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Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

The Maginot Line is a historic meme, a shrine to the failure of fixed defenses in the age of tanks and planes. But modern historians are increasingly making a bold claim: It wasn’t the Maginot Line that failed, it was diplomacy and French armored tactics.


The Maginot Line: Actually a Good Idea
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YouTube channel Historigraph has a pretty great primer on this concept that you can check out above, but we’re going to go over his arguments and that of historians below.

The purpose of the Maginot Line was to secure France’s border with German so well that, even accounting for Germany’s much larger population and birth rate, no attack over the border could succeed. This was to be achieved with strong defenses and massive concentrations of artillery.

And so it was constructed with thick concrete — reaching 12-feet thick in the most secure bunkers — and artillery and machine guns with overlapping fields of fire along a 280-mile front. The defenses were so imposing that military planners counted on second-rate troops to man them in case of a war.

But why would French planners place second-rate troops on the border with their greatest nemesis, even if they had great defenses? Because the French knew that Germany wasn’t limited to attacking over its shared border with France. And the military wanted its best troops available to fortify the less built-up grasslands in Belgium.

France had a deal with Belgium that, in case of a likely or actual invasion by a foreign army, would allow French troops to operate on Belgian soil. The plan was for the best French divisions to form a battle line with their Belgian counterparts along the River Meuse and Albert Canal.

The River Meuse was a great, natural bit of terrain for defenders that, when combined with the Albert Canal, would allow Belgian and French forces to hold back an attacking army for an extended time. It had seen fighting in World War I, and it always went bad for the attacker.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
A French Char B1 tank destroyed by its crew. The Char B1 was a good tank with thick armor, a strong 75mm gun, and acceptable speed. But French armor was not used effectively in the defense of France despite France having about as many tanks as Germany did.
(Bundesarchiv Bild)

Nearly all of France’s tanks and most of her best troops would man this barrier and prevent a German invasion from the north. But, German forces would be forced to come against this defensive line because the only alternative was attacking against the Maginot Line — suicide.

But there were two flaws in France’s assumptions that wouldn’t be revealed until too late. The first was that Belgium was a neutral state in Europe prior to 1914. When Belgium was formed in 1830, it was as a neutral buffer state and all the major European powers gave some guarantee towards that neutrality. Most of the pledges stopped short of saying they would necessarily defend Belgium if it were invaded, but that was the general understanding.

So, Belgium was not actuallysuper comfortable with being an ally of a major European power in case of war. The country preferred neutrality instead. The other big problem was that Belgium in 1936 had a young and inexperienced king who headed a small military. King Leopold III needed strong guarantees of French resolve.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
A Panzer IV pushes through France in 1940.
(Bundesarchiv Bild)

And so when Germany violated the Treaty of Versailles by moving their own troops into the Rhineland, German territory that was off limits to its military under the terms that ended World War I, Leopold III became scared. Rather than count on France to hold up its end of the bargain, he broke the pact with France and reasserted Belgian neutrality.

And that is what made the Maginot Line suddenly much less useful. Sure, it would still force the Germans to go around it, allowing 943 miles of border to be guarded with lower-tier troops. But France now had hundreds of miles of border, most of it bare plains, that were guarded by nothing but Belgian hopes and dreams.

Hitler invaded and France raced to set up a defensive line as deep into Belgium as they could. But the Germans broke through Belgian defenses even more quickly than anyone could have guessed, partially because the Belgians had under-supplied one of the world’s best forts.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
The Fort Eban Emael as it was captured by German troops.

Fort Eban-Emael was the anchor of defenses on the Albert Canal, but Germany landed a bare 87 paratroopers on top of the fort, which was built into a hill, and captured it. The defenders had machine guns and artillery that could sweep the top of the hill, but their weapons maintenance was shoddy and the artillery lacked the canister shot that would have been most effective.

The fort fell in the first day, and the three bridges it guarded were soon lost as well. The Germans swept east and finally encountered the French digging in on the River Dyle. And here was where French armored doctrine failed. French tanks were only slightly outnumbered, but were committed to battle piecemeal while German armor was formed into strong columns capable of forcing opening in French lines and then exploiting them.

And the French also underestimated the ability of modern tanks to navigate the tough terrain of the Ardennes Forest, failing to send either a counterattack or bombers to the forest despite multiple reports that German armor was making its way through.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
American troops look at Maginot Line defenses during the drive to Berlin in 1944.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

And so, the Maginot Line stood, strong and proud and funneling German troops north just like it was supposed to. The Maginot Line allowed France to choose its ground. But because of diplomatic missteps and a failure by French generals to understand the changing role of the tank, the defensive lines to the north failed.

The general argument against the Maginot Line is that the money should have spent on tanks, planes, and other modern equipment instead, but those were the exact assets which France failed to properly employ.

Today, fixed defenses are out of vogue as strategic bombing and bunker busters have made them nearly impossible to man for long. But they had one last hurrah in them in the Battle of France — if only their successes had been combined with good combined arms maneuvering.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Chris Pratt will star in new Navy SEAL TV show ‘The Terminal List’

Chris Pratt hasn’t been a series regular on television since his breakout role in Parks and Recreation. Since then, he’s transformed himself from goofy sidekick to leading man. From Zero Dark Thirty to Guardians of the Galaxy to Jurassic World, Pratt has proven that he can play a badass with specialized training and skills, and now he’s putting them to good use.

Returning to the role of Navy SEAL, Pratt will star as James Reece in former Navy SEAL Jack Carr’s The Terminal List, a conspiracy thriller with a straight-to-series order on Amazon.

Perhaps even more exciting is that, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “Producers plan to assemble a writing staff where half the scribes are either veterans themselves or have veterans in their families. [They’ll also have] vets and their families as part of multiple aspects of the show.”

