Mary Walker, the only woman to be issued a Medal of Honor, is about to get some prime-time coverage, thanks in part to a graphic novel series produced by the Association of the U.S. Army. The latest edition of “Medal of Honor,” shines a light on the bravery and valor of Mary Walker, the first woman in the U.S. to earn a medical degree and the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor.
Dr. Mary Walker attended Syracuse Medical College before the start of the Civil War. Her parents encouraged her to pursue her education, and she graduated in 1855 with a medical doctor degree – the first woman to do so in the almost 100-year-old United States.
She knew she wanted to serve her country, she just didn’t know how it would happen. Dr. Walker worked in private practice for a few years until the Civil War broke out in 1861. Despite her best efforts to join the Army, she was denied on the grounds of being a woman. And since she’d worked so hard to earn a medical doctorate, Dr. Walker was nonplussed at the suggestion that she join the Army as a nurse.
Instead, she decided to volunteer and work for free at a temporary hospital set up at the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C. There, Dr. Walker continued to face discrimination, as the male surgeons refused to address her as “Dr.” and instead regulated her duties to that of an assistant.
By 1862, Dr. Walker was living in Virginia and working at field hospitals throughout the state. A year later, her medical credentials were finally accepted by the Army. This was only because of the recommendation of Maj. Gen. William Sherman and Maj. Gen. George Thomas. Without their letters of recommendation, it’s likely that Dr. Walker would have continued to work as an unpaid surgical assistant, despite being a highly trained doctor.
With her recommendation letters in hand in hand, Walker moved to Tennessee and was appointed as a War Department surgeon, which is equivalent to today’s rank of either a First Lieutenant or Captain. Her position in Tennessee was paid.
Dr. Walker quickly became well-known among the troops and units. She would routinely risk crossing enemy lines to tend to wounded personnel or civilians. It was during one of these forays into enemy territory that Dr. Walker was captured by Confederate forces. Dr. Walker was sent to the infamous Castle Thunder Camp, located in current-day Richmond, Virginia. She was held as a POW for about four months and was eventually exchanged in a POW swap for Confederate medical officers.
Castle Thunder was mainly used for civilian prisoners, not POWs, so it’s not entirely clear what Dr. Walker witnessed and experienced during her time as a POW, but it probably wasn’t pleasant. But, true to her nature, Dr. Walker saw an opportunity instead of internment. While imprisoned, she cared for the ill and the wounded at Castle Thunder. She is credited with having saved several lives while waiting for her own life to resume outside the prison walls.
After being released by the Confederate Army, Dr. Walker worked as a medical director at a hospital for women prisoners in Kentucky. She was routinely seen wearing men’s clothes and was arrested several times for impersonating a man, always stating that the “government” gave her permission to dress that way. She was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson even though she’d never officially been commissioned as an officer. That’s why her medal was rescinded in 1917, just two years before she died. Dr. Walker refused to return the medal and wore it until she died.
Due in part to the efforts of her family, President Jimmy Carter restored her Medal of Honor in 1977. As part of the Army’s efforts to bring to light the courageous acts of service personnel, Dr. Walker’s story is now available in graphic novel form. Her story is the third installment of 2020. A final issue for 2020 will feature Holocaust survivor and Korean War veteran Cpl. Tibor Rubin. Read Dr. Walker’s graphic novel here.
Though a select few get most of the credit, a lot of countries were involved in the Allied efforts of World War II. There were so many moving parts that it’s easy to forget that certain groups, including our own U.S. Coast Guard, were actively involved. While we might make jokes about Canadians being overly polite today, we must certainly not forget that they kicked some serious ass in Europe. However, there’s another country that played a significant role in the global conflict that many seem to gloss over outside of discussing the Zimmerman Telegram: Mexico.
There was no real shortage of volunteers during WWII, but more help was always appreciated. That’s where Mexico comes in. Pissed about losing oil ships in the Gulf, Mexico declared war on Axis powers in 1942. Shortly thereafter, Mexico became one of the only Latin American countries to send troops overseas.
The most widely recognized group to deploy was the Mexican Army’s Escuadrón 201 — the Aztec Eagles. Here’s what you should know:
(U.S. Air Force)
The 201st Fighter Squadron was formed in response to German submarines sinking two oil tankers, the SS Potrero del Llano and the SS Faja de Oro. These dudes were obviously pissed and wanted to hop into the war to kick some ass, just like the rest of us. So, they got 30 experienced pilots together with 270 other volunteers to be ground crew. After their formation, they were sent to Texas in July of 1944.
The Aztec Eagles trained at Randolph Field in San Antonio as well as Majors Field in Greenville, Texas. The pilots received months of training in weapons, communication, tactics, as well as advanced combat air tactics, formation flying, and gunnery. They held a graduation ceremony in February, 1945, and received their battle flag, which went down in history as the first time Mexican troops were trained by to fight a war overseas.
A P-47D sporting insignias of both the Army Air Forces and Mexican Air Force.
(U.S. Army Air Force)
In March, 1945, following their transformation into hardened warriors, the 201st Fighter Squadron was sent to the Philippines attached to the Army Air Force’s own 58th Fighter Group to participate in expelling Japanese control. In June of that same year, they flew two missions per day using U.S. aircraft. By July, they received their own P-47D Thunderbolts, with which they fought plenty.
During their time in the Philippines, the 201st flew at least 90 combat missions and, throughout those, lost eight pilots. They also flew 53 ground support missions for the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, four fighter sweeps over Formosa, and dive bombing missions. All the while, they also had no provision for replacements, which made each pilot loss especially painful.
