Marines stationed at the base claimed to smell decaying flesh at random times during the night.

2. The village of Najeeban is a literal ghost town

The village of Najeeban was full of anti-American sympathizers who actively aided and abetted the Taliban. In 2012, Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales allegedly suffered from a mental psychosis brought on by the anti-malarial drug mefloquine. He testified that before he went on a murder spree, he was experiencing hallucinations and flashing lights. What he failed to mention, until a year later during a sentencing agreement, was that he was also under the influence of alcohol as well. He went on a rampage, slaying 16 civilians and setting their corpses on fire. Locals abandoned the village due to the trauma, superstition and labelled one house a holy place called ‘Shrine of the Martyrs’. Now empty, it serves the dual purpose as a ‘a place where prayers can be answered’ and a piece of propaganda for insurgent recruitment.

3. Forward Operation Base Salerno

The base’s location lends itself to ghost stories already, with an ancient Afghan graveyard on its outskirts, guarded by two large watchtowers. Indeed, these towers are claimed to be haunted by the ghost of a little child, who is said to be heard or seen wandering around the buildings or the surrounding city. Civilians unfortunately are the biggest casualty in warfare — modern or ancient. For some reason the specters of children are creepier than those of adults. Perhaps it’s the loss of innocence or their willingness to cling to a world they are not ready to leave.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
Forward Operating Base Salerno sits in “the bowl” surrounded by mountains that peak as high as 10,000 feet. (Defense Dept. photo by Fred W. Baker III)

Even though no specifics of the mysterious ghost could be seen. She was there and then she was not. Sometimes the pitter pater of tiny foots steps would run un behind you and vanish. Toughened Marines were reportedly reduced to tears and refusing to return to the tower after the incident. Other troops heckled the Marines until the little girl came to visit them on night watch. It’s all fun and games until the spirits show up.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Air Force has ‘natural’ explanations for all these UFO sightings

From 1947 to 1970, the United States Air Force conducted investigations into the increasing number of unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings throughout the United States. The purpose of the investigations was to assess the nature of these sightings and determine if they posed any potential threat to the U.S.

Three successive projects were created to carry out these investigations: Sign, Grudge, and Blue Book.


Blue Book was the longest and most comprehensive, lasting from 1952 to 1970. A 1966 Air Force publication gave insight into how the program was conducted:

The program is conducted in three phases. The first phase includes receipt of UFO reports and initial investigation of the reports. The Air Force base nearest the location of a reported sighting is charged with the responsibility of investigating the sighting and forwarding the information to the Project Blue Book Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
If the initial investigation does not reveal a positive identification or explanation, a second phase of more intensive analysis is conducted by the Project Blue Book Office. Each case is objectively and scientifically analyzed, and, if necessary, all of the scientific facilities available to the Air Force can be used to assist in arriving at an identification or explanation. All personnel associated with the investigation, analysis, and evaluation efforts of the project view each report with a scientific approach and an open mind.
The third phase of the program is dissemination of information concerning UFO sightings, evaluations, and statistics. This is accomplished by the Secretary of the Air Force, Office of Information.
—Project Blue Book, February 1, 1966, p. 1. (National Archives Identifier 595175)

After investigating a case, the Air Force placed it into one of three categories: Identified, Insufficient Data, or Unidentified.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
Project Blue Book, February 1, 1966, p. 2.
(Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

Sightings resulting from identifiable causes fall into several broad categories:

  • human-created objects or phenomena including aircraft, balloons, satellites, searchlights, and flares;
  • astronomical phenomena, including meteors and meteorites, comets, and stars;
  • atmospheric effects, including clouds and assorted light phenomena; and
  • human psychology, including not only psychological frailty or illness but also fabrication (i.e., hoaxes).

The conclusions of Project Blue Book were:

(1) no unidentified flying object reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security;
(2) there has been no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as unidentified represent technological developments or principles beyond the range of present day scientific knowledge; and
(3) there has been no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as unidentified are extraterrestrial vehicles.
—Project Blue Book, February 1, 1966, p. 4. (Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

In 1967, the Air Force’s Foreign Technology Division (FTD), the organization overseeing Blue Book, briefed USAF Gen. William C. Garland on the project. The July 7 report stated that in the 20 years the FTD had reported and examined over 11,000 UFO sightings, they had no evidence that UFOs posed any threat to national security. Furthermore, their evidence “denies the existence of flying saucers from outer space, or any similar phenomenon popularly associated with UFOs.”