Based on a novel by the same name, The Terminal List follows James Reece after his team was ambushed during a covert operation and he uncovers a conspiracy that runs to the highest levels of government.

Pratt partnered with executive producer and director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Magnificent Seven, The Equalizer) to pitch the series, with David DiGilio (Strange Angel, Traveler, Eight Below) currently primed for writing.

Pratt took to Twitter to acknowledge the announcement:

Such a misleading picture to announce what is guaranteed to be the most intense and violent character I’ve ever played. Careful TVguide or you’ll end up on James Reece’s List.https://twitter.com/tvguide/status/1257816640839995393 …

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Author Jack Carr pictured Pratt for the role of James Reece even before Pratt’s film career took off. “The crazy part is, usually you think of Mark Wahlberg or somebody who’d done these kinds of [roles] before but I thought of Chris Pratt. All he’d done is Parks and Rec. He had a small role in Zero Dark Thirty where he plays a SEAL…and for some reason I thought, ‘That’s the guy.’ It wasn’t the obvious choice back then…but I thought ‘this seems like a likeable guy,'” Carr shared on the Joe Rogan Experience.

Carr goes on to talk about a fellow SEAL who reached out to get an early copy of the book specifically for Pratt, who read it and optioned it right away. Years later, the adaptation is becoming a reality.

“Usually they want to get rid of the author right away when they option something but Chris wanted me involved so I got to help out on the pilot script — and it is so good,” Carr gushed.

Check out Carr’s conversation with Joe Rogan in the video below:

How Navy SEAL Author Jack Carr Got Chris Pratt’s Attention

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Featured

A top German doctor recommends whiskey to protect against COVID-19 (he’s joking…but still)

Updated: In keeping with Facebook’s efforts to report fake news, we have updated this article to include the doctor’s full statement.

While the World Health Organization vehemently disagrees, Dr. Juergen Rissland, a lead doctor at the Institute for Virology at Saarland University Hospital in Germany, went on the record to say: Drinking whiskey can protect against COVID-19.

And that is definitely one report we can all get behind.


While appearing on “The Morning Show,” Dr. Rissland was asked about whether or not drinking could kill any viruses a person may have ingested. “Yes, of course, that’s true,” Dr. Rissland responded. “And the higher the percentage of alcohol, the better it is. For example, if you are a whisky lover, then that certainly isn’t a bad idea,” he continued, while offering this bit of sage advice to pace yourself: “But of course you need to bear in mind that you can’t do that every 15 minutes, that is something else to consider.”

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good ideaVirologist Jurgen Rissland, who says alcohol can protect against COVID-19. Credit: Newsflash/Newsflash

After being prodded a little further by the show’s co-hosts who asked him if he was really suggesting folks drink high-proof alcohol, Dr. Rissland laughed. “I would like to say it can’t hurt, but in the end, it is definitely not a panacea. For God’s sake, you shouldn’t get me wrong here. I just wanted to make the point that the virus is vulnerable to high-proof alcohol, because it has an outer layer made of fat, and high proof alcohol destroys the virus. And one would need to drink quite a lot to get any sort of protection from infection.”

So we’ll take his advice with a good sense of humor… and probably a shot of whiskey.

Prost!

MIGHTY HISTORY

The chemical weapon so deadly even the Nazis couldn’t use it

In World War II, every country was looking for an edge, so it’s pretty amazing that the Nazis found one and then decided against it – and rightly so. Chlorine trifluoride ignites on contact with almost any substance, burns at over 2000°C, and will melt tanks, bunkers, schools, and pretty much anything it comes into contact with.

Some things are better left alone.


Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

It must have been one helluva weapon if even Hitler didn’t use it (Spoiler Alert: It was).

In 1930, German scientists came across a volatile new discovery. Dubbed “Substance N,” the concoction boiled at room temperature and produced a toxic gas. When ignited, this toxic gas also burned at thousands of degrees Celsius. After decomposing, it turned into the slightly-less-dangerous-hydrochloric acid (that was actually more dangerous because it occurred as steam). It was also corrosive and exploded on contact with water. Or carbon, which is everywhere. This stuff set fire to asbestos.

At first glance, it might seem like an ideal weapon of war, one that keeps killing in many, many forms and doesn’t stop. And the Nazis thought so too. For years they tried to produce enough of the material to effectively weaponize it. The stuff ate through everything, and what it didn’t eat through, it burned.

It burns concrete. No joke.

Nazi Germany would have totally used this weapon if they could have produced and stored enough of it to actually convert to weapons. If they could have safely transported those weapons and used them before the chemical violently exploded, burned, or otherwise ate through whatever it was in.

Turns out the only safe way to store it is to seal it in containers made of steel, iron, nickel, or copper after they’ve been treated with fluorine gas. The fluorine protects the other substances from the Chlorine Trifluoride. The stuff is so unstable, Chemist John D. Clark once said the best way to deal with a failure to contain the resulting fire from a chlorine trifluoride storage failure is “a good pair of running shoes.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New weapon gives ‘virtually unlimited protection’ from drones

Top Army air defenders and others from Army fires have been trying for years to figure out how to efficiently counter enemy drone swarms. We have missiles that can shoot them down, and weapons like C-RAM could easily be modified to fight drones, but both of them are expensive and can produce collateral damage. Now, Raytheon says it has a solution that’s cheaper, safer, and essentially unlimited.


Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

The high energy laser mounted on the back can take out one enemy drone at a time, but in quick succession. Its sister is a microwave system that can take down multiple drones at once.

(Raytheon)

Raytheon’s “advanced high power microwave and mobile high energy laser systems” are really two programs that work together to defeat entire drone swarms.