Former 201st Fighter Squadron members salute during a ceremony at Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, March 6, 2009.
(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Adam M. Stump)
By the end of it, the 201st had put down 30,000 Japanese troops, destroyed enemy buildings, vehicles, anti-aircraft and machine gun emplacements, and ammunition depots. General Douglas MacArthur gave them recognition, and they were awarded the Philippine Legion of Honor, complete with rank of Legionnaire, in 2004.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent decision to withdraw from the Visiting Forces Agreement comes after repeated threats to pull out, but his decision to ditch the pact now could undermine the ability of the US and its partners to counter China’s ambitions in the region.
The VFA, signed in 1998, gives legal status to US troops in the Philippines. Duterte, a longtime critic of ties to the US, gave formal notice of withdrawal to the US this month, triggering a 180-day period before the exit is finalized.
Duterte believes the Philippines should be more militarily independent, a spokesman said, quoting the president as saying, “It’s about time we rely on ourselves.”
The decision is “chiefly the product of Duterte’s deep, decades-long anti-US sentiment,” Prashanth Parameswaran, a senior editor at The Diplomat and a Southeast Asian security analyst, said in an email to Business Insider.
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has “found just about any excuse he can to make threats against the alliance, be it canceling exercises or separating from the United States,” Parameswaran added.
Duterte has spurned the US since he took office and bristled at US criticism of his human-rights record. Both the US and Duterte have high approval ratings among the Philippine public, however, while a large majority there have little or no confidence in China.
“It’s a competition. China’s competing,” Chad Sbragia, deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, said Thursday at a US-China Economic and Security Review Commission hearing on Capitol Hill.
“There’s very clear recognition that China is putting pressure and using every tool within its disposal to try to draw those countries” away from cooperation with the US, Sbragia said. “That’s a condition we’re taking head on. That’s very serious for us.”
“I don’t doubt China will relish the deterioration in the US-Philippine alliance,” Parameswaran said. “Beijing has long considered US alliances a relic of the Cold War and a manifestation of US efforts to contain its regional ambitions.”
The US and the Philippines, which the US ruled as a colony during the first half of the 20th century, have a decades-long diplomatic and military relationship.
That relationship and the benefit it offers the Philippine security establishment, as well as US popularity in the Philippines, are among the reasons why Manila may not follow through on withdrawal.
Philippine officials have also hinted that the notice of withdrawal is a starting point for negotiations over the VFA, which some have said are needed “to address matters of sovereignty.” Philippine politicians have also questioned Duterte’s authority to exit the agreement.
But the US shouldn’t assume that Duterte is bluffing or looking for leverage, said Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“He has been anti-American his entire adult life and has been consistently saying he wants to sever the alliance and bring the Philippines into a strategic alignment with China,” Poling said in an email.
“That said, six months is a long time in politics. If Duterte walks this back, it won’t be because a plan to renegotiate with Washington plays out,” Poling added, “it’ll be because of internal pressure, possibly in response to whatever natural disaster, Chinese act of aggression, or terrorist act in Mindanao happens between now and then.”
The VFA allows US troops to operate on Philippine territory, including US Navy crews and Marine Corps units.
Ending the agreement would jeopardize the roughly 300 joint exercises the two countries conduct every year, complicating everything from port calls to the Mutual Defense Treaty, which commits the US to the Philippines’ defense in case of an attack. It would also be harder for the US to provide aid in response to natural disasters.
“It’s basically [changing] the protocols of how you would work together if it actually goes through,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said this month.
Many naval activities will be unaffected because they can be carried out without entering Philippine territory, Poling said.
“But large-scale land and air exercises will be impossible, as they were from 1990-1999,” Poling added, referring to a period when Manila’s failure to renew a mutual basing agreement led to the withdrawal of US forces — including the closure of Naval Base Subic Bay, the largest US base in the Pacific.
Gen. Felimon Santos Jr., Philippine armed forces chief of staff, has said about half of all joint military engagements would be affected by the end the VFA, Poling noted.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has said joint exercises with the US would continue during the 180-day period, including the multinational Balikatan exercise that has taken place in the Philippines every spring for 35 years.
Santos Jr. has downplayed the effects of withdrawal, saying it will make the Philippines “self-reliant” and that Manila would expand bilateral exercises it has with other in the region, including Australia and Japan.
But there are legal and logistical limits on the military activities those countries can undertake with the Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the Asia-Pacific.
The erosion of the US-Philippine military relationship raises the prospect of Beijing making moves like those it made in the South China Sea in the 1990s, when it occupied Mischief Reef — first with small wooden structures and then, a few months before the VFA went into force in 1999, with fort-like structures made of concrete.
In the years since, China has expanded and reinforced its presence in the South China Sea, building military structures on man-made islands there. Mischief Reef is now Beijing’s biggest outpost in the disputed waters.
“Beijing will work to make sure that a US loss is China’s gain” and build on inroads made with Duterte, Parameswaran said.
“These gains may include those that are not in the security realm, such as tightening economic ties or helping Duterte deliver on some of his domestic political goals,” Parameswaran added. “But they will nonetheless be consequential, because the broader objective is to move Duterte’s Philippines closer to China and away from the United States.”
Marooned. Left on a sandbar or other island in the middle of nowhere with just a little food, water, and a loaded pistol to end your suffering. In the world of pirates, it was a punishment for breaking the pirates’ code – and was usually fatal. But the real-life Robinson Crusoe survived his marooning and lived to tell the tale of life on an island in the middle of nowhere, completely alone.