The FTD reiterated an expanded finding from Project Grudge:Evaluations of reports of UFOs to date demonstrate that these flying objects constitute no threat to the security of the United States. They also concluded that reports of UFOs were the result of misinterpretations of conventional objects, a mild form of mass hysteria of war nerves and individuals who fabricate such reports to perpetrate a hoax or to seek publicity.”

An independent review requested by FTD came to the same conclusion:

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
Briefing by 1st Lt. William F. Marley, Jr. to General William C. Garland, July 7, 1967, p. 7
(Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

Looking to specific investigation files, we can see what a typical investigation was like, the kinds of documentation and information collected, the investigatory process, and how the Air Force arrived at its conclusions.

Datil, NM, 1950

Cpl. Lertis E. Stanfield, 3024th Air Police Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, reported seeing a strange object in the sky on the night of February 24/25, 1950. He had a camera with him at the time and took several pictures, including the following:

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
(Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force)

The details of the sighting were included in an investigation report:

Report of Investigation, 7 March 1950, p1. (National Archives Identifier 595175)Report of Investigation, 7 March 1950, p2. (National Archives Identifier 595175)Report of Investigation, 7 March 1950, p3. (National Archives Identifier 595175)


This was not the first time an unusual sighting had occurred at Holloman. In fact, it was part of a recurring pattern (and one that explains Stansfield’s possession of a camera at the time of the sighting).

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
Report of Aerial Phenomena, Holloman Air Force Base, February 21, 1950, through April 31, 1951.
(Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

At the time, Project Grudge was unable to provide an explanation. However, a decade and a half later, a similar sighting over the Soviet Union provided Blue Book with an answer: a comet.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
Project 10073 Form, ca. 1965
(Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

Several sightings of this kind were reported in the desert Southwest around this time. Despite the delay in reaching a conclusion, the similarity of the photographic evidence to known comet sightings led the Air Force to conclude it was dealing with a comet here too.

Redlands, CA, 1958

On December 13, 1958, a man in Redlands, California, snapped a photograph of a strangely shaped object in the sky.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
Close-up photo of UFO in Redlands, CA, 1958.
(Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

The UFO worksheet described the sighting in detail:

UFO Worksheet, 16 December 1958 (National Archives Identifier 595175)UFO Worksheet, 16 December 1958 (National Archives Identifier 595175)


However, inconsistencies in the reporting led the Air Force to initially determine that the case was impossible to analyze accurately.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
Correspondence, February 5, 1959.
(Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

A final report dated January 1959, elaborated on these inconsistencies but reached a conclusion nonetheless. The observer had photographed a lenticular cloud.

Report, January 30, 1959 (National Archives Identifier 595175)Report, January 30, 1959 (National Archives Identifier 595175)


All of these sighted were explained as initially misinterpreted natural occurrences. In the next post of the series, we’ll turn our attention to sightings ultimately identified as human-created objects and one sighting truly classified as a UFO.

Articles

That time American and Russian tanks faced off in a divided Berlin

Continuing tensions with Russia over its annexation of Crimea, backing of separatists in Ukraine, dealing weapons to the Taliban, and the hacking of the U.S. elections have led to many people on both sides of the divide saying that current U.S.-Russian tensions are worse than they were in the Cold War.


Apparently, those people have forgotten that U.S. and Russian troops killed each other a few times, conducted a standoff with tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba, and stared each other down in armed tanks in divided Berlin.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
This is one of the most boss photos on this site. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

The incident started on Oct. 22, 1961, when America’s senior diplomat in West Berlin, E. Allan Lightner, Jr., attempted to cross the newly-erected Berlin Wall at a major checkpoint, Checkpoint Charlie. He was stopped by East German authorities who wanted to see his papers, but Lightner insisted that only the Soviets had the authority to check his papers.

He eventually turned back from the border, but Gen. Lucius Clay ordered that the next U.S. diplomat who needed to cross the border would be accompanied by military police in armed Jeeps. The next diplomat did cross the border with the Jeeps.

But Clay still wasn’t satisfied. He sent M48 tanks to the checkpoint and had them rev their engines. The Soviet commander requested permission to call an equal number of tanks out in response and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev approved it.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
American tanks at Checkpoint Charlie in October 1961. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

So T-55 tanks pulled up to the opposite end of the street and, approximately 82 yards away from each other, the two sides threatened each other for 16 hours from Oct. 27-28, 1961.

News crews rushed to the scene and the world watched with bated breath to see if this would be the flame that set off the powder keg and descended the world into nuclear war.