The High Energy Laser is super mobile and can even be mounted on all-terrain vehicles like the Polaris MRZR in use by special operators and airborne units, as well as other forces, in the Army. Only one high-energy laser can engage a drone at a time, but it can do so quickly. In a 2018 test, the laser burned out 12 drones as they attempted to maneuver.

But the more powerful, less mobile microwave system took out almost three times as many, 33, in the same test. The High Power Microwaves disrupt the drones’ guidance systems, and it can attack entire swarms at once. In the Army test in 2018, it was downing two or three at a time while the laser was smoking ’em one at a time.

But those early tests weren’t the end of the program. In April 2019, Raytheon brought the machines back out for an Air Force demonstration to prove it was mature and ready to fight.

A press release from that demonstration promises, “High power microwave operators can focus the beam to target and instantly defeat drone swarms. With a consistent power supply, an HPM system can provide virtually unlimited protection.”

As America faces a possible war with Iran, the ability to defeat drone swarms will come into sharp focus. Iran has famously adopted a tactic of attempting to overwhelm American defensive measures with dozens or hundreds of boats or drones. Since America has historically spent thousands or millions of dollars per intercept, a strategy of using cheap drones or boats en masse could overwhelm American logistics quickly.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

A Stryker with the Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser equipped takes part in a test at Fort Sill.

(U.S. Army)

But if Raytheon’s new toys work as advertised, it shifts the cost back to the aggressor. With a steady power source, America could ravage an attacker’s fleet of vehicles for the cost of a few dozen gallons of diesel for the generators.

Unfortunately for the troops currently in the Middle East, this robust of anti-drone tech isn’t currently out there. But a Patriot battery is being deployed to protect troops from missiles and jet attacks, and there are plenty of assets in theater that can deal with nearly anything Iran has ready to fight.

But best of all is if current equipment like the Patriots and future options like microwaves and lasers can deter conflict entirely. Some American intelligence has leaked that says the current tensions with Iran can be credited to the regime trying to provoke an American attack or military overreaction that would restore support in Iran for the regime, essentially buying it years or decades more in control.

What’s needed are options that can protect American troops without being offensive threats to regimes. And lasers and microwaves fit that bill nicely. It remains to be seen if the branches will determine Raytheon’s offering are the best, though. The Army is working in-house on the Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser 2.0, a Stryker-mounted weapon similar to Raytheon’s HEL. And plenty of companies are working to beat Raytheon in the counter drone space.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is everything the Pentagon did for a first look at ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

The world is abuzz for the new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick that dropped during the San Diego Comic-Con – and no one is more curious than the United States Department of Defense, who lent considerable support to the film’s production. And why not? The first Top Gun was quite possibly the Navy’s best tool for recruiting new sailors since the draft.


But support from the Pentagon didn’t come without some strings attached (it never does). In exchange for support from the DoD, the film’s producers and Paramount Pictures had to agree to give the top brass an exclusive screening before the film is made public.

Not a bad exchange.

Most importantly for the filmmakers of Top Gun 2, the production staff was able to fly aircraft around secured facilities and restricted airspace usually reserved for Naval Aviators. Also important for a movie depicting Naval Aviators, the production crew received escorted access to a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. For safety, the cast and crew were also trained by the Navy’s sailors in the art of water survival and aircraft ejection seats.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

Two things Goose could have really used.

On top of the unparalleled access to Navy facilities, ships, and F/A-18 Super Hornets (as well as the ability to place cameras in the cockpits and on the fuselage of these Super Hornets), the Navy gave Top Gun: Maverick staff a staff of Public Affairs troops in order to “review with public affairs the script’s thematics and weave in key talking points relevant to the aviation community.” On top of the PA crew, a Navy subject matter expert was on hand during filming to ensure action scenes were depicted with accuracy. Of course, the Navy also reviewed the days’ footage to ensure there were no security violations.

The coolest part (if you were in the Navy at the time, I mean) is that active-duty troops and real Naval Aviators were used as extras and background in the film. Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer reprise their original roles and are joined in the cast by Ed Harris, Jon Hamm, Miles Teller, Glen Powell, and Monica Barbaro. Top Gun: Maverick hits theaters in 2020 and the Pentagon shortly before that.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the Navy’s new warship tumbled into the water sideways

The newest Freedom-class littoral combat ship, LCS 19, the future USS St. Louis, was christened and launched in Marinette, Wisconsin, on Dec. 15, 2018, when the 3,900-ton warship tumbled into the icy water of the Menominee River on its side.

Freedom-class littoral combat ships are among the few ships in the world that are launched sideways.


That method was used “because the size of the ship and the capabilities of the shipyard allow for a side launch,” Joe DePietro, Lockheed’s vice president vice president of small combatants and ship systems, said in a statement.

“The ship has a shallow draft (it requires less than 14 feet of water to operate in) and is a small combatant (about 381 feet long), and can therefore be side launched, where many other ships cannot.”

LCS 19 Christening and Launch

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“Our partner Fincantieri Marinette Marine has delivered more than 1,300 vessels and has used the side launch method across multiple Navy and Coast Guard platforms,” DePietro added. “The size and capacity of the vessels under construction enable use of the side-launch method.”

Lockheed Martin got the contract to build the ship in December 2010, and the name St. Louis was selected in April 2015. It will be the seventh Navy ship to bear that name — the first since the amphibious cargo ship St. Louis left service in 1991.

LCS 19’s keel was laid in May 2017, when the ship’s sponsor Barbara Taylor — wife of the CEO of the St. Louis-based company Enterprise rental car — welded her initials into a steel plate that was included in the ship’s hull.

On Dec. 15, 2018, Taylor christened the ship by smashing a bottle of champagne on its bow and then watched the warship tip over into the water.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

The Navy’s LCS 19 tipping back toward shore after being launched, December 15, 2018.