Not a Wilson in sight.
Alexander Selkirk was a Scottish sailor with William Dampier’s second expedition to circumnavigate the globe while privateering; legally pirating Spanish ships. Selkirik was aboard a 16-gun ship named Cinque Ports, a ship that was rather unseaworthy. When Selkirk repeatedly complained to Dampier and the captain of the Cinque Ports, the men decided to maroon him on an island off the coast of Chile.
Selkirk didn’t die there, however. While the Cinque Ports later sunk with almost a total loss of her crew, Selkirk survived and was rescued by English privateer Woodes Rogers… four years later. All that for wanting to make repairs to the ship – a ship he was right about needing repairs. The crew that did survive the ships founding off of Colombia were captured by the Spanish and imprisoned.
Which, historically, does not end well.
The islander spent much of his time at first at the shoreline, scanning for ships and eating seafood. But eventually, the sounds of mating sea lions drove him further inland. Despite suffering from crippling loneliness, he managed to domesticate the island’s wild goats and cultivate the local vegetation. He was eventually attacked by the island’s wild rat population, but simply domesticated feral cats to stave off the attackers. He even built two huts from the trees that grew pepper plants.
He soon began to hunt by hand and spear, as his gunpowder was in limited supply anyway. He also began to make new clothes from the skins of his goats. The only ships that stopped on his island were Spanish. Not only did he not get a rescue, he had to hide lest the men torture and imprison him. But eventually, he was rescued by British seamen.
Which, historically, does not end well.
The British sailors were astonished at the life Selkirk made for himself. He had survived an accidental fall from a cliff, learned to hunt and clean the wild animals of the island, and was the picture of physical fitness. Selkirk was even able to address the ships’ illnesses and clear its sailors of scurvy. Selkirk was able to maintain his sanity because the captain of the Cinque Points left him a bible to read and entertain himself. By the time the English came for him, he was still of sound mind, able to command a prize ship and even returned to privateering against the Spanish.
Selkirk was even one of Daniel Defoe’s inspirations for the title character of Robinson Crusoe. The story of the marooned sailor just goes to show no matter how tough things might seem, a little perseverance might see you through. Alexander Selkirk became a national hero while the people who marooned him died tragically, despite his warnings.
If you were among the millions of Americans that tuned into the Super Bowl last night, you probably saw the powerful, patriotic ad in the lead up to kick off. Featuring Marine and Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter, the NFL spot is a video set to Johnny Cash’s spoken word song, “Ragged Old Flag.”
Tracing the flag’s (and America’s) journey through major wars and events, the video also shows images of protest and anger with several shots of the flag being burned before going back to images of the military, first responders and ordinary, everyday Americans.
The video spot struck a nerve immediately with some saying it was a dig at Colin Kaepernick.
Cash released the song as part of his 47th album in 1974, at a time during great turmoil in the USA, much like today. The U.S. was winding down its involvement in Vietnam and was dealing with the Watergate scandal with President Richard Nixon just resigning the office. The song was penned to be an optimistic song for Americans dealing with such tumultuous times.
Cash, an opponent of the war and believer in social justice, had actually met Richard Nixon a couple of years before and performed several songs for him, including an anti-Vietnam War song, “What is Truth” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” a heartbreaking song about one of the Flag Raisers of Iwo Jima and his life as a Pima Indian.
Cash himself would open his concerts with the song and preface it with the following:
“I thank God for all the freedom we have in this country, I cherish them and treasure them – even the right to burn the flag. We also got the right to bear arms and if you burn my flag – I’ll shoot you.”
“Ragged Old Flag” was a hit upon its release with his fans who embraced the message that one can have criticisms of this country but should still respect those people and images that symbolize it. It is a message that resonates with many to this day.
The moving lyrics of the song:
I walked through a county courthouse square On a park bench an old man was sitting there I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down He said, naw, it’ll do for our little town I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit And that’s a ragged old flag you got hanging on it.
He said, have a seat, and I sat down Is this the first time you’ve been to our little town? I said, I think it is He said, I don’t like to brag But we’re kinda proud of that ragged old flag
You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when Washington took it across the Delaware And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key Sat watching it writing say can you see And it got a bad rip in New Orleans With Packingham and Jackson tuggin’ at its seams.
And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the texas flag, but she waved on though She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg And the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag
On Flanders field in World War one She got a big hole from a Bertha gun She turned blood red in World War Two She hung limp and low a time or two She was in Korea and Vietnam She went where she was sent by Uncle Sam
She waved from our ships upon the Briny foam And now they’ve about quit waving her back here at home In her own good land here she’s been abused She’s been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused
And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land And she’s getting threadbare and wearing thin But she’s in good shape for the shape she’s in ‘Cause she’s been through the fire before And I believe she can take a whole lot more
So we raise her up every morning We take her down every night We don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her up right On second thought, I do like to brag ‘Cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag
The South China Sea is a powder keg, and one senior Chinese military officer seems interested in lighting the fuse.
Dai Xu, a People’s Liberation Army Air Force colonel commandant and the president of China’s Institute of Marine Safety and Cooperation, suggested at a conference in Beijing on Dec. 8, 2018, that the Chinese navy should use force to counter US freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, Taiwan News reported.
Taiwan News cited a report from Global Times, the nationalist, state-backed Chinese tabloid that hosted the conference, that quoted him as saying: “If the US warships break into Chinese waters again, I suggest that two warships should be sent: one to stop it, and another one to ram it … In our territorial waters, we won’t allow US warships to create disturbance.”