But neither country wanted to fight World War III over paperwork in Berlin. President John F. Kennedy ordered back channels to be opened to reach a negotiation. Khrushchev agreed to a deal where the countries would take turns withdrawing a single tank at a time.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
Soviet tanks withdraw from Checkpoint Charlie at the end of the crisis. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

The Soviets withdrew a T-55 and, a few minutes later, America pulled back an M48. The process continued until Checkpoint Charlie and its Soviet counterpoint had returned to their normal garrisons of a few soldiers on either side.

Today, the intersection has a replica checkpoint and a number of historical exhibits. Aside from the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year, Checkpoint Charlie may be the closest America and Soviet Russia came to blows in open warfare.

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Can a judge still force a defendant to choose between the military or jail time?

Everyone has heard the old stories of judges forcing someone guilty of a small-time crime to choose between a hefty jail sentence or joining the Army. Or the Marine Corps. Or the Navy.

It seems like back in the old days, getting pinched for lifting car parts or selling bootleg cigarettes could end up with the defendant doing a two-year stint in Korea – which could be just as bad as jail, except you get paid. 

The practice isn’t as common as it used to be as it turns out. The U.S. military isn’t engaged in a global effort to defeat communism anymore and the days of a peacetime draft are long gone. With the benefits set aside for people joining what is now an all-volunteer force, the military isn’t hurting for new employees. 

At least for the most part. It definitely doesn’t require people who would be considered convicts if they hadn’t become soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines.

But in the courtroom, the judge is the absolute ruler. Ruling from the bench means ruling by decree and, within the limits of the Constitution and existing law, the judge can pronounce whatever sentence he or she deems fit.

A gavel. Some judges try to make a defendant choose between the military or jail.
Judges can throw their gavel around all they want, but individual service branches have no obligation to accept a “jailbird”.

For a long time, that meant the choice between military service or jail time. But the individual branches of service aren’t a part of the judge’s court and though the judge can order such a sentence on a defendant, that doesn’t mean the military has to take them.

The most recent and notable case of such a choice was that of Michael Guerra of Upstate New York. In 2006 Guerra was facing a conviction of aggravated assault. According to Stars and Stripes, the judge was willing to discharge Guerra if he joined the military. Guerra agreed. The Army did not. 

As an Army spokesperson told Stars and Stripes’ Jeff Schogol, “Not taking jailbirds has been our policy for decades.” 

Keep in mind, this was at the height of the Iraq War, when the Army needed soldiers more than anything. The Army preferred to take the PR hit of instituting stop-loss programs rather than take cons like Guerra. 

The policy of not taking “jailbirds” is  actually part of the Army’s recruiting regulations. Regulation 601-210, paragraph 4-8b reads: 

“Applicants who, as a condition for any civil conviction or adverse disposition or any other reason through a civil or criminal court, is ordered or subjected to a sentence that implies or imposes enlistment into the Armed Forces of the United States is not eligible for enlistment.”

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6 historical weapons that sound like video game cheat codes

Arms races usually take place in a tit-for-tat back and forth. Germany got flamethrowers, so America got trench guns. Russia has more tanks, so America gets the Apache. Sure, the balance of power shifts, but the weapons produced all make logical sense given the context.

Sometimes, however, someone thinks of a weapon or an upgrade that completely shifts the balance of power. These weapons are so out there that it sounds like the responsible nation downloaded some mods to get an edge that nobody could have ever planned for.


Nest of bees

The Nest of Bees was a Chinese weapon that worked like a Saturn Missile firework. A group of a couple dozen projectiles, basically arrows with rocket engines, were packed into tubes combined into a single block with one fuse. Warriors would aim at the body of the enemy army, set the fuse alight, and unleash hell.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
The Nest of Bees could fire dozens of rocket-powered arrows.

Everyone else is using bows but your character can shoot dozens of flaming rocket arrows in one go? Sounds fair.

Hot shot

Pirate and navy games focus on just a couple of important weapons, none more so than the cannons that ships and forts used to inflict damage on one another. But forts had an advantage that game developers don’t often include — and we’re sure that many would pay for the DLC to get it: Hot shot.

Defenders in a fort would stack cannonballs on open grates or, after the year 1800, in large furnaces. The cannonballs would then be heated for less than an hour to reach red or white-hot heat. Then, they would be fired against enemy ships and siege engines. The heat would transfer into the wood and set the whole thing aflame.

Flaming ammo? Just type “Devil’s Balls” into the chat window and hit enter.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

The reputed Claw of Archimedes toppled ships in the Siege of Syracuse, saving the city, according to ancient sources.