(RMS Videography/Vimeo)

“LCS 19 is the second ship we’ve christened and launched this year,” DePietro said in a release, adding that the defense firm’s shipbuilding team had “truly hit its stride.”

“We completed trials on three ships and delivered two more,” DePietro added. “Once delivered to the Navy, LCS 19 will be on its way to independently completing targeted missions around the world.”

Lockheed has delivered seven littoral combat ships to the Navy and seven more are in various stages of production and testing at Fincantieri Marinette Marine, where LCS 19 was launched on Dec. 15, 2018.

While LCS 19 has been christened and launched, it won’t become part of the Navy until it’s commissioned. At that point, the name St. Louis will become official.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

The Remote Minehunting System and an AN/AQS-20 mine-hunting sonar are brought aboard the littoral combat ship USS Independence during developmental testing of the mine-warfare mission module package, January 7, 2012.

(US Navy photo by Ron Newsome)

The Navy’s littoral-combat-ship program is divided into two classes. Freedom-class ships are steel monohull vessels that are slightly smaller than their Independence-class counterparts, which are aluminum trimarans by General Dynamics that have a revolutionary design.

The LCS is meant to be a relatively cheap surface warship — about one-third the cost of a new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, according to Lockheed — with a modular design that allows it to be quickly outfitted with a variety of different equipment suited for different types of missions.

While both classes are open-ocean capable, they are designed for operations close to shore, with modular packages for their primary missions of antisubmarine warfare, mine countermeasures, and surface warfare against smaller boats. (Issues with the LCS program may lead to its mine-countermeasure assets being deployed on other ships.)

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

Crew members of the littoral combat ship USS Little Rock man the rails during the ship’s commissioning ceremony, in Buffalo, New York, Dec. 16, 2017.

(US Navy/Lockheed Martin)

The LCS is also meant to carry out intelligence-gathering, maritime-security, and homeland-security missions and support for Marine or special-operations forces regardless of its installed mission package.

The LCS program has encountered numerous problems however, including controversy about cost overruns, issues with design and construction of the first models, and concerns about their ability to survive damage in combat. Late Sen. John McCain was a vociferous critic of the LCS program’s expense and mechanical issues.

The program has also faced more conventional hurdles. The USS Little Rock, the fifth Freedom-class LCS, was stuck in Montreal for three months at the beginning of 2018, hemmed in by winter weather and sea ice.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out these amazing photos of sniper camouflage

Snipers are masters of disguise who are able to hide in plain sight, providing overwatch, scouting enemy positions, and, when necessary, taking out threats.

“No one knows you’re there. I’m here. I’m watching you, I see everything that you are doing, and someone is about to come mess up your day,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a Texas native and experienced US Army sniper, said during a recent interview.

“We are capable of hurting you in many ways … We’re not going to tell you how we’re coming. But, we’re coming for you.”

Business Insider asked a handful of trained Army snipers, elite sharpshooters who have served across multiple combat deployments in multiple countries, how they disappear in any and all environments. Here’s what they had to say.


Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

An Army Green beret sniper, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), takes aim at a long-range target for a timed shooting event during advanced skills sniper training at Fort Carson, Colorado, Dec. 12, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)

Concealment is about putting anything you can between yourself and the watchful eyes of the enemy.

“A sniper is not limited to any one method,” Sipes, a veteran sniper with more than a decade of service, explained. “We are extremely free. You are limited only by however you limit yourself.”

Snipers use a mixture of natural and artificial materials to achieve concealment and camouflage to avoid enemy detection, as the sniper must remain unseen by the enemy to collect intelligence or take a shot if needed. The aim is to effectively blend into the negative space, areas the eye naturally overlooks.

Concealing oneself from an adversary’s gaze is about putting “anything you can between you and whatever might be observing you,” Staff Sgt. David Smith, a sniper instructor at Fort Benning, told BI, explaining that this could be natural vegetation, face paints, false screens, a sniper’s ghillie suits, or the hides they construct.

A ghillie suit is designed with loose strips designed to resemble natural backgrounds like twigs or long grasses, and can make snipers nearly undetectable by visual. Ghillie suits typically do not shield the wearer from detection via thermal imaging, a technology that advanced militaries are likely to use; however, the Army is developing an improved ghillie suit which is expected to offer enhanced protection.

With the tools they bring with them and materials found in the field, snipers can break up and distort their outline, making them significantly harder to spot.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

Pfc. William Snyder, 1-173rd Infantry, practices sniper camouflage techniques at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, April 7, 2018.

(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. William Frye)

In many ways, it’s about knowing your environment.

“The best tool snipers can use to disguise and conceal themselves from the enemy is a solid understanding of their surroundings,” Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander, told BI.

Snipers need to know the lay of the land, they need to plan their route, and they need to take advantage of whatever nature gives.

“I want to look at the terrain. What can I put between myself and the target,” Sipes, who runs the marksmanship training company alongside Elgort, said.” It’s not just about the face paint or what I attach to my body, it’s the natural environment around me that I can utilize to keep them from seeing me.”

For example, the winners of the International Sniper Competition, two non-commissioned officers from the Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, hid themselves from view with nothing more than a ghillie suit hood and various materials they found in the field.

In particular, they focused on hiding their face.

“Just by being able to disfigure and break up the outline of their face — you know, a human face stands out very vividly in a woodland area — by concealing the outline of their face, they were able to win,” Elgort explained. “It really comes down to an understanding of that and knowing what you’re presenting and adjusting accordingly.”

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

Sgt. Chayne Walsh, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares to execute his concealment exercise during sniper training at Fort Benning.