Dai, known for his hawkish rhetoric, argued that the US Navy’s operations are provocations aimed at undermining China’s sovereignty rather than an attempt to ensure freedom of navigation in international waters. The US Navy regularly sails destroyers and cruisers past Chinese-occupied territories in the South China Sea, while US Air Force bombers tear past on routine overflights that often ruffle Beijing’s feathers.
In the latest operation, in late November 2018, the US Navy sent the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville to challenge China’s claims near the Paracel Islands.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville.
The Global Times is known for its often provocative articles, designed to differ from the more rigid state media outlets like Xinhua and appeal to an alternative audience. Dai’s rhetoric at the conference appears consistent with that, as he seemed to welcome an increase in tensions and suggest that confrontation in the South China Sea could create an opportunity for mainland China to retake Taiwan.
“It would boost the speed of our unification of Taiwan,” he was quoted as telling the conference, adding: “Let’s just be prepared and wait. Once a strategic opportunity emerges, we should be ready to take over Taiwan.”
Dai’s comments about the use of force in the South China Sea came on the heels of a near-miss incident in September 2018, in which a Chinese Luyang-class destroyer confronted the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur during an operation in the Spratly Islands.
During the incident, which the US characterized as “unsafe,” the Chinese vessel appeared to make preparations to ram the American warship and force it off course. A foreign-policy expert described the showdown as “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful US Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Today, we want to talk about that time he took approximately 42 German soldiers captive in World War II.
Churchill leads a simulated assault during training for the D-Day assaults.
(Imperial War Museum)
The insane capture took place in 1943 during the invasion of Italy. Churchill, then the commanding officer of Britain’s No. 2 Commando, had taken part in the capture of Sicily and then landed at Salerno with other British troops. He and his men fought for five straight days, grinding through mostly German defenders. They were even lauded for defending a rail and road hub from a determined counterattack at Vietri, Italy, until U.S. armored vehicles arrived to relieve them.
The commandos were granted a short rest and the time for showers and bathing, though they had to avoid enemy mortar fire while enjoying it. Even that rest was short-lived, though. They were serving in reserve for the U.S. 46th Infantry Division, and German forces managed to grab three hills overlooking the division area, imperiling the American forces.
So the British soldiers of No. 41 Commando and No. 2 Commando were sent in to secure two of the three hills in two attacks. Churchill, as the commander of No. 2, was in charge of that second attack.
Col. John “Mad Jack” Churchill after World War II.
(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY 2.0)
The logistics of the assault were daunting. The men would have to attack uphill across terraces covered in vines and rocky terrain at night while trying to flush out and engage the enemy. Typically, commando attacks at night like this are conducted as silent, stealthy raids. But Churchill decided to bring nearly all of his men, broken into six columns so each column could support those to either side of it.
Churchill himself marched just ahead, spaced evenly between the third and fourth column. To ensure the columns didn’t drift apart or accidentally maneuver against one another in the darkness, he ordered them to yell “Commando!” every five minutes.
For the German defenders in the darkness, this created a sort of stunning nightmare. First, they heard No. 41 Commando take the nearby hill under heavy artillery bombardment as night was falling. Then, as pure dark set in, an unknown number of assailants began churning their way through the vines and across the terraces below, yelling to each other every few minutes. Whenever the Brits found Germans, they’d open up with Tommy guns, rifle fire, and grenades.
Churchill examines a captured 75mm gun during World War II.
(Imperial War Museum)
It caused confusion in the German ranks, and the columns were able to take dozens of prisoners. Churchill, meanwhile, grabbed one of his corporals and went to hunt out those Germans still attempting to organize their defenses.
First, he and the corporal found an 81mm mortar crew and took them prisoner. Churchill led this attack with his trademark sword, a Scottish claybeg. Then, Churchill and the corporal began moving from position to position, grabbing all the German soldiers they could find. By the time the two men made it back to the rest of the commandos, they had taken over 40 Germans prisoner (Reports vary between 41 and 43, but the more authoritative books on the Salerno invasion typically agree on 42, so that’s the number we’re using.)
The rest of the commandos had grabbed plenty of prisoners, and the total for the night between No. 41 and No. 2 Commando was 135, more than the 46th had taken in the five previous days of fighting.
This was a big coup for the intelligence folks who suddenly had access to all these prisoners. More importantly, two of the hills over the 46th were now clear of potential attackers just hours after German forces had staged there to attack.
The UH-60 Black Hawk has been a mainstay of the United States Military since it was first delivered in 1978. This highly versatile helicopter has since served with all five branches of the armed services and has even found a home with other agencies, like U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well.
The primary purpose of the Black Hawk is to haul troops — at least 11 of them — but it’s also very capable of hauling cargo — it can support 9,000 pounds hanging from a cargo hook. Versions of this helicopter also serve as medevacs, in command and control capacities, and as support to special operations forces. Some even pack a lot of firepower and take to the skies as gunships.
UH-60A Black Hawks land at Point Salinas Airfield in Grenada. Operation Urgent Fury was the Black Hawk’s baptism by fire.
Some have even done their share of counter-smuggling. H-60 Black Hawks with the Customs Service have busted their share of folks running marijuana — not to mention a host of other drugs — and enough cash to buy a good chunk of Miami. The drugs get torched and the money gets handed over to the authorities.
The Black Hawk has seen decades of action since its combat debut as part of Operation Urgent Fury, the American invasion of Grenada. Since then, the Black Hawk has seen action in every American conflict, from the invasion of Panama to the War on Terror. It’s done very well in every one of those conflicts.