The Claw of Archimedes

Archimedes (yeah, the famous one) was tasked with creating defenses for the Carthaginian city of Syracuse. Syracuse was a coastal city with tall walls, but the leaders knew that Rome was building a huge fleet with massive ships to come get them. Archimedes came up with a few solutions, the most famous of which became known as the Claw of Archimedes.

It was described as a system that used massive levers and counterweights (think of the size of a large catapult) to raise hidden grapples from the water under enemy ships. The grapples would pick up the prow, lift the ship out of the water, and then drop it, causing it to capsize.

Think of it as a final line of defense. Simply hit one button and the enemy’s closest ships are suddenly thrown into the air and sunk. Skyrim doesn’t have anything like that.

Often described as “automatic crossbows,” the Zhuge Nu and similar designs required the operator to cock the weapon between each shot.

Zhuge Nu semi-automatic crossbow

When faced with enemy archers, wouldn’t it be nice if you could fire 15 shots without reloading while everyone else has to pull new arrows from a quiver like a chump? The Zhuge Nu crossbow carried 10-15 arrows in a wooden box and allowed the operator to quickly fire one arrow after another by simply cocking a wooden block.

Of course, there were trade offs — most importantly in terms of range and accuracy. The weapon was typically accurate to 65 yards. Only put in this cheat code if you’re going to be fighting lots of enemies at medium range.

Fire lance

During the days where most warriors were carrying swords and spears, a few Chinese warriors were lucky enough to get fire lances. These were weapons made of bamboo or iron and then packed with sand near the handle and gunpowder near the tip.

Wielders could use it in a few ways, but the end result was always lighting the fuse and allowing the flames to erupt in someone’s face — sometimes firing a poison dart or other projectile that was packed in the tip in the process. To be the only guy shooting flames and poisonous darts into people’s brain cavities, first create a warrior character and then bust out the Game Genie.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
Carlsbad Army Air Force base after a bat bomb test went wrong. You have to admit that the bomb worked.
(U.S. Army Air Force)

Bat bombs

Most people have heard about America’s plans to drop bombs filled with lots of live bats on Japanese cities. Now think about what that weapon would look like in a game. “You drop a bomb, and then all of the things inside the bomb fly to your targets and set them on fire.” That’s pretty sweet bomb upgrade — for humans, that is. It’s horrible for the bats.

Of course, the bat bomb project was famously abandoned after it proved too hard to control. So, no American aviators got to take advantage of the weapon in combat.

MIGHTY HISTORY

8 things you can’t do to your enemies

All is fair in love and war? Not so. A war crime is a violation of international humanitarian law committed during armed conflict, in which the perpetrator can be held responsible for their actions. Until World War II, war crimes were not considered incidents worthy of prosecution. Historically, they were seen as inevitable consequences, resulting in wars that were unnecessarily gruesome and destructive. Spurred on by the horrors of the Holocaust, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 established that war criminals can and must be held accountable. So what does someone have to do to commit a war crime? According to the UN, these eight crimes are as bad as it gets.


Willful killing

You can’t just kill for the hell of it. While death is an unfortunate reality of war, lives should never be taken without good cause. “Black Christmas” was a horrifying example of this. On December 25th, 1941, when the British surrendered Hong Kong to the Japanese. Japanese soldiers blatantly disregarded the rules of peaceful surrender by looting, terrorizing, and murdering residents, and raping an estimated 10,000 women.

Torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments

It’s terrifying that this needs to be said, but history has proven that it does. During WWII, many German concentration camps conducted biological experiments on its prisoners in the pursuit of developing different treatments or testing different medical theories. Nazi doctors performed as many as 30 different types of nonconsensual experiments on inmates.

Willfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health

One might find this confusing since shooting down an enemy plane would by definition cause them serious injury or death. The difference lies in the intent of the attack- which should never be to cause more pain or suffering than necessary, particularly when the battle is over. The Bataan Death March of 1942 demonstrated the horrendous mistreatment of prisoners of war when approximately 75,000 Filipino and US soldiers surrendered to Japanese troops under General Masaharu Homma. The surrendering forces outnumbered their Japanese captors and were already emaciated and malnourished. The day after surrendering, POWs were forced to march 62 miles to the prison, Camp O’Donnell. Many prisoners were randomly beaten and starved. Those who could no longer bear the trek were shot, bayoneted, or beheaded.

Extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly

When is pillaging towns and destroying civilian homes and shops ever necessary for military purposes? The Rape of Belgium defied the 1907 Hague Convention of Land Warfare. During World War I, in an effort to flush out Belgian resistance fighters, German occupiers committed a plethora of war crimes against civilians in Belgium, including mass looting and destruction of public and private property.