(Patrick A. Albright/MCoE PAO Photographer)

There are a lot of small things that if overlooked could be fatal.

Snipers have to manage their tracks, scent, shadow, glare and countless other things to remain hidden from enemies. “There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” Sipes explained.

Here’s just a few of the many things snipers have to think about.

“If you are facing east in the morning, the sun is going to be coming at you, so you need to do something with your scope to prevent glare,” Elgort told BI. To combat this problem, snipers build cat eyes.

“We use natural vegetation, we use wraps, netting, whatever to block the optics from any observation but allow us to see through it,” Sipes said, noting that other considerations include whether or not he is silhouetting himself against something else. A shadow could give away his position, exposing him to the enemy.

As for scents, he said that snipers avoid scented soaps, smoking, any type of cologne, deodorant, etc.

In colder climates, a sniper can eat snow to hide their breath, but it only works for a short time. “You would have to continuously eat snow, and then you have to pee,” Smith said, bringing up another potential consideration.

Snipers also have to think about bodily excretions. Sometimes when nature calls, a sniper will use bags with sponges to soak up their business. They can also bury it in the earth. Other times, they just have to hold it.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

US Army Sgt. John Stewart, a Sniper assigned to NATO’s Battle Group Poland, improves his fighting position during react to contact drills at Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland, Nov. 8, 2018.

(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Sarah Kirby)

Some environments are easier than others.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Jones, another sniper instructor, identified two decidedly difficult environments for concealment — fresh snow and the urban environments.

“You can disappear into the snow. It takes a little more thought. It’s a little harder to play with the blending in,” he told BI. “And, in the urban environment, there’s just so many eyes on you from the onset that it makes it pretty tough for you to get into your setup without someone knowing that you’re already there.”

Places like cities and suburbs are also the hardest areas to shoot in.

“I can say that the most difficult place to shoot is in an urban environment,” Sipes said, calling attention to the some of the angles and structures obstructing visibility, among other problems.

“The targets are generally moving. They have civilians around them. They’re using the patterns of life on the ground to conceal themselves. And they’re never in one location,” he added.

As for the easiest environments to blend into, that is definitely your standard woodland or jungle, Jones explained.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

Hidden beneath twigs and weeds, a sniper’s stomach is flat on the ground, dirt and grime on his face. All that can be seen in the bundles of cheatgrass is a pair of steady, intense eyes.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

One of the greatest dangers is that new technologies are making it harder for snipers to hide.

The US is once again in a time of rivalry with other military powers, and that means they must learn to counter more advanced threats from adversaries like China and Russia.

“Defeating a thermal signature is probably the hardest thing that a sniper has to do, especially with emerging technology by our near-peer enemies,” Smith told BI. Snipers can hide in the visible spectrum, but combating high-end sensors is a challenge.

US rivals are starting to “creep into the thermal arena, and that in itself is dangerous to a sniper because then you can’t hide from that,” Smith said. Thermal imagers can easily detect a human body’s heat against the ambient temperature of the environment around it.

Smith called this a “large challenge” that the Army is “working to defeat that as well.”

Sometimes that means getting back to the basics. Snipers often use laser range finders to get a more accurate read on a target, but that’s not always an option.

“When going against a near-peer threat or an adversary that has the capability to identify that, we have to rely solely on the reticle that’s in our scope,” Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, a sniper instructor team sergeant from Colorado, explained.

There are also new camouflage systems, such as the Fibrotex’s Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System capable of providing more persistent infrared, thermal, and counter-radar performance, that are in development to help the Army’s snipers, as well as other soldiers, hide from the more advanced threats.

Warfare is always evolving, which means that US snipers have to be ready for anything.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How WWII propaganda is still convincing kids to eat carrots

Here in the modern world, many of us are more aware than ever of how the media can shape our perceptions of reality. While most debate about “perception management” these days is relegated to the arena of political mudslinging, the truth is, there has always been a concerted media effort to shape how we see the world in the form of advertising. And as many national governments learned early on, the same media infrastructure built to sell us products can also be used to sell us on ideas.

If you’re looking for a good example of how government initiatives can shape our idea of reality, you need to look no further than the air campaigns of World War II — because if you’re one of the millions of people that think eating carrots can help improve your vision, you’ve been duped by half-century-old wartime propaganda.


Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

Not the wartime propaganda posters you were expecting?

(World Carrot Museum)

British (and eventually American) pilots defending the U.K. from Nazi bombers were among the first aviators in history ever to be tasked with night-time combat operations. Less than four decades after the Wright Brothers first took to the sky, Allied pilots were fighting for their lives in pitch darkness over the European theater.

At the time, aviators had to rely on their senses, rather than on the suite of technological gadgets we use for intercepts in modern combat aircraft, but it wasn’t long before the advent of onboard Airborne Interception radar (AI) gave the Brits the edge they needed over inbound Nazi bombers. The British also knew that announcing their new technological advantage would put the Nazi’s to work on finding ways to counter it, so instead, they chose a very different track.

As Allied fighters started closing with and destroying Nazi bombers in increasing numbers despite the difficult to manage night sky, the English Ministry of Information launched a propaganda campaign aimed at convincing the world that their pilots had impeccable Nazi-hunting night vision thanks to a steady diet of — you guessed it — carrots.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

Technically speaking, they’re not wrong. A serious Vitamin A deficiency could make you go blind.

(US National Archive)

Like any good misinformation campaign, they needed to find a basis in fact to use as the bedrock for their campaign, and carrots are known to be a good source of Vitamin A. Technically speaking, eating more vitamin A won’t do anything for an otherwise healthy person’s vision, but not getting enough of it can cause vision problems. Because of this, it was easy for the Brits to twist the story away from eating carrots to avoid a Vitamin A deficiency, and instead toward the idea that eating enough carrots could actually make you see better at night.