UH-60 Black Hawks with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Black Hawk will likely be around for a very long time. In fact, orders are still coming in for brand-new Black Hawk helicopters — and not just within the United States. These birds have been exported around the world, to countries ranging from Chile to Sweden. Over 2,600 Black Hawks have been produced, and this total doesn’t reflect other H-60 airframes, like the Navy’s Seahawk family and the Air Force’s HH-60 Pave Hawk family.
Learn more about this versatile helicopter that’s sure to stick around for at least 40 years in the video below.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new transnational organized-crime task force on Oct. 15, 2018, furthering a crackdown on crime that he said has been a Trump administration priority since Day 1.
“The same day I was sworn in as attorney general, President Trump ordered me to disrupt and dismantle these groups,” Sessions said in remarks delivered in Washington, DC.
The Justice Department, following Trump’s lead, has intensified its efforts against the transnational gang MS-13, which started in the US and is now based in Central America. Sessions designated the group a priority for the department’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, which he said had been able to hit it “from all angles.”
Sessions directed that task force, as well as Justice Department officials, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration to name the top transnational criminal groups threatening the US. Subcommittees within the new task force will focus on the five groups named by those officials.
“I have ordered each of these subcommittees to provide me with specific recommendations within 90 days on the best ways to prosecute these groups and ultimately take them off of our streets,” Sessions said.
Below, you can see the five groups on which the Justice Department’s new task force will focus.
The gang started among migrants from Central America, El Salvador in particular, who fled civil wars in the 1970s and 1980s. Many of them ended up in Southern California, where, without family networks or other connections, they gravitated toward gangs.
Deportations returned many members to their home countries in the 1990s and 2000s, where the gang blossomed in the post-conflict environment.
The gang’s influence has since spread throughout the region, including to the US, where it often carries out extortion, robberies, and other crimes in areas with large migrant communities, like the Washington, DC, suburbs or Suffolk County on Long Island.
Though MS-13 members have committed particularly heinous crimes, experts have said the Trump administration misunderstands the reach and power the gang.
“Our research found that MS-13 is hardly a lucrative network of criminal masterminds,” Steven Dudley, a senior fellow at the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University, wrote in early 2018. “Instead, it is a loose coalition of young, often formerly incarcerated men operating hand to mouth across a vast geographic territory.”
The Jalisco New Generation cartel, or CJNG
The Mexican organized-crime group CJNG is the youngest group on the list compiled by the Justice Department. It is believed to have sprung from one faction of the Sinaloa cartel, which is also on the list, around 2010.
Based in the southwest state of Jalisco, the CJNG has grown rapidly since then, expanding throughout the country. It often violently forces out competitors and has corrupted numerous law-enforcement officials.
It has focused on synthetic drugs like crystal meth, and it has helped push up homicide rates along Mexico’s Pacific coast, fighting for control of ports needed to bring in precursor chemicals needed to make those drugs. The CJNG has expanded into other criminal enterprises; in some parts of Mexico it is believed to be fighting for a piece of the lucrative oil-theft trade.
Perhaps the group’s most high-profile crime was shooting down a Mexican army helicopter over Jalisco in May 2015. The shoot-down killed six soldiers, who were among 15 people killed in wave of violence in the state that day. (Mexican authorities said in 2018 they caught the suspects responsible for bringing down the helicopter.)
In the years since, the CJNG and its leader, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, aka “El Mencho,” have become high-profile targets. The capture of a number of CJNG financial operators, including the wife of “El Mencho,” in recent years likely indicates Mexican authorities are trying to go after the gang’s money. (Though the wife was released on bail in September 2018.)
The group also appears to be facing competition at home. A group called the Nueva Plaza cartel, believed to be led by a one-time confidant of Oseguera, is thought to be challenging it on its home turf in Guadalajara, with backing from groups like the Sinaloa cartel.
Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is escorted by soldiers in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, as he is extradited to New York, January 19, 2017.
(Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office)
The Sinaloa cartel
Over the past two decades, the Sinaloa cartel has risen to the top of Mexico’s narco hierarchy, operating throughout the country and around the world, linking coca fields in South America and drug labs in Mexico to consumers in the US, Europe, and parts of Asia.
Formed in the western state of the same name, the Sinaloa cartel emerged in the 1990s, after the breakup of the powerful Guadalajara cartel. Led by cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel muscled rivals out of valuable territories, including cities bordering the US.
In the process, the cartel helped stoke dizzying bloodshed in Mexico, making its cities some of the most violent in the world.
The cartel’s outlook has been cloudy since Guzman’s January 2016 arrest, which came about six months after he broke out of jail for the second time. Rumors of a looming third breakout appeared to be snuffed out in January 2017, when Mexican officials whisked him to New York and turned him over to the US.
Since then, the Sinaloa cartel appeared ready to crack up. Guzman’s sons and presumed heirs to the cartel were kidnapped by rivals in late 2016, and in early 2017 they were challenged by Guzman’s former right-hand man and his son.
But Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a shadowy cartel chieftain who helped form the group with Guzman and is backing Guzman’s sons, appears to have reestablished some of the cartel’s “cohesion” and avoided a major fracture.
The Sinaloa cartel is better understood as an alliance of factions rather than a hierarchical cartel — a organizational structure that is believed to give it some resiliency in the face of law-enforcement pressure.
The Gulf clan, or the Gulf cartel, was long one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal groups moving cocaine from South America to the US and meting out shocking violence along the way.