Compelling a prisoner of war or other protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power.

In other words, if you’re taken captive, you can’t be forced to fight against your own country. If you’re a child, you also can’t legally be forced into battle. During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, Iran used child soldiers under the age of 15 (which in itself is a war crime) as forces. Children fought in highly dangerous situations and did so with limited training.

Willfully depriving a prisoner of war or other protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial

Say you captured some really terrible people. I mean, they tried to kill you, and they would have done it had they got the chance. Now, however, they’re your prisoners. You can’t just kill them. Like all humans, they deserve a fair trial. “The Bleiburg Massacre” of 1945 occurred when Yugoslav Nazi-backed troops, compiled of ethnic Serbs, Slovenians, and Croats were executed without trial. It was done in vengeance for the pro-Axis genocide that had occurred during the war. Although this event remains controversial, victims were still held and executed without trial.

Unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement

You can’t kick people out of their country because it’s convenient for you, and you can’t capture people without good cause. In both 1941 and 1949, The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs, or NKVD, committed mass deportation of Baltic intelligentsia, landholders, and their families during the invasion of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. Additionally, another example includes the enslavement of thousands of Korean and Chinese women during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Imperial Japanese troops pillaged villages within China and Korea, murdering civilians and capturing up to 200,000 women. They were forced to work in military brothels, where they became known as “comfort women.”

Taking of hostages

During both World War I and World War II, Germany repeatedly took hostages of those they suspected of conspiring against them. In World War II, the Nazi SS ruthlessly took civilians hostage in an effort to end the resistance. Most of these hostages were executed.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This President wants to prevent asteroids from destroying Earth

On Apr. 15, 2018, an asteroid similar in size to one that may have caused the 1908 Tunguska Event in remote Siberia flew by Earth by a mere 119,400 miles, just half the distance between the Earth and the Moon — and we didn’t even know it was coming.


If you’re unfamiliar with the Tunguska Explosion, it was a mysterious explosion in the most remote region of Russian Siberia that flattened 2,000 square kilometers of forest. It was the largest explosion in Earth’s recorded history and was one-third the size of the Tsar Bomba, the Soviet Union’s largest nuclear detonation — enough to flatten a large metropolitan area.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’
This is all anyone saw of the near-miss asteroid. One amateur Austrian astronomer’s gif.
(Michael Jäger)

And we only knew about it one day before it flew by.

6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

Not this President.

Like something from a 1990s-era disaster movie, President Trump wants to tackle the problem and make the United States the leader in asteroid impact avoidance. Politico reports that Trump wants to spend 0 million toward that effort, which includes unmanned spacecraft that would nudge a small asteroid off course.

NASA estimates there are 1,000 such asteroids close to Earth, what they refer to as “near-Earth objects.” The bad news is that they also estimate there are upwards of 10,000 near-Earth objects that they don’t know about. A growing number of those are said to be the size (or larger) than the ones that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

The office getting the budget bump is NASA’s planetary defense office, who created a new asteroid-mitigations strategy with the White House and FEMA just last year. None of the proposed strategies involved oil drillers or astronauts; NASA actually scoffs at that idea, saying the work could be done entirely by robotic spacecraft.

Related: This is earth’s real first line of defense against asteroid strikes

But the recent near-miss wasn’t an event that required NASA’s intervention. The asteroid 2018 GE3 flew harmlessly between the Earth and Moon’s orbits, continuing its regular orbit.

“If 2018 GE3 had hit Earth, it would have caused regional, not global, damage, and might have disintegrated in the atmosphere before reaching the ground,” SpaceWeather.com reported. “Nevertheless, it is a significant asteroid, illustrating how even large space rocks can still take us by surprise. 2018 GE3 was found less than a day before its closest approach.”
6 reasons why an Afghanistan deployment is just like ‘Star Wars’

(NASA/JPL)

NASA’s California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory made a model of the orbits of asteroid 2018 GE3, Earth, and other planets in the Solar System, so we can all track where the asteroid is at any given time. Below is the position of the asteroid in relation to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter at the time of this week.

NASA’s next test will use robot spacecraft to ram an orbiting moon around the asteroid Didymos, currently seven million miles away from Earth, in an effort to change the satellite’s orbit. The only thing delaying this test that everyone agrees is a good idea and that we should definitely get started on is Congress, who are waffling on the latest spending bill that would keep this program along with the U.S. government, running.

It could take as long as another three months to pass the appropriations for the program while NASA estimates a delay of six months or more could affect the program entirely, leaving Earth defenseless.

For now.

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