The decision to use carrots was also informed by the nation’s sugar rations limiting snack options for the U.K. populace. Carrots were a great snack for school kids to munch on and the nation had plenty of them to spare — so selling the public on the idea that eating more carrots could turn your kid into a hawk-eyed fighter pilot benefited the war effort in ways beyond German perceptions.

It wasn’t long before the idea of carrots improving one’s night vision simply became carrots improving vision altogether. Soon, no one remembered where they first heard about carrots being so important to eye health and just started accepting it as the truth.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

Amazing what a few posters can do.

(Bryan Ledgard on WikiMedia Commons)

Even today, mothers and fathers all over the world continue to tell their kids to eat their carrots because they’re good for their eyes. This isn’t because there’s a great deal of Vitamin A deficiencies in the modern world, but rather, because we’re still operating off of the familiar wisdom we gleaned from propaganda posters printed while Hitler was touring Paris.

Propaganda, it pays to remember, is little more than advertising paid for by governments, rather than corporations. We all know and accept the idea that advertising works (to the tune of 3 billion in the United States last year alone). Whether we like it or not, it seems that propaganda does too.

Military Life

The 7 best things about Air Force bases, according to a Marine

There are certain things that any junior enlisted Marine can expect to find on any Marine Corps base. Morning runs along the fence line, guarded by uniformed men with guns. Hundreds of people standing in lines, mindlessly marching towards the same, processed shelf-stable meat that has been rewarmed and served in precise measurements onto your mechanically-washed lunch tray, used continually since 1978. Daily wake-up times and roll calls. Accountability and uniformity of clothing, housing, grooming, and sanitation alongside weekly white-glove room inspections.


It sounds a lot like prison.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
But with more stuff to carry.

There is an escape, however, and that escape is provided by the United States Air Force. Marine bases are built for efficiency, not comfort, so it comes as a huge surprise for a young jarhead when he breaches the walls of an Air Force base to find all the luxuries of a more refined culture. Here’s what that budding Marine might find:

7. Dorms. They live in dorms.

When I first got to Fleet Marine Force, I was assigned to First Battalion First Marine Division on Camp Horno in a metal squad bay with Vietnam-era graffiti spray-painted on the wall just underneath the “Condemned due to Asbestos” signs.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

Imagine a big tin can cut in half, laid cut side down and attached to a community hygiene area that’s void of individual shower stalls and doors for the toilets. Compare that to Air Force dorms: individual rooms with their own bathroom and dining area.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
Welcome to Barksdale. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Curt Beach)

I’ve heard a rumor that they even have laundry services. As in, they have someone who will clean, fold, and return their clothing to them. I have literally had to put hot water and detergent into trash bags with my clothes, twist the end shut, and shake the bag furiously until my uniforms were clean enough for government work. #noexcuses.

6. The food scene is beyond reproach.

Steakhouses, burger joints, sushi restaurants, donut shops, ice cream parlors, and Chinese take-out are all within walking distance of any of the those magical “dorms” in which airmen reside. The real surprise is found in the Air Force “dining facility.” Marines are accustomed to chow halls, the simple, red-headed stepbrother of the proud and capable USAF dining facility. What chow halls lack in variety, they also lack in quality and general palatability.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

I was definitely ingesting calories, just not tasty or healthy ones. But Air Force dining facilities provide multiple lines with an assortment of delicious cuisine. Sandwich stations, fresh pizza, and salad bars all complement the hot-line, which has multiple choices of its own. It all balances nicely with an ice cream bar — complete with myriad toppings from which to choose.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
It’s like a buffet restaurant that you don’t immediately regret.

When done, you don’t even have to bus your own food tray; they clean up after you.

5. Largest exchanges and MWRs.

Imagine that gas station in the bad part of town where the guy behind the cash register would sell alcohol to the underage you while doing drug deals out the back. Now, picture that place selling PT uniforms and rank insignia. That is your basic Marine Corps Exchange.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
Pictured: A standard MCX.

The first time I made my way into an Air Force Base Exchange is reminiscent of when Harry Potter wandered through Diagon Alley, shopping for his wand. It was astonishing. It was a mall on steroids, complete with barbers, cars, motorcycles, and gun sales.  I felt like I was a kid in a candy store.

Also, there was a candy store!

4. Women!

There are women on an Air Force Base. A solid ratio, too, considering most Marine bases are at around 50-to-1, men-to-women. These numbers are based on personal experience on an infantry base notorious for being in the middle of nowhere and in no way reflects a scientific method of any kind nor census numbers from any reliable source.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
Pictured: Marine grunts processing statistics.

It was simply the feeling of a then-twenty-something junior enlisted Marine that the entire Marine base was a giant sausage party, ripe with testosterone. Kadena Air Base however, an Air Force base on Okinawa, was brimming with the fairer sex — a fact all of the Marines on the island are keen to and plan their weekends around.

3. The gym is legit.

Marine gyms are similar to prison weight yards: A bunch of high-protein-diet neanderthals angrily grunting at solid steel weights so old that the numbers have worn off. There is no air-conditioning and the staff is made up of short-term infantry Marines — every one of which know the best way to bulk up, just ask them… or accidentally make eye contact, whichever.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
There’s a 60% chance these Marines are stateside.

USMC gyms provide only free weights and pull-up bars, so if you want to do cardio, go outside and run. Conversely, Air Force gyms are masterfully designed temples of athletic excellence. All of which come complete with pools, yoga classes, Zumba courses, cardio centers, masseuses, basketball courts, racquetball courts, functional fitness areas, and juice bars!