Gulf cartel’s formation can be traced to the mid-1980s in northeast Mexico, where criminal elements and officialdom have long intertwined. Around that time, it began cutting deals with Colombian traffickers and soon vaulted from a relatively small-time marijuana and heroin business to a billion-dollar cocaine smuggling operation.
The cartel also corrupted government officials, federal and local police forces, and attorneys general. In the late 1990s, it also began developing a military wing, recruiting former Mexican special-forces soldiers to help form a group of enforcers known as the Zetas.
The Gulf cartel and the Zetas began to split in the late 2000s, sparking inter- and intra-cartel fighting that still makes northeast Mexico one of the country’s most violent regions.
In recent years, the Gulf cartel has “lost strength and has experienced rapid turnover in leadership,” the DEA said in its 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment. But the group remains influential in northeast Mexico, moving drugs into South Texas and controlling distribution hubs in US cities like Houston and Atlanta.
Hezbollah posters in the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon War.
Hezbollah, or the “Party of God,” is the only group on the Justice Department’s list with its origins outside the Western Hemisphere.
It emerged after Israel’s 1982 invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon, which came amid a civil war in the latter country that ran from 1975 to 1990.
A Shiite Muslim political party and militant group, Hezbollah receives significant support from Iran and has fought with Iran in Syria to support that country’s dictator, Bashar Assad.
That campaign has improved Hezbollah’s operational capabilities and added to its weapons stockpiles, now believed to include weapons like guided missiles, armed drones, and anti-tank missiles.
Israel has launched strikes in Syria to deter Iran and Hezbollah and has increased its readiness to counter Hezbollah and Iranian action there. Hezbollah’s growing role in Lebanon and its expanding military capabilities have led experts to warn a future war between it and Israel could be bigger and more violent that the 2006 Lebanon War.
The US, which considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization, has pushed Lebanon to cut Hezbollah’s access to its financial sector.
The group has also been active in the US and the Western Hemisphere for some time, though its focus there is believed to be on money laundering.
People in the region with links to the group are almost all considered not to be active members but rather “associates,” though at least one man has been accused of conducting surveillance in the US in support of potential Hezbollah attacks.
The US has also accused numerous Venezuelan officials of links to Hezbollah, including through an alleged black-market scheme to sell passports. Though some intelligence officials have said those allegations are overstated.
Hezbollah-linked actors in the region’s “activities have largely been involved in logistics support, providing funds back to Lebanon to Hezbollah itself,” Adm. Kurt Tidd, the former head of US Southern Command, told the Senate in early 2016.
The threat to the US
“Transnational Criminal Organizations — whether they are gangs, drug trafficking cartels or terrorist groups — are a scourge,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who will lead the new task force, said alongside Sessions on Oct. 15, 2018. “They sow violence and sell poisonous drugs. They bribe public officials and fuel corruption. They terrorize law-abiding citizens.”
While the groups named are responsible for violence and criminal activity in the US and the region, experts have differed with the Trump administration’s assessment of them.
While the gang’s members have committed heinous acts in the US, their crimes mostly target immigrant communities. Though the group’s members in the US have contact with leaders in Central America, the organization itself is decentralized and largely involved in crimes like extortion, drug possession, and homicide, as it isn’t powerful or organized enough for transnational drug-trafficking.
“The cartels use gang members. They use individuals that are living here in the United States to basically do the distribution and the logistics here in the United States,” Mike Vigil, former director of international operations for the DEA, told Business Insider in 2017.
Even as violence in Mexican border cities has risen over the past decade, violence in US cities next to them has been below-average. And incidents of cartel-related violence in the US have usually been limited to people with ties to the cartels (though there have been cases of mistaken identity).
Hezbollah is also active in the US, but it appears largely focused on fraud and money laundering. Throughout the region, the group’s activities appear limited to financial and logistical support for the organization based in Lebanon.
Intelligence officials have also disputed assertions by US politicians that the Venezuelan government is collaborating with Hezbollah and other militant groups.
“The whole Hezbollah line has been distorted for political purposes by the more extreme elements of the US right wing,” a former CIA senior official told Reuters in early 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Although it’s not considered an all-time military movie classic like “Full Metal Jacket” or “Stripes,” the 1995 military comedy “Major Payne” is an entertaining family film (with some salty language). The film stars comedian Damon Wayans as U.S. Marine Corps Major Benson Winifred Payne. Payne is a rough and tough Marine who becomes a Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps instructor after being discharged from active duty for not making lieutenant colonel. Payne’s job is to impart confidence and discipline in the rambunctious junior cadets and train them to win a military cadet competition.
The film has some funny and memorable lines – quoted in military training to this day – such as “What we have here is a failure to communicate” and “I’m gonna put my foot so far up your ass, the water on my knee will quench your thirst.” In between laughs, Major Payne bestows some surprising life lessons that apply to current service members, veterans, and society at large.
1. Career transitions are tough – expect setbacks
Major Payne is served his separation papers from the Marines in the beginning of the film. Just a week out of the service, Payne finds himself in jail after a failed attempt to become a police officer by slapping a man senseless during a training scenario.”It’s civilian life, sir. I had a minor setback,” Payne tells his former commander Gen. Decker, played by Albert Hall. Thanks to the help of his former commander, he lands the job as the JROTC instructor.
Lesson: Many people face a career change at some point in their lives. Setbacks are inevitable but it’s important to be patient. It is also important to use your network when looking for a new career.
2. Not everyone is sympathetic; mental toughness goes a long way
The gif above is Major Payne’s most famous quote. He gives his young cadets this verbal tirade as they struggle to complete an obstacle course in the pouring rain. Eventually, the persistence and will of the cadets lead them to overcome the obstacle course and achieve success.
Lesson: Not everyone will be sympathetic to your plight, no matter how difficult things are in your personal or professional life. When faced with challenges, being mentally strong and determined can help overcome any challenge, no matter the level of difficultly.
3. Keep trying to improve
In a classic drill instructor tone, Major Payne tells the young men, “You’re still a shit sandwich, you’re just not a soggy one” following a drill and ceremony routine. In his own unique way, the rough and tough character is acknowledging the effort put in by the boys to improve.
Lesson: Never stop trying to improve. You can always get better.
4. Don’t give up
For Major Payne, failure is not an option. He wants victory at all costs! In order to win the military games, he puts the cadets through hell. He shaves their heads, PTs them all day and makes them run in dresses in front of the whole school. Despite their disdain for the man and his tough training methods, the kids don’t quit.
Lesson: Life will bring challenges. Don’t let that prevent you from achieving your goals.
5. Teamwork is important
The cadets are a ragtag group from the beginning. Despite their differences, they build cohesion, delegate responsibilities and establish a common goal to win the military games.
Lesson: The value of camaraderie is vital in bringing a group of people to work well together no matter their differences. Working effectively as a team will bring success to any project whether you are in the civilian or military sector.
6. Loyalty is crucial
Major Payne is given the chance to return to active duty at the rank of lieutenant colonel. Initially, he chooses to take the job offer and leaves the boys high and dry before the competition. Eventually, his love and loyalty to the cadets brings him back to see his boys in the final event of the competition. He stays on as a JROTC instructor.
Lesson: It seems the thought of loyalty as a core tenet is slipping away to self-interest these days. Being loyal to friends, family or co-workers takes time and sacrifice. Believing in and devoting yourself to someone or something you care about is a great value to have for the rest of your life.
7. Self-confidence is essential
Major Payne instills confidence in all of his cadets, especially the smallest one in the group “Tiger.” He tells him a frightening version of “The Little Engine that Could,” and makes him the drill team leader. This gives Tiger the confidence he needs to trust his abilities. Tiger’s self-confidence shines through as the boys do a drill routine with a classic 90’s hip-hop beat and old-school rhymes. Tiger even breaks it down with the “Cabbage Patch” dance and some vintage Michael Jackson moves. His self-confidence helps him lead the team to victory.
Lesson: Trusting in your abilities will help you accomplish your goals. Believe in yourself.
8. Lighten up
Major Payne is a military badass. He takes his life and his work seriously but he begins to lighten up a bit during the movie. He even has a little fun on the dance floor with some sweet robot moves.
Lesson: There are times in life to be serious, but it’s ok to lighten up. Being able to enjoy life, relax, and not be so uptight can make life more enjoyable. YOLO.
Actually, it was March 26, 2019, in the Russian city of Belgorod…
That’s when the music used to introduce the newly elected mayor at his oath-swearing ceremony was the Main Theme from Star Wars.
Video circulating on social media of the March 26, 2019 incident captured the moment when Yuri Galdun, 56, was introduced to take his oath of office after being elected to the post by Belgorod’s city council:
Мэр Белгорода принял присягу под музыку из “Звездных войн”
After Galdun’s name was announced, all of the people in the public hall were asked to “Please stand up.” Then, as Galdun walked out onto the stage, the public- address system blared out a short snippet of the Star Wars theme by composer John Williams – the song heard at the beginning of all the episodic Star Wars films.
Galdun, a former deputy governor of the Belgorod region, did not appear surprised as he placed his right hand on the Russian Constitution and said: “I take upon myself the highest and most responsible duties of the mayor of the city council for the city of Belgorod, I swear.”
Russia’s Baza channel on the Telegram instant-messaging app reported that the music was selected by a group of local officials that included Lyudmila Grekova, who heads the Belgorod city administration’s Department of Culture.
“We decided to replace the music” normally used for oath-swearing ceremonies “in order to make it more modern,” Baza quoted Grekova as saying on March 27, 2019.
Grekova told Baza that the decision was made by the group of city administrators, who listened to the brief snippet of music without knowing where it came from.
“There was no malicious intent,” Grekova said, adding that she usually “demands” Russian culture be represented rather than “foreign content.”
The Star Wars theme is considered the most recognizable melody in the series of Star Wars films. In addition to opening each of the films, it also forms the basis of the music heard during the end credits.
The Apache helicopter was a maligned weapon system in early 1991 as low readiness rates, and worse than expected performance in small conflicts made people wonder if the aircraft’s huge costs were worth it. But the system excelled in the tough environment of the Persian Gulf War, chewing up Iraqi armor, bunkers, and ground troops.
In fact, one Apache crew even accepted the surrender of an Iraqi officer and his driver after the men decided they couldn’t escape the helicopter in their vehicle.
Soldiers receive an escort from AH-64 Apache helicopters in 2004.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Kimberly Snow)
Warrant Officer John Ely was one of the pilots on the attack helicopter, and he would later describe the Iraqis’ actions as a seemingly obvious decision. Ely had been part of a team hunting targets in the desert, and they had already erased a few enemy positions.
Ely had his eye on a Toyota when the driver suddenly stopped the vehicle and hopped out. He opened the door for “a fat Iraqi officer” who exited the vehicle with his hands up and a briefcase raised.