2. They basically have water parks.

They have indoor pools, outdoor pools, water slides, and lifeguards. Just throw some overpriced hot dog vendors in a USAF water rec center and you’ve got yourself water park. They are open to all active duty service members and their families. Marine bases’ only use for pools is to drown-proof Marines annually… so all this Air Force water fun was crazy to witness.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
Welcome to Little Rock AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Scott Poe)

1. Officers on gate guard duty.

Seeing shiny rank insignia in the Corps is rare at best, and non-existent at the gate. But in the Air Force, you’ll see these young officers leading the charge with regard to showing picture IDs when entering their hallowed ground.

It’s seen as a display of leadership for them to take to the gate on mornings, Fridays, and sometimes even holidays. I’ve never personally been relieved of duty by an officer, it didn’t seem like a thing to hope for, so seeing it from another service — especially the Air Force — brought a single tear to my eye.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

Military members tend to make fun of the USAF for their high-maintenance personas, but if you examine the situation further, you may find they’ve earned it. The jokes will continue to fly and Marines will enjoy flaunting their comparative mistreatment, but the reality is that those same Marines know where they’re headed when liberty sounds.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ‘indomitable determination’ of John Paul Jones lives on in the Navy

April is a great month to remember the namesake of one of our Pearl Harbor guided-missile destroyers, USS John Paul Jones, named for a founding hero of our Navy and proudly known by the crew and their families and friends as “JPJ.”

On April 19, 1775, the Battles of Lexington and Concord lit the match of Revolution against British tyranny. At the time Great Britain had more than 250 warships with nearly half having 50 or more guns – cannons. Our tiny naval force consisted of a few ragtag privateers and some humble sailing vessels. Even before our nation began, the founders commissioned 13 frigates and recruited warfighters, including immigrants like John Paul Jones.


In April 1776, Jones was aboard the large converted merchant ship Alfred, taking the fight against the British with a contingent of Continental Marines. On April 6 the colonial mariners attacked and heavily damaged the British cruiser HMS Glasgow, which had been harassing the colonies’ shipping. It was our Navy’s first sea battle.

After that victory Lt. Jones was awarded with an assignment to captain of the Providence. A year later he was assigned to the sloop Ranger. Jones bristled at the state of readiness and combat capability of his new ship. Throughout his career he demanded the best, deadliest and fastest; he trained, equipped and operated with precision and rigor.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
Depicting the capture of the HMS DRAKE by the Continental ship RANGER after a sea battle off Cerrick-Fergus in the Irish Sea on 24 April 1778. The RANGER was under command of Captain John Paul Jones.

On April 24, 1778, Jones, aboard Ranger, captured HMS Drake after thunderous fusillades of cannons and muskets and bloody close combat with cutlasses and boarding pikes.

We remember John Paul Jones for his courage and tenacity against all odds. His heroism aboard Bonhomme Richard and his bold attacks against the British homeland are well-known. He owned the fight, willingly going in harm’s way.

That legacy continues.

On April 5, 1956, the Navy commissioned USS John Paul Jones (DD-932), which made a shakedown cruise to Europe. The Forrest Sherman-class destroyer was re-designated DDG-32 and served our navy for more than 25 years.

Our current JPJ, DDG 53, was launched in October 1991, and ten years later – less than a month after 9/11 – fired the first Tomahawk missiles in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
PEARL HARBOR (Aug. 15, 2014) The guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) prepares to moor at her new homeport, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, following a homeport swap with the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie (CG 70).
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Johans Chavarro)

JPJ is the first Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer to be stationed in the Pacific Fleet, and in the summer of 2014 became one of our go-to Ballistic Missile Defense System supporting ships in Hawaii, with the latest SM-3 missiles and updated, advanced Aegis capabilities.

During JPJ’s four years home ported in Pearl Harbor, the ship has participated in numerous operations and exercises, working closely with our Pacific Missile Range Facility test and training range, and cooperating with the forces of key allies like Japan and Republic of Korea. Here in Hawaii we are uniquely able to put new innovation to the test so our fleet can have proven, effective weapons systems.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency, the Japan Ministry of Defense, and U.S. Navy Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jonesu00a0successfully conducted a flight test.
(U.S. Navy photo by Leah Garton)

JPJ helps the Navy determine the accuracy of weapons systems, detect potential system anomalies and demonstrate advances in surface force lethality and defensive capabilities. At the same time, JPJ, along with our other nine gray hulls in Pearl Harbor, conducts effective community outreach.

Back in 2006, Sailors of USS John Paul Jones and USS Preble (DDG 88) participated in the 99th Rose Festivalin Portland Oregon. One imagines gentlemanly Capt. John Paul Jones, who was known for writing poetry, being pleased to be part of the festival.

As with many of our Navy’s namesakes, Capt. John Paul Jones was not without his flaws. He was a complicated man with conflicting personality traits, both sensitive and tough, reflective and extremely vain, paranoid and exceptionally self-assured.

In the words of Navy veteran Sen. John McCain, writing about Jones, “I challenge you to show me someone flawless who has made a significant contribution to history. It is not perfection that characterizes greatness. It is, rather, the ability to achieve great things in spite of ourselves.”

In many ways resilient warfighting John Paul Jones serves as a namesake for our entire Navy.

One final April reference: On April 24, 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt spoke at Annapolis at a re-interment ceremony commemorating John Paul Jones:

“Every officer in our Navy should know by heart the deeds of John Paul Jones. Every officer in our Navy should feel in each fiber of his being an eager desire to emulate the energy, the professional capacity, the indomitable determination and dauntless scorn of death which marked John Paul Jones above all his fellows.”