Now, even with the man attempting to surrender, this was a tricky situation. Typically, surrenders are given to “maneuver” forces like infantry or cavalry on the ground, but engineers, artillery, and plenty of other ground troops are quite capable of accepting an enemy surrender.
But Apache crews have a severe weakness in this area. While the helicopter’s lethality is a great reason for enemy troops to throw their hands in the air, how does a four-man team in two helicopters; a common battlefield deployment for the attack helicopters, take custody of prisoners?
How do they search them for intel and weapons? How do they transport them back to a base? Apaches have good armor and redundant systems, but they’re vulnerable if they land. And they have no real passenger space even if they landed.
Look, [if you`re an Iraqi and] you see a guy in this machine hovering 200 feet in front of you, with a gun turret that moves with the nodding and turn of my head . . . I point south, they move south. They`ve just seen their buddies blown away. What would you do?
Another event took place in Iraq after Apaches took out artillery positions. The insurgents manning the weapons went to the middle of the field and held their hands up while the Apaches took out the large weapons, and then ground troops moved in to take possession of the prisoners.
But, tragically, that’s not always an option. The 227th Aviation Regiment’s 1st Battalion saw those flags of surrender from Iraqi tankers on the Highway of Death and didn’t engage them, allowing U.S. ground troops to accept the Iraqi surrender in 1991. But in 2007, two Iraqi men jumped out of their truck and attempted to surrender to a 1-227th Apache crew.
The crew held off on attacking, but wasn’t sure what to do. The Iraqis had been firing mortars from the truck, so the unit asked an undisclosed military lawyer for a legal review. His advice was that the Apache crew could not effectively receive the surrender, and so the mortar crew was still a legal target. (This advice has proved controversial since then.)
Meanwhile, the mortar crew jumped back into the truck and drove off with its mortar tube. So it was no longer clear whether they still wanted to surrender. The Apaches re-engaged, but failed to destroy the truck in the next attack. The men abandoned the truck and took shelter in a nearby shack, and the Apaches killed them there with a 30mm gun run.
So, if you ever find yourself trying to surrender to an Apache crew, maybe look around and see if you can find some ground troops to surrender to instead.
It’s easy now to think of Operation Overlord as fated, like it was the armies of Middle Earth hitting Mordor. The good guys would attack, they would win, and the war would end. But it actually fell to a cadre of hundreds of officers to make it happen and make it successful, or else more than 150,000 men would die for nothing.
But the planners of Operation Neptune and Operation Overlord had an insane number of factors to look at as weather, moon and starlight, and troops movements from London to Paris would affect the state of play when the first Allied ships were spotted by Axis planes and lookouts. Planners wanted as many factors on their side as possible when the first German cry went out.
The map above allowed the planners to get a look at what sort of artillery emplacements troops would face at each beach, both during their approaches and landings and once they were on the soil of France.
Looking at all the overlapping arcs, it’s easy to see why they asked the Rangers to conduct the dangerous climbs at Point Du Hoc, why they sent paratroopers like the Band of Brothers against inland guns, and why they had hoped for much more successful bombing runs against the guns than they ultimately got.
Instead, paratroopers and other ground troops would have to break many of the enemy guns one at a time with infantry assaults and counter-artillery missions.
Speaking of those bombers, this is one of the maps they used to plan aircraft sorties. The arcs across southern England indicate distances from Bayeux, France, a town just south of the boundary between Omaha and Gold beaches. The numbers in England indicated the locations of airfields and how many fighter squadrons could be based at each.
These fighter squadrons would escort the bombers over the channel and perform strafing missions against ground targets. Bayeux was a good single point to measure from, as nearly all troops would be landing within 30 miles of that city.
But planners were also desperate to make Germany believe that another, larger attacking force was coming elsewhere, so planes not in range of the actual beaches were sent far and wide to bomb a multitude of other targets, as seen below.
Diversion attacks were launched toward troops based near Calais, the deepwater port that was the target in numerous deception operations. But the bulk of bomber and fighter support went right to the beaches where troops were landing.
Bombings conducted in the months ahead of D-Day had reduced Germany’s industrial output and weakened some troop concentrations, but the bulk of German forces were still ready to fight. Luckily, the Allies had a huge advantage in terms of weather forecasting against the Axis, and many German troops thought the elements would keep them safe from attack in early June, that is until paratroopers were landing all around them.
This map shows additional beaches between the Somme and the Seine Rivers of France along with the length of each beach. These beaches are all to the northeast of the targets of D-Day, and troops never assaulted them from the sea like they did on Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches.
But these beaches, liberated by maneuvering forces that landed at the D-Day beaches, would provide additional landing places for supplies until deepwater ports could be taken and held.
But all of that relied on actually taking and holding the first five beaches, something which actually hinged quite a bit on weather forecasting, as hinted above. In fact, this next two-page document is all about meetings on June 4-5, 1944, detailing weather discussions taking place between all of the most senior officers taking part in the invasion, all two-stars or above.
(Maj. Gen. H.R. Bull, the memo author, uses days of the week extensively in the memo. D-Day, June 6, 1944, was the Tuesday he was referring to. “Monday” was the June 5 original invasion date. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were D-Day+1, +2, and +3.)
This might seem like a lot of military brainpower to dedicate to whether or not it was raining, but the winds, waves, and clouds affected towing operations, the landing boats, fighter and bomber cover, and the soil the troops would fight on.
The fate of France could’ve been won or lost in a few inches of precipitation, a few waves large enough to swamp the low-lying landing craft, or even low cloud cover that would throw off even more bombs and paratroopers. So, yeah, they held early morning and late night meetings about the weather.