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson addresses the crew aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones during their 240th Navy birthday celebration.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin L. Carey)

Today our men and women of JPJ, along with their shipmates everywhere, continue to emulate their namesake’s resilience and willingness to fight, with the ability to survive and return, and with the commitment to adapt and overcome. Our Sailors are able to go in harm’s way, if necessary, with indomitable determination and the will to win.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what Sikorsky thinks should replace the Blackhawk

Ever since the first UH-60 took off in 1974, America’s Black Hawk helicopter has done a lot for the United States military. But let’s face it, even with the upgrades it has received over the years, it’s still been 43 years, and technology hasn’t been standing still.


Sikorsky, though, has been teaming up with Boeing to develop a replacement, the SB1 Defiant. In some ways, this helicopter looks familiar. That’s because it is a scaled-up version of the S-97 Raider, a technology demonstrator that’s been flying for a couple of years.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
The S-97 Raider showing the new technology that enables it to fly at speeds of at leas 220 knots. (Lockheed photo)

The S-97 has a top speed of at least 253 miles per hour and can carry six troops. It also has a number of options to haul a fair bit of firepower, including AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, 2.75-inch rockets, 7.62mm machine guns, and .50-caliber machine guns. The S-97 uses X2 technology – in essence, a pair of contra-rotating rotors (much like the Kamov helicopters) with a push propeller. This allows it to hover 10,000 feet above the ground when the temperature is 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Defiant adds the X2 technology to an airframe roughly the size of the UH-60. The Defiant would be able to haul at least a dozen troops in its cabin, as well as a crew of four. It also features retractable landing gear (to reduce drag), fly-by-wire controls, a composite fuselage, and advanced rotor system.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea
This graphic outlines many of the features that will be included on the SB1 Defiant. (Graphic from Sikorsky)

The concept of a push propeller has been tested before by the United States military. The AH-56 Cheyenne attack helicopter also used a push propeller to achieve high speed — up to 245 miles per hour, according to MilitaryFactory.com.

The Army is reportedly going to ask for proposals from industry for a medium-lift aircraft in 2019. The SB1 Defiant will likely form the basis for one of the responses.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits

Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs officials are meeting in March 2019 in Arlington, Virginia, for a two-day symposium on burn pits and airborne pollutants but, as with previous Joint VA/DoD Airborne Hazard Symposia, the meeting is closed to the public and press.

The symposium’s purpose, according to documents from the first meeting in 2012, is to “provide an opportunity to discuss what we know, what we need to know and what can be done to study and improve care” for veterans and troops who “might have suffered adverse health effects related to exposure to airborne hazards, including burn pit smoke and other pollutants.”


Attendance is tightly controlled, with Pentagon and VA officials convening to discuss topics such as a joint action plan to address potential health conditions related to exposure, the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Registry, monitoring deployment environments and the impact of exposures on the Veterans Benefits Administration, according to a copy of the first day’s agenda obtained by Military.com.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

A soldier pushing a bulldozer into the flames of a burn pit at Balad, Iraq

(US Army photo)

Members of several veterans service organizations and advocacy groups have been invited to speak, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Burn Pits 360 and the Sgt. Sullivan Circle.

But those veterans’ representatives are allowed to attend only a handful of sessions on the first day, March 14, 2019, including opening remarks and segments on outreach and education, as well as a brown-bag lunch during which they can discuss concerns and issues.

All events scheduled for March 15, 2019, remain unpublished.

Neither the VA nor the DoD responded to requests for information on the event. Veterans advocates also declined to discuss the meeting or their participation, with some expressing concern that they would be prevented from receiving future invites.

Thousands of troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere were exposed to airborne pollutants while working and living near burn pits used to dispose of trash, medical waste and other types of refuse at area military bases.

Some have developed a chronic lung disease, constrictive bronchiolitis, while others have developed skin rashes, autoimmune disorders and various types of cancer, including glioblastoma, a brain cancer rarely seen in young adults, that they believe are related to burn pit exposure.

Veterans and advocates have pressed the VA for years to recognize these illnesses as related to burn pit exposure and want them to be considered “presumptive” conditions, a designation that would automatically qualify them for disability compensation and health services.

The VA says it lacks the scientific evidence to directly tie burn pit exposure to certain diseases but has granted service connection for several conditions associated with burn pits, deciding each claim on a case-by-case basis.

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine reviewed all available studies, reports and monitoring data on burn pit utilization and combustibles exposure and concluded that there was not enough evidence or data to draw conclusions about the long-term consequences of exposure.

Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

A service member tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit

(DoD photo)

More than 140,000 veterans have enrolled in the VA Burn Pit and Airborne Hazards Registry.

From June 2007 through Nov. 30, 2018, the VA received 11,581 claims applications for disability compensation with at least one condition related to burn pit exposure. Of those, 2,318 had a burn pit-related condition granted, according to VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour.

During the same time frame, the VA processed nearly 13.5 million claims; burn pit-related claims made up less than a tenth of a percent of those claims.

“VA encourages all veterans who feel their military service has affected their health to submit a claim, which will be adjudicated using the latest scientific and medical evidence available,” Cashour said.

The Pentagon and VA are developing a way to track environmental exposures in service members starting with the day they enlist. The Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record, or ILER, will record potential and known exposures throughout a service member’s time on active duty. A pilot program is set to begin Sept. 30, 2019.

But those who have suffered exposures in the past 30 years will need to rely on Congress to pass legislation to assist them, the Defense Department to continue researching the issues, and the VA to approve their claims.

Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, IAVA, Disabled American Veterans, the Fleet Reserve Association, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Military Officers Association of America all have made burn pit and toxic exposure issues a top legislative priority this year.

Several lawmakers, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, have introduced legislation that would require the DoD and VA to share information on troops’ exposure to airborne chemicals and provide periodic health assessments for those who were exposed.

The meeting is to take place at the Veterans Health Administration National Conference Center in Crystal City, Virginia.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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